Arts & Culture

New ‘Rules’: David Campbell, Pharrell team with Dallas Symphony Orchestra

David Campbell
David Campbell

The secret to composer and arranger David Campbell’s eclectic, astonishingly prolific career?

Just say yes.

“Everything’s pretty interesting,” Campbell says by phone from a Los Angeles recording studio. “I find stuff interesting. There’s always a way to make it new and get a wrinkle out of something that you think, ‘Oh, that's too predictable.’”

Campbell, whose resume includes collaborations with everyone from Adele and Miley Cyrus to Michael Jackson and Beyonce, is embarking upon another fascinating — and far from predictable — fusion Tuesday in Dallas, when Rules of the Game will makes its world premiere as part of the second annual Soluna International Music and Arts Festival.

In tandem with choreographer Jonah Bokaer, scenographer Daniel Arsham and composer Pharrell Williams — yes, that Pharrell — Campbell, who arranged Williams’ debut composition for live dance and theater, will conduct the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

“Most of the things I do end up being more like this, where everybody involved in bringing the thing they do best to the table and then everyone else is richer by it,” Campbell says. “That’s sort of the ideal thing because then all the arts that are collaborating walk away with something they didn't know before. I do.

“That’s why I like working with so many different kinds of artists and working on something maybe they started or that I started, and pulling them in. You just get so much more from that process.”

Based on a ‘20s-era play

The multidisciplinary work, which will take up the full second half of Tuesday’s program at the Winspear Opera House, incorporates eight dancers — Albert Drake, Laura Gutierrez, James Koroni, Callie Lyons, James McGinn, Szabi Pataki, Sara Procopio and Betti Rollo — and draws its inspiration from Luigi Pirandello’s 1921 play Six Characters in Search of an Author.

“This is a brand-new medium where movement is not only an addition, it’s essential to communicating the point,” Williams told Rolling Stone in March. “There are things that are moving. I don’t know, it’s like a whole entire medium moves — the sound moves; the body moves. I feel lucky to be working with such explosive, combustible ideas.”

Campbell, who collaborated with Soluna last year in arranging some of St. Vincent’s material to be performed in conjunction with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, helped shape the final product by working from what he describes simply as “12 sketches” Williams passed to him.

Over a period of months, Campbell worked to refine and shape the piece and its movements, but didn’t grasp the full emotional impact of Rules of the Game until a rehearsal in Dallas about a month and a half ago.

“It really grows on you,” Campbell says. “I think it’s going to work really well. It works really well with the dancing. ... Really, the experience I had is I walked into the room, I sat down, and they started playing.

“There’s the opening few bits of the first piece and these dancers — they did something incredibly simple, almost like a tableau, with a little body language. Then they did a move, and it was suddenly so emotional. It was really powerful what this group of dancers does with Jonah’s genius.”

Dallas first

That local audiences have the opportunity to see a high profile collaboration such as Rules of the Game, something that might ordinarily be staged in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, speaks to the vision and willingness of area arts leaders to embrace large-scale events like the Soluna International Music and Arts Festival.

“The community seems to embrace [events like Soluna] and experience it on all kinds of levels,” Campbell says. “I think that you feel that there [in the Dallas Arts District], the way things are positioned ... The buildings, the district, the kind of events like this festival are the same thing. It’s really so good to think about it because it’s just the kind of thing we need.

“We need that all over the world to pull people into experiencing all this kind of creative work.”

Preston Jones: 817-390-7713, @prestonjones

Rules of the Game: Soluna International Music and Arts Festival

7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Winspear Opera House, Dallas