They only played one Twin Cities gig last year and haven't put out an album in three years, but Low's members have hardly been inactive. In fact, Alan Sparhawk said of his latest project with wife Mimi Parker: "We've put a lot of work into it -- probably as much as we have any of our albums."
The project is "Heaven," an ensemble dance and vocal piece that pairs Duluth's best-known musicians with one of the Twin Cities' most renowned choreographers, Morgan Thorson. After a string of stagings in New York, Houston and Connecticut, the show will make its one and only Minnesota run March 4-5 at Walker Art Center, which co-commissioned the piece.
Thorson was already working on the show -- a visual riff on religious rituals and finding ecstasy, incorporating bright lights and all-white attire -- when one of her dancers who knew the Low leaders suggested they create the music. The couple's religious background suited the piece, Thorson said, but she was more attracted to "their propensity for working on the edges."
"The way they go from extremely soft to extremely loud fit with what I wanted," she said, "and I like the way they can take simple structures and blend them together to create something much more complex and beautiful."
For "Heaven," Low sings and plays music that ranges in style from "regular songs or snippets of songs to stuff that's just sound and ambience," Sparhawk said. Some is improvised, and most is interactive with the show (i.e., it probably would not fly on a CD by itself).
The Low members don't just perform their parts offstage, orchestra-pit-style. They are actually part of the choreography along with seven dancers. Said Sparhawk, "There's one part where I flail around sort of like one of those advertisement balloon dudes."
Jokes aside, he said he has come to appreciate dance as an art form: "It's so primal and vital to the human experience and yet somewhat underappreciated."
Thorson hopes "Heaven" will draw Low fans to the modern-dance world, just as she hopes some of her followers will check out a Low gig. (The trio will play May 6 at the Varsity Theater -- a makeup date for a show canceled last month -- and will likely start working on a new album after that.)
"There's one part of the piece in particular that is quintessential Low," Thorson said. "I'm excited for people to see them this way."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658