It’s easy to discover a band by visiting their MySpace page or a visual artist by visiting their exhibit. However, it’s a bit more difficult to discover Polydactyl Hearts. Myspace and art galleries are not the proper setting to display their work even though they make both music and art. Their creations are of those rare pieces of art which leave you with the impression that you have just witnessed something truly unique.
Polydactyl Hearts are a multimedia collective that combine music, art and technology in new and unconventional ways. The individuals which make up the group possess skills that are as diverse as the art they collectively produce. They formed in Guelph in 2006 and have since undergone a steady evolution.
Currently, the members are Dave Willekes (visual artist), Eihab Boraie (piano, vocals), Martin Eckart (saxophone, clarinet, computer programmer), Claire Whitehead (violin, vocals), Brad McInerney (bass) and Dave Bazinet (drums).
Members all contribute ideas to the projects and these are never dismissed or acted upon without first being discussed as a group. “We try to not have a hierarchy,” said Boraie. They have completed two projects to date, though Boraie stressed that these are always in the process of being perfected.
Their vision has taken shape gradually and is still being established. The decision to give the collective a name was only made upon the completion of their first project, entitled Le Cyc. This graphic novel styled bike opera is performed by projecting a series of paintings onto a white screen using a PlayStation controller while the storyline is guided by a six-person orchestra. Scenes are separated by song, and dialogue is conveyed through lyrics.
The story is futuristic, yet the plot is recurrent throughout human sociopolitical history. It tells the story of a made-up world where electricity is generated by peddling bicycles, and elections are determined by a biannual bike race in which any citizen may compete. “By creating our own world, it allows anyone to [relate it to] whatever struggle they firmly believe in,” Boraie emphasized. Polydactyl Hearts want their audience to read into Le Cyc in a personal way. “If we started giving it real-world names… that kind of specifies it so some people [couldn’t] relate as well,” Boraie explained.
After completing Le Cyc, Polydactyl Hearts were commissioned by Wavelength, a Toronto-based non-profit arts organization, to produce another project.
Hello Adventure took 10 months to create and debuted at the 2009 Images Festival in Toronto. The new project is six shorts drawn together by a common thread that is not clearly defined. It won the festival’s Overkill Award, which is awarded to a piece of groundbreaking art that challenges the festival’s own notion of experimental.
Hello Adventure is different from Le Cyc in that it uses stop-motion animation and de-emphasizes character development.
“We want to approach [every project] in a new and different way,” said Boraie. To create Hello Adventure, Polydactyl Hearts experimented with a new form of computer programming technology that is helping their goal of unifying the two realms of music and visual art. With all instruments playing simultaneously, Willekes controls the frame rate at which the images are projected, giving the computer visual cues to cut the sound of any instrument in and out. This allows him to act as a conductor for the entire production.
Polydactyl Hearts are currently focusing on performing Hello Adventure and promoting the recent release of Le Cyc on DVD, but ideas for the next project are already floating around. “As we evolve you’re going to see that it’s going to be moving in a direction like [it is] right now,” Boraie cryptically hinted.
Polydactyl Hearts will be performing both Le Cyc and Hello Adventure at Eastern Bloc on Oct. 22 and 23. Le Cyc is available for purchase or live stream at www.polydactylhearts.ca.
Correction, Oct. 21, 2010: This article originally misidentified Polydactyl Hearts pianist/vocalist, Eihab Boraie, the Concordian regrets the error.