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Blue Man scoop

How these bald, blue men make music


In this story:

'Ritualistic tribal frenzy'

Airplane to Zeppelin

Fans worldwide


NEW YORK (CNN) -- They spit paint, gobble Twinkies and envelop the audience in toilet paper. As goofy as their antics are, underneath the shiny cobalt exterior and behind their wide-eyed stares are serious musical innovators.

Examine the concepts and sounds of the Blue Man Group

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Listen to tracks off the Blue Man release 'Audio'

'Opening Mandelbrot'

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'Tension 2'

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Chat gives insight into the mind, music of the Blue Man

Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton take responsibility for the Blue Man Group and its cutting-edge musical instruments. They discussed their music making with CNN WorldBeat recently at their studio in New York.

"We're sort of the founders of the Blue Man," says Wink, "which means we found the Blue Man character, and our role is to come up with ... instruments that we think the Blue Man would want to play."

The performers and their technicians use PVC plumbing pipes to make many of the instruments. Their creations include the "PVC instrument," "backpack tubulums" and the "drumbone."

"We're always looking for instruments that not only have a sound element but also a visual element and a performance element," Wink says.

"One thing that makes it unique," Stanton adds, "is that we try to make percussion instruments do melody and a melodic instrument do rhythm or percussion."

Because the instruments are built out of PVC's rigid white plastic and glued together with permanent adhesive, each one is built to play one song, Goldman says.

"I think we have the title of having the world's least-versatile instruments," Stanton quips.

'Ritualistic tribal frenzy'

Since the Blue Men don't speak and the show has no plot, music is critical to the group.

"The music drives the evening forward," Wink says. "By the end, we want the whole room to explode into a kind of ritualistic tribal frenzy."

"Because we have no lyrics, we have to draw in the listener with the melodies and the emotional arc of the songs," Goldman adds. "We want it to have that same kind of pop-song feeling that you remember the hooks."

The Blue Man Group, which started testing its shtick in Central Park in 1988, now has shows at major theaters in Manhattan, Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; and Las Vegas, Nevada. The Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas is the largest of the venues.

"We wanted to place where we could house all those things that didn't fit into the the kind of theaters we'd been performing in up to that point," Wink says. "So in Las Vegas we have the seven-person band, and we have much bigger instruments."

Air poles made of flexible fiberglass create swooshing sounds  

The Blue Men also showcase their sounds on their new CD, "Audio." It's scheduled to come out on DVD in December. That format, the founders say, allows the group to cram many wacky instruments into one song.

Airplane to Zeppelin

How do the Blue Men know how to play the instruments? It appears instinctual, says Wink.

Apparently without thinking, he refers to his ensemble in the third person, as if he were another bemused watcher.

"We just put them out here and see if the Blue Man will be attracted to them," he says. "You never know which things they'll take to."

"For example, we thought that a small portable keyboard would be something that the Blue Man would be attracted to. And it's true; they did like that instrument, but we couldn't afford to keep supplying them with a synthesizer that would be used as as mallets."

The founders are also amazed at the Blue Man's knowledge of pop music, Stanton says.

"We had no idea," he said. "We thought he'd be completely naive to what kind of music that has taken place in Western culture in the last 30 years."

The Blue Men bang on drums filled with paint for a colorful sketch  

"I expected the Blue Man to maybe know a little Pink Floyd, maybe a little (Led) Zeppelin," Wink added. "But I was a little thrown when they played 'Don't Stop Believing' by Journey."

Other songs in their repertoire include "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Cars" by Gary Numan and "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.

Fans worldwide

The Blue Men, who currently appear in the Intel Pentium commercials, have developed an international following. The percussion is part of the reason, Wink says.

Rhythms and drumming help provide a unifying element, he says. "Drum beats don't take any education. ... It's an instant language that we all understand."

"I think that the Blue Man character is about crossing cultural lines," Goldman says, "so it makes sense and that the Blue Man would be embraced by people from all over the world."


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