A New Multimedia And Music Production Celebrates The Texas Gulf Coast

Montopolis is a music collective led by Austinite Justin Sherburn.

By Leah Scarpelli & David BrownAugust 2, 2019 12:59 pm

Austinites living in the self-proclaimed “live music capital of the world” have a a long history of celebrating their city in song. But Friday night, they will be celebrating another part of Texas – the Gulf Coast.

The debut performance by the music collective, Montopolis amounts to a multimedia love letter to the Texas coast, with voices and images from the Gulf set to an original score composed by Justin Sherburn – a former member of the indie band Okkervil River. It’s called “The Living Coast.” Sherburn says the performance won’t be the first time the group has documented beloved parts of Texas, musically.

“This is fourth in a series of Montopolis shows about different ecosystems in Texas,” Sherburn says. “We started with the San Marcos River with a show called Yocona. We then moved to Enchanted Rock.”

Photo courtesy of Justin Sherburn

Sherburn says the new composition, which draws from local artists and the Austin Symphony, was inspired by the natural beauty of the Texas Coast, rock and roll and chamber music.

“As a composer, you look for a context, where to put your music or a reason why you’re writing” Sherburn says. “Artistically, [the coast] is my reason. It gives me inspiration for each melodic line and each rhythmic figure.”

And Sherburn says his shows have also developed into a political resource because he invites climatologists to participate.

“Basically, what we can do is raise awareness about these different places,” Sherburn says. “We invite these scientists and conservationists to deliver information.”

This information is layered into the music, Sherburn says, resulting in a varied composition describing the coast.

“The Gulf Coast is teeming with life and with industry,” Sherburn says. “To represent those things, we changed the instrumentation and we changed the style.”

Montopolis is debuting “The Living Coast” Friday at 8 p.m. at the historic Stateside Paramount Theatre in Austin. Sherburn says the collective will perform “The Legend of Big Bend” across Texas in the fall. The group is also touring the nation next spring with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Written by :Hayden Baggett.