John Bilotta’s piano duet “Conversations in the Garden” was sightread in Maui, studied and performed in San Francisco in his presence, and sightread again in 3 places in Utrecht Netherlands. On its return journey to Maui, the duet will be recorded.
The title “Conversations in the Garden” evokes images of spring and the flowers in my garden. I missed it this year in Maui where there’s an everlasting summer. Luckily I am on the special mailing list of my artist friend from high school, Robby Judkins. Now based in Columbus, Georgia, Judkins captured my imagination well below.
In his new quatre-mains work, John Bilotta painted a nice image of the colours of conversations and what we expect in a garden. The duet meanders from an initial 3/4 time to 2/4 to 4/4 to 3/4 just as easily as it moves through different tonalities. Conversations are like that. You start with one subject but easily go off in tangents, returning now and then, sometimes overlapping different strands or themes. You never really stay focussed on one topic but stray off to others.
Well-written and laid out in parts, the 2.5 minute duet sounded better each time we played it, for each time we understood it better. The dynamics and other notational marks are intentionally and clearly indicated. This kind of detail makes performers feel secure that the composer knows what he is doing. To some degree, a work that looks final (i.e. ready to be published or already published) validates itself.
The pedal markings are noted in the secundo part.
John Bilotta provided the following programme notes to this wonderful work:
I have been working with the material for Conversations in the Garden for some time trying to find just the right form in which to present its musical ideas. Ultimately, I found that this four-hand arrangement best captured the tone, mood, and play of voices—in particular, the opportunity to space the musical lines vertically allowing the inner voices to be heard. Conversations is built from a simple motif and its transformations in an chromatically rich harmonic structure. It should be played with a quiet and graceful elegance, without excessive show, larger phrases swelling and subsiding in breezes and waves.
Confident that Chong Kee Tan, the organiser of the Piano Soiree in San Francisco in May 2011, would sightread and play this piece with me, I invited John Bilotta to the event. It was a pleasure to perform the duet in front of the composer.
Conversations inspire artists. Works of love and labour do also. Living in a place with panoramic views in Maui is another.
“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Thomas Edison
Creativity requires inspiration. It takes a spark to light a fire. Where does that spark come from?
Maybe it’s more like 20% inspiration that fuels the 80% perspiration — the 80-20 rule. One idea may start a chain of events, like the idea of getting a guitarist to go on a solo concert tour by himself. Most of his time is spent practising, preparing CDs for sale, getting concert bookings, making travel arrangements, and doing the actual work of performing and traveling.
Inspiration comes from conversation with people who stimulate us, like the recent gourmet dinner in the home of a composer and his chef-turned-knitter wife. That evening in Kula led to a private viewing and a house concert the following week.
Works of love and labour inspire us to try something of our own or remind us when we were in the “flow.”
Some people move to environments that are conducive to their creativity.
Every morning we wake up to the following scene, when the sun appears above the slope of Haleakala in Maui.
Even from inside the apartment, we can look through the floor to ceiling glass and admire the harbour and the volcano. This is what inspires me to write my blogs. This is what inspires Robert to create the CD covers and concert posters.
Every visitor that has come to our intimate house concerts in Wailuku has marvelled at the spectacular view from the balcony. From here, we can hear the outdoor concerts at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Elton John is visiting on 24th and 25th of February 2011. Perhaps that’s an occasion to discuss what inspires artists, musicians and other creators — on our balcony.
Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers races against time to finish producing three CDs for his upcoming solo concert tour of Boston, Wells, Pelham, Houston, and Phoenix.
Dutch classical guitarist Robert Bekkers is preparing three new CDs for his upcoming solo concert tour of Boston, Wells (Maine), Pelham (New York), Houston, and Phoenix. The first two are live recordings of the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in concert in Maui (2007) and Durham, North Carolina (2010). The third is a new solo CD still being recorded from the bedroom of the apartment below.
Before the sun appears above the slopes of the volcano Haleakala, he is already awake, preparing coffee and breakfast. He usually reads his music history book while it is still cool in the apartment.
On Saturday 29th January 2011, he turns on his laptop and imports the new photos from the previous evening — a private viewing of a newly commissioned painting Maui-based artist Frances Ku. He crops and re-sizes the image of the unframed watercolor of guitar and piano.
All preparations for this second CD, the live recording of his duo’s concert at Duke University on 2nd November 2010, have been made, except for the artwork.
The 10 tracks from the Duke CD have been uploaded onto CDBABY. The CD itself is being copied in upper Kula, in a house on the path to the crater of Haleakala. All he has to do now is to make the CD cover and send it to the CD presser and at the same time upload the album artwork onto CDBABY.
Meanwhile he is practising his solo repertoire to finish the third CD which contains the one-hour programme he will play on his solo concert tour. After the recording, he will listen to each track, edit, and master them to create a CD.
Anne Ku’s high school friend Rob Judkins painted his vision of piano and guitar in acryllic for the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s next CD: Live in Makawao, Maui.
I have not seen or spoken to my friend Robby Judkins, as he was called then, since our graduation from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa. His Japanese wood cut print “Kokoro Kara” still hangs in my London home, reminding me of his extraordinary talent for creating something beautiful. It was Keats who said “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Everyone who has visited or stayed in that Victorian Cottage in Ealing has seen and experienced the beauty that Robby created.
“Kokoro kara” means from the heart. When one creates from the heart, one shares what one feels. I have often wondered about the Japanese wood block print. What were the two figures looking at? What was Robby’s inspiration?
Many years later, I found Robby on Facebook as Rob Judkins. Glancing through his photo album, I saw that he has continued to paint with a clear development into his own style.
I was relieved to see this, for I had heard of too many adults who gave up pursuing their childhood hobby or passion. I nearly did, only to return to music to find myself again. In doing so, I also remembered my dream to be free to travel the world.
I daresay that I am extremely privileged to be on Rob Judkin’s private mailing list — as a recipient of his latest works of art by e-mail.
His latest work is a colourful vision of piano and guitar. Although Rob Judkins has not heard or seen us perform, he has imagined it well. Our music is very exciting –as though the strings fly off the guitar and keys pop out the piano. We always get an adrenaline rush when we play.
The painting is 32″x48″ acrylic on boxed panel. Rob Judkins calls it “Anne’s instruments” since it was painted specifically for the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo and the purpose of an album cover. It will be on the cover of our next CD: Makawao Live — a recording of our first public concert in the USA — at the Makawao Union Church in Maui on 29th December 2007.
When asked what inspired him to paint this, Rob wrote, “I wanted to do something different from your last album cover which by the way I thought was very beautiful, highly styled and cool. But this image is free and uninhibited, a feeling of anything goes…..guitar strings popping and piano keys flying. The instruments are alive. Its like the feeling of the music flowing through your body.”
Rob Judkins loves to paint. The majority of his paintings are in acrylics but he has many oils and some water colors. He has a range of sizes from 8″x10″ canvas to pieces as large as a 36″x80″. The majority of his work is hanging at D’Allens Salon and the Columbus Hospice, in Columbus, GA and some pieces at the Joseph House Art Gallery in Columbus, GA.
Rob spent a year and a half at Auburn University School of Arts but changed his career to the school of business. His passion for the arts still drives him to create and achieve interest and quality in his work. He spent his high school years in Okinawa, Japan taking Chinese painting and Japanese wood block printing classes. That influence can be seen in some of his work. Rob likes a wide variety of styles in painting. He will strive to paint a realistic landscape or an abstract painting. He says it doesn’t matter what the results as long as it speaks to someone or provokes a feeling in the individual viewer he has accomplished his purpose.
Marketing yourself as a musician or artist is plagued with challenges of time, perception, and tedious effort. It’s much easier to sell someone else than sell yourself. How does one overcome the catch-22 situation?
Over dinner after an afternoon of creative healing with artist Frances Ku, classical guitarist Robert Bekkers and I discussed the challenges of selling ourselves as musicians. Frances has experience selling her art on Maui.
“It’s much easier to have someone else represent you and market you than trying to do it yourself,” she advised. “I can sell my art but it’s hard to market myself.”
What’s the difference between marketing and selling?
According to Frances, selling is getting someone who is already there to buy your product. Marketing is getting yourself known so that you will have clients.
“I can sell my art. But it’s not easy to market it.”
The point is not the difference between selling and marketing but having someone else do it for you versus doing it yourself.
“If you try to do it yourself, you will come across as arrogant, desperate, and cheap. If you get someone else to represent you and do it for you, you will get the opportunities (gigs) faster, get more of them, and get paid more.”
Frances’ experience in selling art translates to the music world. As musicians, we face the catch 22 situation of having to do it ourselves to get good enough before an agent or impresario is interested enough to want to do it for us. It’s an arduous climb to get to the point where someone else will do the marketing and selling for us.
By the time we’re good enough to get concerts easily and quickly, we expect agents to queue to market us to get a piece of that pie. By the time we get there, we don’t want to do marketing or selling anymore. We just want to perform.
The Amsterdam-based artist Egon Schrama is also a keen supporter of the arts. His 6 metre high atelier on Bickersgracht in the Western Islands of Amsterdam (just a stone’s throw away from the central station) will once again be turned into a concert venue on 29th July 2010. There are three Western islands “Westelijke eilanden”: Prinseneiland, Realeneiland and Bickerseiland. The islands are linked by beautiful draw bridges.
The first time I went to Egon’s atelier was to see the artist Serge van Empelen making huge sculptures. When I asked Egon Schrama how tall his atelier was —- I misheard it as being 60 metres and quite believed it. I’ve now been told by his friends, who help organise ad hoc house concerts in their neighbourhood of the Western Islands of Amsterdam, that the atelier is just 6 metres high.
These three Western Islands “Westelijke eilanden” are Prinseneiland, Realeneiland and Bickerseiland. The islands are linked by beautiful draw bridges. Many artists live and work on these islands. Every year in the Pentecost weekend they open up their ateliers for the public. Started 28 years ago and among the first to be organised in the country, the Open Ateliers on the Western Islands are now a well known phenomenon.
It is worthwhile to come a bit earlier, to have time to walk around on the islands, or even have a picnic. The canals and public gardens are lovely and have a village atmosphere. There is even an animal farm for children.
How to get to Egon’s Atelier, 10 Bickersgracht, Amsterdam:
From Amsterdam Central Station, it’s a mere 13 minute journey, including the 4 minute bus ride. Get bus 18, 21, or 22 which will take you westbound. Get off at the third bus stop “Buiten Oranjestraat” and walk on the same side as the street but go under the bridge (north).
Metered parking is available. There are no trams here. A taxi from Central Station costs € 7.50.
Future blogs about venues for live music concerts
Something about live music in artists’ work places fascinates me. In London Ealing, Yousif Naser has been turning his studio into a gallery and concert hall for at least a decade. In Utrecht, our piano guitar duo gave a concert in the home of a local artist.