Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection

Watching an art and music improvisation session reminded me of the various collaborations I’ve had with artists in London, Utrecht, Crete, and Brugges. It’s about the process.

As a finishing touch to my recent application for an innovation grant, I asked the Maui-based artist Mike Takemoto if he would consider having his students collaborate with mine. I was thinking along the lines of an exhibit of paintings of musicians, music instruments, or music notes. It would be an extension of the piano ensemble poster exhibit that I “curated” and organized with the photography teacher Harvey Reed and his photo and design students last spring. Such interdisciplinary collaboration raised awareness of the activities we wanted to promote.

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Glass works on water at the Monument House Utrecht

Music after concerts at the Monument House in Utrecht by pianist Brendan Kinsella and art exhibition of Liz Miller.

After the thirty black chairs have been folded and removed from the ground floor, the Monument House is once again spacious and full of potential. Two days after the last concert of 2nd July 2011, I asked Brendan Kinsella to play something on the piano so I could capture that feeling of peace and freedom. That afternoon before he left for the Hague, we were sightreading the multi-hand piano duets I had collected — and thus the sheet music scattered on the floor. Earlier that morning, pianist Nathanael May, who gave the previous concert on 1st July, had left for Milan, Italy to open the annual contemporary music festival he founded in 2005 and still directs.

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How to book a concert tour (part 1): a peace of mind and the sizzle

How do you book a concert tour for yourself? If you are a classical musician who is not internationally famous, how would you get someone to book you for a concert where you have to travel a great distance to? And when you’re there, you don’t want to just give one concert. A concert tour is a journey of more than one concert. Here are the first two steps to the dilemma.

Back in early October 2010, I posed the circularity of booking a concert tour. It’s the chicken or the egg question. Do you book the tour first or the concert?

In other words, do you get the gigs lined up before you book the flights and cancel other commitments? Or do you book the flights before the fares go up and then hope that you can fill your tour with concert bookings?

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Catch 22 or the circularity of concert touring

How do musicians book a concert tour? Do you wait until you get a concert before you book your flights or do you book your flights and hope that you’ll get concerts to cover the airfare?

How do musicians book a concert tour?

I should have asked the American singer/songwriter/pianist Rich Wyman when he was touring the Netherlands this past summer. I should have asked the South African composer/guitarist Derek Gripper when he toured Europe last autumn.

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Concert conversations

A few days after the concert, I told someone that I considered house concerts an occasion where the audience mattered more than the performer(s). When I am the host, my guests are most important. While they may be drawn to the performers, it’s their enjoyment and comfort I’m most concerned about. The seven year old looked at me. Without blinking an eye, he asked, “How about the garden house? Can I stay in the garden house?”

The main concert started later than expected.

It was a logistical feat to steer 50 bodies from facing the grand piano to facing the solo guitarist in the living room. The ten minute intermission between the two performances stretched into 30 minutes of conversation, accompanied by South African wine and Senseo coffee.

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The music after the concert

What happens after the official concert is over?

When there are other musicians in the audience, something phenomenal occurs. They jam. They improvise. They even sing opera. That’s how they communicate with each other.

It’s extremely late (12:45 am). In less than seven hours I have to get to our second recording session. I have to be wide awake and alert for it.

But this can’t wait…. I will simply have to update this blog when I have more time.

What happens after the official concert is over?

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Hosting our next house concert (part three)

But Thursday is not a Saturday. People have to work on Friday. My friend’s lovely home is not my home. Time and location do matter. Finally, just because the Saturday concert sold out in 3 days (with the invitation sent only 2 weeks before) doesn’t mean that a second concert on a Thursday will sell out or at all.

Since my previous posting (part two of this topic), I’ve wanted to write about our two concerts in Amsterdam but got snow-balled into audience development for a second concert we decided to host as a result of the sell-out of the first.

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