Piano duets on five Greek tunes by Harizanos

The most interest piano duet from the set of 5 Greek tunes by Nickos Harizanos is Here Comes the Swallow played and recorded by Anne Ku and Brendan Kinsella.

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Something about 5/4 time breaks us out of our expected symmetry of being two-legged individuals.

Like Henk Alkema’s 2nd piano duet, the fourth piece in a set of 5 duets by Athens-based composer Nickos Harizanos also uses 5/4 time. I can’t say Brendan Kinsella and I did it justice in this recording below, but it gives you an idea of the unusual meter.

IV Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos

Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos
excerpt from Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos

Harizanos’s 5-piece set definitely met my criteria in my Call for Scores for Multi-hands Piano Duets for Sightreading: readable, playable, and sightreadable. Short but fun. They are characteristically Greek and interesting to play and listen to.

What a difference it was to play and listen and judge on electric pianos vs acoustic grand pianos. When Karyn Sarring and I tried these on electric pianos in Maui, we thought they had potential. When I tried them with other pianists in San Francisco and Utrecht, we thought they were interesting and fun.

Hopefully I will get a chance to record all five duets. But recording these is not the ultimate objective. I simply want to share good and fun music in my travels.

More importantly, communicating and interacting with another musician through duet-playing is like the way children play with each other. There’s no need for extended conversation. We just play.

Five Piano Duets by Nickos Harizanos:

  1. Out there in the valleys
  2. Down there at the seaside
  3. We have a wedding day
  4. Here comes the swallow
  5. Corfu Dance

 

Art and music at Artonivo in Bruges, Belgium

On Friday 26th February 2010, Robert Bekkers and I officially participated as artists in a new exhibition. It was the result of our week of “Creative Encounters in Paleochora, Crete” in August 2009. The exhibition covers the interdisciplinary projects of 2007, 2008, and 2009 spearheaded by the owner of the Artonivo Gallery. GAEA AEOLUS or AARDE WIND or EARTH WIND exhibition runs daily from 15:00 to 18:00 in Artonivo art centre in central Brugge (Bruges), Belgium until 5th April 2010.

There is a first time for everything. As musicians, we give concerts (foreground music) or play background music. Rarely do we get a chance to play foreground music and linger on (without being there) for two months.

On Friday 26th February 2010, Robert Bekkers and I officially participated as artists in a new exhibition. It was the result of our week of “Creative Encounters in Paleochora, Crete” in August 2009. The exhibition covers the interdisciplinary projects of 2007, 2008, and 2009 spearheaded by the owner of the Artonivo Gallery.

Opening night at Artonivo in Brugge, Belgium, photo credit Dorit Drori
Opening night at Artonivo in Brugge, Belgium, photo credit Dorit Drori

I had gone to many private viewings in London and Amsterdam as a spectator but never as a participant. That Robert Bekkers and I would have something to exhibit was a completely new experience for us. As precaution, I had suggested a concert — something we knew well, in case we had nothing worthy to exhibit.

An electric piano made a live performance possible. However, memories of playing on an electric piano in Capetown’s Victoria & Alfred amphitheatre in South Africa warned us against trying anything too fancy.

I began with a piece for violin and cello. It seemed appropriate to play “Encounter” with the left hand as cello and right hand as violin, for the project was called “14th Levka Ori Creative Encounters in Crete.” I explained the programmatic aspect of my composition about a conversation between two strangers.

I will write about our improvisation in another blog. It deserves a separate blog. We had never performed an improvisation in public until then. But that’s how we met, or rather, how Robert and I were supposed to have interacted — in an improvisation ensemble in Amsterdam in Spring 2001. Except, it didn’t happen. I sat in the audience instead. That’s definitely another story.

We ended the short concert with Vivaldi’s WINTER for it conjures up the wind and the elements.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo play Vivaldi's Winter
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo play Vivaldi's Winter from Four Seasons, photo credit: Dorit Drori

So happy I was to see three familiar faces from the Netherlands. They had come to support us — or perhaps out of curiosity. What were musicians doing in an art gallery? What were Netherlands-based musicians doing in Belgium?

Over champagne and sandwiches we chatted with the guests. We got to know the other artists who had gone to Crete before us. Two sisters Ruthi Dekel and Dorit Drori had gone in 2008 whose theme was Archaelogy of the Imagination. I am grateful for Dorit’s photos displayed here.

GAEA AEOLUS or AARDE WIND or EARTH WIND exhibition runs daily from 15:00 to 18:00 in Artonivo art centre in central Brugge (Bruges), Belgium until 5th April 2010.

Creative encounters in Crete to meet in Brugge: 26 Feb 2010 at 8 pm

When musicians and visual artists collaborate, ultimately there is an intersection of time and space. How does one condense a year of time into a physical space? Our exhibition entitled GAEA AEOLUS, the result of that one week of “Creative Encounters” in Paleohora Crete, will open at 8 pm on 26th February 2010 in Brugge. There will be an electric piano. It will be a surprise.

Musicians work in the dimension of TIME, while visual artists deal with SPACE.

When musicians and visual artists collaborate, ultimately there is an intersection of time and space. How does one condense a year of time into a physical space?

After the EFFUSION house concert, the film maker Julian Scaff invited us to a one week working holiday on Crete. It was the 14th Interdisciplinary Meeting of Artists at Levka Ori. There were no obligations. However, if we did create something, we could get it exhibited in early 2010 at the art gallery of the founder of this annual project.

We’d pay our own way, arrange our own stay, and meet daily for “creative encounters.” I was curious. We had nothing to lose but everything to gain. So we went in August 2009.

I began a blog of Paleochora.

Every day we drove up the mountains. What was omnipresent was the wind. In fact, the wind AND the sun competed fiercely for attention. We walked and worked alone. The wind filled the silence. When the sun grew too hot, we retreated and returned when it got cooler.

It was inconceivable to give a concert in Paleochora (the way we’re used to). What could we, as classical musicians, possibly achieve by being far away from our instruments and environments?

The “creative” part of the encounter occurred after we headed down the mountains and met for dinner. There we introduced ourselves and shared our ideas. I decided to give up trying to find a piano. Instead, I’d collect items to make musical instruments.

A box of twigs, rocks, and goat deposits in Paleochora, Crete
A box of twigs, rocks, and goat deposits in Paleochora, Crete

 

I imagined making a wind chime out of twigs and branches. I envisioned making percussive instruments out of pebble-like goat deposits. I crouched on my hands and knees and collected what I could find.

Making a musical instrument in Paleochora, Crete
Making a musical instrument in Paleochora, Crete

 

While I was completely focussed on making my wind chime, Robert had finished his “wind guitar.” He came to me and saw that my wind chime was turning into a mobile. The twigs swung in the wind but did not touch. There was no chime about it. But this gave him an idea of making a wind harp.

A wind mobile not wind chime at Paleochora, Crete
A wind mobile not wind chime at Paleochora, Crete

 

Later I abandoned the goat deposits as they crumbled in the moist plastic bag in our hotel room. I had created nothing feasible or substantial.

What am I going to exhibit at the ARTONIVO art gallery in central Brugge (also known as Bruges) next Friday? Our exhibition entitled GAEA AEOLUS, the result of that one week of “Creative Encounters” in Paleohora Crete, will open at 8 pm on 26th February 2010 in Brugge. Everyone else has got something to show. What will I do?

Luckily there will be an electric piano. It will be a surprise.

ArtoNivo art gallery in Brugge, Belgium
ArtoNivo art gallery in Brugge, Belgium

Wind to create energy, art, music, and friendship

High above the village of Paleohora, I and other participants of the 14th Levka Ori project worked with the wind for a week. We arrived on Friday 21 August exhausted from the long flights from Amsterdam and Brussels. The next morning we met in a hut on the sandy beach to discuss our plans.

High above the village of Paleohora, I and other participants of the 14th Levka Ori project worked with the wind for a week. I hesitate to use the word “work” for it has felt more like play than work. Nevertheless, I say “work” for it represents a focussed effort to create something out of nothing, communicate our ideas about self-expression, and engage in a creative process that would spill over to other areas in our individual lives.

We arrived on Friday 21 August exhausted from the long flights from Amsterdam and Brussels. The next morning we met in a hut on the sandy beach to discuss our plans. The founder and co-0rganiser Fernand (pictured below) explained the aims of the project and this year’s theme of wind. As none of us had to pay or were paid to participate, it was a free option bounded only by the opportunity cost of being there. [I’ll explain this later in a future blog on economics and freakonomics.]

Fernand, the founder and co-organiser of Levka Ori project
Fernand, the founder and co-organiser of Levka Ori project. Photo by Julian H. Scaff

Most of the participants had good ideas about what they would be doing or at least aiming for. Robert wanted to use his guitar in different locations to hear it against the wind or with the wind. As I didn’t have access to a piano, I resorted to taking pictures and videos with my mobile phone to blog and remember this event, if nothing else. Unlike others, I had no clue what I would or could be doing on the mountain where we’d be “catching” the wind.

Anne trying to take a picture of the panoramic view above Paleochora, Crete
Anne trying to take a picture of the panoramic view above Paleochora, Crete. Photo by Julian H. Scaff

And what a windy surprise it was to finally get to the plateau 900 meters above sea level, where only goats and their masters roamed. The wind was a constant companion as I explored the dry terrains of this area. The wind was loud against my ears, but only because I was there.

You cannot hear the wind unless it hits an object such as a microphone or your ears. It’s invisible but you can see its effects. You can feel its force and temperature on your skin. It cools you under the heat of the noon day sun. Sometimes it threatens to blow  you away. It’s fearless and arhythmic. It removes all silence and doubt.

While one artist was visibly recording the wind, the other was looking for material to cast her resin. [See the contrast below.]

An artist recording the wind in Paleochora, Crete
An artist recording the wind in Paleochora, Crete. Photo by Julian H. Scaff

The creative process involves making apriori assumptions and ideas, testing them in an environment of exploration and experimentation, tweaking or changing the original plan, abandoning initial plans, starting anew, etc. It’s a necessary part of being an artist. The goal is not to create but to engage in the process.

Blurred and changed by the wind
Blurred and changed by the wind. Photo by Julian H. Scaff

On Sunday, tired of the bumpy, uphill roads and the constant force of the wind, I took to the beach by myself while others pressed on. I finished reading the book “Freakonomics” and wondered why I was here at all. True, I was curious about the workshop in which the outcome would be something or nothing. I was eager to work with others, to see the world from their points of view. Most of all, I needed a holiday. And I expected Robert to want the same. That was the rationale for booking this working holiday.

Robert Bekkers playing guitar in the wind above Paleochora, Crete
Robert Bekkers playing guitar in the wind above Paleochora, Crete. Photo by Julian H. Scaff

On my second visit to the project site, I decided to collect goat droppings, pebbles, and dry wood sticks to make musical instruments. The goat excrements were round and light like coffee beans. I thought of putting them in empty water bottles and Cretan beer cans and using them like shakers. I would make wind chimes out of pebbles and sticks. I was excited about my idea.

On the way back downhill, I saw Julian’s wind machine powering two lights on a simple installation. Art and renewable energy, he told me, was his interest. A few days later, he erected another wind-powered chain of lights which we could see from the village at night.

Julian Scaff and his wind machine on Paleohora, Crete
Julian Scaff and his wind machine on Paleohora, Crete. Photo by Julian H. Scaff

…. to be continued….

Panoramic preview in Paleochora, Crete

Any mention of the Greek islands conjures up unforgettable images of clear blue skies, deep Mediterranean waters, and sunbathing on the sandy beaches. Half a lifetime later, I return to Greece once again, no longer alone but with a Dutch guitarist, an American photographer, and an American film maker to the largest of all Greek islands: Crete. Joining us from Belgium is a Norwegian artist, also curious and brave enough to make something creative in the one week we have together. The theme of this year’s project is WIND. What can you do with an acoustic classical guitar without amplification?

Any mention of the Greek islands conjures up unforgettable images of clear blue skies,  deep Mediterranean waters, and sunbathing on the sandy beaches. That was my memory of Mykonos, Naxos, and Corfu when I first ventured here as a college student.

Half a lifetime later, I return to Greece once again, no longer alone but with a Dutch guitarist, an American photographer, and an American film maker to the largest of all Greek islands: Crete. Joining us from Belgium is a Norwegian artist, also curious and brave enough to create something in the one week we have together for a possible exhibition in a museum in Brugges early next year.

Panoramic view from top of Paleochora Crete
Panoramic view from top of Paleochora Crete

Months ago when we as a duo first decided to participate in the Levka Ori project, we had sought in vain to find a venue with a piano in the ancient village of Paleochora, sometimes spelled Paleohora. Without it, any concert (if at all) would be solo guitar. And so I left my music behind in Utrecht but brought my laptop to record this journey and enjoy the last days of summer with the 2,000 inhabitants of this peninsular paradise.

On Saturday 22 August 2009, Fernand, the founder of the Levka Ori project in its 14th continuous year, introduced us to several high altitude areas in this southwestern part of Crete. We scaled various mountain tops to embrace the breathtaking panoramic views and test the acoustics only to be blown away by the strong and deafening Cretan wind. [For current conditions of temperature, wind direction and speed, check the real-time updates.]

The theme of this year’s project is WIND. What can you do with an acoustic classical guitar without amplification? We brainstormed numerous ideas: concert for guitar and wind, mosaic of guitar with wind, the wind playing the guitar, and fantasia for guitar with wind. While the other participants walked around the “Magnesia” site formulating their plans for the rest of the week, the guitarist walked from stone to stone, peak to peak, experimenting with his guitar and that fierce and unpredictable entity called the Cretan wind.

By late afternoon, we conceded that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to compete against the wind. We drove downhill and stopped at a lone Cretan church for a rest.

Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete
Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete

While inhaling the 360-degree view from this plateau, I heard the beautiful sound of solo guitar floating from the church. I posed for a memory and joined the others in the small white-washed building.

Anne Ku next to church above Paleochora, Crete
Anne Ku next to church above Paleochora, Crete

The romantic sound of nylon strings plucked against wood free from the wind welcomed us into that small space. Natural light acted as spot lights on the old mosaic floor. The guitarist stopped. He was only experimenting with chords and harmonics.

“Please play something I like,” I requested.

Outside the wind continued its roar. But inside the clean space of the Cretan church, I enjoyed a private concert of solo guitar.

Robert Bekkers in a Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete
Robert Bekkers in a Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete