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.

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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.

Continue reading “Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection”

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

Effusion: a cross domain exploration through video and music

A year ago I got to know a film maker who introduced a new approach to our Monument House Concert Series. We called it “cross domain exploration.” Some call it “cross over” and others “interdisciplinary collaboration.” We decided to experiment with an invitation-only free house concert in March 2009 called “Effusion.”

A year ago I got to know a film maker who introduced a new approach to our Monument House Concert Series in Utrecht, Holland. We called it “cross domain exploration.” Some call it “cross over” and others “interdisciplinary collaboration.”

We decided to experiment with an invitation-only free house concert in March 2009 called “Effusion.” The film maker took the raw video from a film about different ways to travel in Utrecht. I worked with pianists to play 4-hand duets of new works of an Amsterdam-based composer. Each work was based on a method of transport: by foot, bicycle, car, boat, etc.

I thought of all the pianists I knew, both professional and amateur, and invited those that would enjoy participating in such an evening. I practised a piece with my psychologist student. I practised another piece with a fellow Rotarian. A computer programmer practised with a conservatory student. We prepared for the evening of 21st March 2009 with great anticipation.

The film maker brought six bottles of fine red wine from his neighbour who supported such artistic collaborations. The composer and the film maker met on the evening of the house concert. Robert Bekkers and I ended the concert with a preview of the composer’s new work for us, for debut in Spain.

We had grand plans to do a podcast. In the end we released a youtube clip of one duet (below). I am finally documenting that event which marked the beginning of new collaborations. [The following video can be seen in Safari 4.0, Firefox 3.6, Google Chrome, or Opera 10 Internet browsers.]

The composer was Heleen Verleur. The film maker was Julian Scaff.

Some comments from the house concert guestbook:

It was a truly marvelous evening, in a very pleasant setting, with just the right mix of people, and great cookies. The impromptu mixing video and music made for a very interesting experience. And thank you very much for your surprise performance of Fire. I could see that Heleen was delighted! And so was I.

t was indeed an extraordinary evening. I told you I didn’t really feel like coming, I was tired after a full week of teaching the violin to lots of people and needed a break. To my great surprise and happiness the evening turned out to be just the experience I needed. It was as if I’d had a holiday in your lovely house. I was delighted by your hospitality.

Heleen’s music touches me, she reminds me – as do her twins – of the atmosphere of the 20-ties, I hear that in a lot of her music too. Most of the music was performed very well I found, especially “fire” I really enjoyed. Yes, of course, I am a violinist after all, I loved Vivaldi in this way.

Interesting to have music and film together. Sometimes it was like, because of shaky filming and the character of some of the pieces, as if we were watching something very old. A number of times I have improvised with clowns at management trainings and this reminded me of that.

I found there were a lot of very interesting people, people that can be friends. I feel we were truly sharing. That is what sets this situation apart from “normal” concerts. really enjoyed the (small) part of the concert and all of the really nice time after last Saturday.

I’d like to thank you and I think part of the enjoyment, besides the music which was very interesting was also the lovely and relaxed way in which you brought it all! For me, it would have been nice to have had a really good description of how to get there………although I guess now it’s much much clearer already!

I’d love to come again. (Also there is a selfish reason – I am especially grateful for the opportunity to experience performance nerves again and to take another step to overcoming them). I was of course lucky to find such an outstanding young pianist as Stein for my duet partner. I tried not to have any expectations, but I gathered that the audience very much enjoyed Helene’s music (though there was probably not a single piece of the duet delivered flawlessly!)

Before coming to the event, I already knew that I would find the same friendly atmosphere of the previous concerts, where the cosiness of the environment erases the (physical and metaphorical) distance between artist and audience without being detrimental to the quality of the artistic performances. However, this particular event differs from the previous concerts in that the attention to novelty is not confined to the premiére of musical compositions, but it involves the construction of a bridge between music, visual arts and architecture. Both the original pieces of music played and the video clips projected during the performance are indeed complementary in describing the different movements in urban space that are associated to different means of transport.

I liked the experiment, and I would like to attend similar events in the future. It’s possible that some friends of mine will join me; on the other hand, it’s unlikely that I might get in contact, at least in the short term, with businesses that can support the event.

Effusion: a cross domain exploration house concert
Effusion: a cross domain exploration through video and music, Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht, Netherlands, 21 March 2009