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”

Video Levka Ori and guitar at Artonivo

Participants of Levka Ori Creative Encounters in 2008 and 2009 finally meet in 2010 to share their experiences and exhibit their work. Watch the video of Dorit Drori and see the photo of Robert Bekkers.

The current exhibition at Artonivo art centre in Bruges (Brugge), Belgium shows several videos on the big screen. I witnessed the making of Robert Bekkers’ wind guitar high above Paleochora, Crete. I hope it will be available soon to share with the world in cyberspace.

During the busy evening of 26th February 2010 when the exhibition opened, I didn’t get to watch closely or hear the accompanying guitar music of Israeli artist/photographer Dorit Drori’s video until now. Dorit had participated in the 2008 Levka Ori Creative Encounters on Crete project, just a year before ours.

Had we gone in August 2008, we might have produced something different for the exhibition. Perhaps Robert might have played the guitar that accompanied her video. Alternatively, Dorit might have filmed Robert playing his guitar in the wind.

There was no overlap between August 2008 and August 2009. We didn’t meet Dorit until Friday 26th February 2010. We could not have collaborated before then.

Interestingly you could say that we are now collaborating in hindsight. Below is a photo Dorit took of Robert Bekkers performing live music on the opening night. And I’m just discovering the works of Dorit Drori through her websites and videos…… and blogging about it now.

Robert Bekkers on guitar at Artonivo in Bruges Belgium
Robert Bekkers on guitar at Artonivo in Bruges Belgium, photo: Dorit Drori

Creativity and economics in Crete and Belgium

Half a year later, I wrote a short text on creativity and economics for exhibition at the Artonivo art centre in Bruges, Belgium. The owner, Fernand, considers the exhibition his personal hobby, i.e. to bring creative people together and display their work. The gallery is open from 15:00 to 18:00 every day until 5th April 2010.

I was reading “Freakonomics” on my way from Amsterdam to Crete last August (2009). I wanted to talk about it with the other participants of the 14th Levka Ori Creative Encounters in Crete. But they were more interested in creativity than economics.

Anne Ku at the Creative Encounters exhibition at Artonivo
Anne Ku at Artonivo art centre in Belgium, photo credit: Dorit Drori

While I struggled with creativity, the other participants actively created. While I argued about the economics of creativity, the others expressed their creativity in different ways.

Half a year later, I wrote a short text on creativity and economics for exhibition at the Artonivo art centre in Bruges, Belgium. The owner, Fernand, considers the exhibition his personal hobby, i.e. to bring creative people together and display their work. [For easier reading, click here for a PDF of left-hand side text and here for a PDF of right-hand side text.]

Creativity and economics in retrospect by Anne Ku
Creativity and economics in retrospect by Anne Ku at Artonivo, Belgium 26 February - 5 April 2010

Hopefully my text will produce food for thought for some of the visitors. The gallery is open from 15:00 to 18:00 every day until 5th April 2010. It is above the Callebert family shop whose motto is “everything you need for a modern life.”

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

A Mediterranean Summer on 12 September

The “Mediterranean Summer” programme is part of the larger traditional programme we’ve performed throughout the Netherlands and three times in Spain. This Saturday we will give it away for free in a 600-year old building in central Utrecht: the Academiegebouw at 13:00.

Our Mediterranean Summer began in May with Spain and ended in August with Crete. It was a summer full of sunshine, beaches, fresh octopus and shellfish, new friendship, and cross-cultural collaborations. 

The “Mediterranean Summer” programme is part of the larger traditional programme we’ve performed throughout the Netherlands and three times in Spain. This Saturday we will give it away for free in a 600-year old building in central Utrecht: the Academiegebouw at 13:00. 

Dare we conclude our summer in Paleochora, Crete, the last week of August? I certainly hope not, for I have already booked a flight to Italy for mid-October, to stretch the summer in the Mediterranean just a wee bit longer.

The last sunset in Paleochora, Crete, August 2009
The last sunset in Paleochora, Crete, August 2009

“A Mediterranean Summer” concert programme

Sonatina
Federico Moreno Torroba (1891 – 1982)
Allegretto
Andante
Allegro

Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (1954) (complete guitar concerto!)
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901 – 1999)
Villano y Ricercare
Españoleta y Fanfare de la Caballería de Nápoles
Danza de las Hachas
Canario


Asturias (Leyenda)

Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)
guitar solo

Summer from The Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
Allegro non molto arr. R. Bekkers (2008)
Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
Presto

Walking through a misty shower on the strand in Paris, August 2009
Walking through a misty shower on the strand in Paris, August 2009

In between Spain and Crete, we ventured into Paris for some inspiration. The modern art exhibition at the Pompidou Centre got us thinking about contemporary music. Why doesn’t the music of live composers attract the large crowds that pour into contemporary art galleries?

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….