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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Impromptu barbecue and concert for Ayyub Malik’s 75th birthday

A successful barbecue depends on the weather. An art exhibition doesn’t. Neither does a solo guitar concert. I invited everyone to walk to the back garden to give a toast. This was how I remembered Ayyub’s birthday parties: highly diverse group of interesting people from all walks of life.

Having experienced house concerts and art exhibitions in private spaces, I wanted to organise an art exhibition and a concert in my London home. I wanted to do a lot during a short period of time in which too much had to be done.

A successful barbecue depends on the weather. An art exhibition doesn’t. Neither does a solo guitar concert.

I reserved Friday the 13th of August just to tempt fate. I didn’t invite anybody in case I had no time to prepare for this event.

When it came close to the 13th, I checked with the London Ealing-based artist Yousif Naser if he was still game to participate. I checked with Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers if he wanted to give a short concert. I checked the weather forecast.

We moved the date to Saturday 14th August for more barbecue-friendly weather. I then invited my friends by phone, e-mail, skype, and facebook.

It rained all morning and what-looked-like all afternoon. Jetlagged travelers from outside of London would surely be dissuaded from venturing into town.

Set-up in back garden of Victorian cottage London for barbecue
Set-up in back garden of Victorian cottage London for barbecue

First to arrive were Ian and Julie who landed from New York and Boston the same morning. Next were my Colombian friends who were still recovering from their trip to China. By the time my German professor friend showed up, complaining of jet lag from Montreal, the diversity index had soared: Scots, American, Colombian, German, English, French, Iraqi, Dutch, and me. Total 13 people.

I invited everyone to walk to the back garden to give a toast. This was how I remembered Ayyub’s birthday parties: highly diverse group of interesting people from all walks of life. He was the leader and the centre of attention. “I would like to give a toast to Ayyub Malik, who would have been 75 today.”

Painting by Ayyub Malik, 2005
Painting by Ayyub Malik, 2005