This past weekend, I went the Look and Listen Festival to see and hear! The stated mission of the festival is to allow audiences to "simultaneously experience a stimulating visual environment for new music and a vibrant aural context for contemporary visual art. " That sounds about perfect for me, since everything I experience wants to come out of my hands as drawings. It was a varied program and first up was So Percussion, a group I had heard back in March at Carnegie Hall (You can see some of my iphone drawings of that performance in my friend Julia's blog) playing a piece by John Cage called "but what about the sound of crumpling paper." I could only see a couple members of the group, but here is Jason Treuting scribbling on paper during the piece.
The inspiration for the colors and shapes that surround him came from the paintings in the gallery by Beatrice Mandelman. They seemed to go perfectly with Cage's composition, with their playful and surprising swoops and blocks of color. The piece had a lot of quiet spaces, punctuated by the sounds of scribbling, or crumpling paper (for instance) and it's true what I wrote at the bottom of the drawing that sometimes I was afraid to make a mark because I felt shy about the sound it would make.
Between musical pieces, journalist Lara Pellegrini interviewed the gallery owner, Gary Snyder, who gave us some background on Beatrice Mandelman. I loved the paintings, and if you're in the neighborhood (26th and 8th Ave), you should definitely check it out.
Next, Phyllis Chen played three pieces on the toy piano, and if you think that sounds cutesy, then just check out the drawing I made of her while she played:
"Intense!" is what I wrote there on the side, and she and the pieces she played definitely are. While you might think the sound of the toy piano is sweet and tinkly, Chen's approach is more like an attack and she really fights that sweetness to create some surprising and stirring music. She debuted a piece by Karlheinz Essl, here where she reaches into the piano to stir the strings. A microphone inside the piano fed the sound into a computer which gave it back as an echo, a reverberation, a memory?
Here's the composer, Karlheinz Essl as he was being interviewed about the piece.
The choral group Meridionalis gave their debut performance. Their focus is ecclesiastical music from the colonial period of Latin America. Hopefully the drawing gives you an idea; it was just beautiful. They were all holding their music books, but I loved how gracefully they all held their hands. I think it was the sublime music directing their body language.
Later in the evening, the conductor of the ensemble, Sebastian Zubieta, was interviewed. Every sentence was accompanied by a flowing gesture, as if he were still conducting.
After the intermission, Jason Treuting of So Percussion played a piece called "The King of Denmark" which was one of the quietest pieces of the night. The program notes tell me that the composer, Morton Feldman, wrote it to only employ the performer's hands, fingers or arms as opposed to sticks or mallets. And the delicate gestures of the musician's hands were what I noticed most of all in this piece, which is why it's mostly hands.
And cropped and cleaned up to emphasize the hands.
The only drawing I didn't get to finish was for one of my favorite pieces of the night, So Percussion playing "an imaginary city," composed by Jason Treuting (below, during his interview) as a site specific work for the train stations of Brattleboro and Bellows Falls, VT. The piece was perfect, but I could wish it longer so I'd have time to finish the drawing!