Sunday, October 23, 2011

Collab Notes >6< :: CLEARLY/Academic pursuit

CLEARLY is opening the next exhibit at the Brunnier Gallery on the campus at Iowa State University, December 2-3.  I am also looking for a space to open the installation for 4 months from January-April 2012.  This will lead up to the lecture performance I am required to do for my Doctorate of Music from Northwestern University.  News about this space will be coming soon.  Below I have included the proposal I submitted for my DM final project.  Not surprising, I hope, is that it is all about collaboration, and focusing on modern day collaborating duos as the basis for studying process and concepts.

This will likely change, but here is the initial proposal:

A large portion of my work as a percussionist and performer has been collaborating with dancers and choreographers, from accompanying class, performance improvisation, or composition, to directing choreographic, staging, and theatrical ideas.  I am also very interested in the physical connections between dance and percussion playing; both mediums use an intimate understanding of kinetic energy and a controlled combination of movements that originate from the core of the performer and end with variations on sound and rhythm at the distal end.

            My Final Project for a Doctorate of Music at Northwestern University would be an exploration into the process and collaboration between three duos of composer and choreographer.  I would begin with research into the famous and possibly most immediately recognizable duo, John Cage and Merce Cunningham.  I will begin by viewing and listening to several of their collaborative works, reading interviews and their thoughts about collaboration, as well as the thoughts from their dancers and colleagues.

            I will continue this research by exploring the collaborative duos of Peter Martins/John Adams and Nico Muhly/Benjamin Millepied and the work they have produced together.  I hope to interview them to get a more accurate understanding of their thoughts about collaboration and creating a workable synthesis between the two mediums.

            I will then also interview separate choreographers and composers to gather a larger understanding of the experiences they have encountered when collaborating across artistic disciplines.  Some of these artists will include Molly Shanahan, choreographer and director of Mad Shak Dance Company, and Danish composer, Andy Pape.

            The fifth segment of this project will be the ideas and concepts from my collaboration with choreographer, Valerie Williams.  We have worked together for two years and the lecture recital will present our collaboration on the project, CLEARLY; an installation of glass percussion instruments, video, design, and dance.  We will strive to show how the concepts from Cage/Cunningham, Martins/Adams, Muhly/Millepied, and the other choreographers and composers come through in our collaboration, but also how our duo has individual characteristics.  Our unique process most likely circles back to the collaboration of Cage and Cunningham, by using improvisational methods, conceptual ideas, inspirational energy from each performer, and imagery and verbal descriptions for form development.

Collab Notes >7< :: GHC

The Glass House Concerto has quickly become one of those truly exciting collaborations where the actual interaction and upward motion of it is inspiration enough.  I have seen the first draft and reduction on the second movement of the concerto, and will be video recording it for YouTube in hopes to gather more interest in ensembles premiering the work in 2012-2013.  The world premiere will be April 27, 2012 with the ISU Wind Ensemble, and then we have possible engagements in the planning stages with other wind ensembles in Iowa, Pacific US, and Canada.

An updated soloist instrumentation list is here:

+Glass gongs
+Glass xylophone
+Stone xylophone
+Bottle-phone (1-octave tuned bottles)
+Wood blocks/temple blocks/log drums
+4 Hi hats of graduated sizes
+Glass Wind Chimes

I have included the pros that I wrote about the collaboration in April 2011 here:
"I had the fortune of meeting Andrew and becoming familiar with his work as an artist when hearing the premiere of his composition *Some Assembly Required in November 2010 with the Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra, Jacob Harrison, conductor.  The piece immediately struck me in several exciting ways in that he was extremely clever with the use of all the elements of the modern orchestra (now incorporating numerous percussion instruments and players), the modern techniques of pseudo programmatic works (meter, ostinato, syncopation, pacing, harmony, etc.), and a masterful way of elevating a young orchestra to a resonating and fiery level.

I have had a passionate interest for some time in utilizing glass as a percussion instrument, as well as assembling many sounds from one material, whether found or manufactured, to stand along side the effect you get from a marimba or vibraphone (collections of 10+ woodblocks, 10 temple blocks, and metal objects that don’t exhibit any of the traditional timbre we associate with finely tempered percussion instruments [ie. gas cans from the 1950’s and cracked cymbals]).  I also am quite passionate about zithers, and have collected a 4-octave chromatic dulcimer, a 4.5 octave chromatic Hungarian concert cimbalom, and a 4-octave chromatic bowed psaltery. 

The main impetus for this concerto, which had been forming in my mind for some time, was the collection of glass instruments I was working on acquiring for collaborations with dance (ie. glass xylophone, tuned bottle-phone, glass gongs, wind chimes, glass bells, bowls, vases, and other items made by glass blowers).  Upon hearing Andrew’s work performed by the ISUSO, it immediately resonated with me that this was a composer that would thrive with the request I was about to present.  And the concerto was presented mainly to see what he could do using his choices from all the instruments I have mentioned.

Fatefully, it seems that it was meant to be, and I have to say that the whole connection with Philip Johnson’s Glass House and the coincidence of the events has made the project even more awesomely real, serendipitous, and pertinent to my artistic beliefs. 

The elemental main forces of this concerto will be the uniqueness of timbres presented by the soloist from the glass xylophone, stone xylophone, wood and metal percussion consorts, and other glass instruments added.  Assisting these elements will be an incendiary combination of the connection to the architectural, design, and aesthetics of the Glass House, Andrew’s compositional energy, my passion for the odder things we can make ‘percussion’, and the drive of a wind ensemble sound."

The Nonconformist will always be up and coming.

As I work on the many varied projects I am lucky to be a part of I have endless ideas about what to write about.  Mainly, I want to connect with the side of every artist, or most artists (not everyone, I have come to find out) that have a desire to collaborate and develop a fruitful symbiosis of artistic creation with other artists.  Lately, I have found myself running into the same idea more than once.  The nonconformist will always be up and coming.

One of my blessings and one of my curses is that I have a deep interest in several artistic areas, and I usually attack it with fervor enough to make it useful in a professional arena.  I am sure that many very creative people find themselves up against this "battle".  I love playing marimba, and it is more or less home base.  However, I find dulcimer and multi-percussion running closely behind marimba.  Then there are the areas of hand drums, composition, collaboration with dance, teaching, marketing and promotion, recording, glass percussion, chamber music, and the list could go further.  Welcome to the life of a percussionist...?  Right...?  But, there is that voice that is always whispering to us to fit a mold.

The university professor mold.  The marimba soloist mold.  The dance and improvisational mold.  The company director mold.  I have even found myself telling a student to pick two molds and run with those right now.  Is that what I really felt?  Or, was that what I felt while in school as well?  ...I think the answer is, no.  But, we are constantly asked to feel that way about our careers.  And for many people that is necessary, but the ones of us who don't fit the prescribed molds, nor want to, why are we always considered up and coming on the success monitor?  Firstly, the monitor is structured by a mold, and secondly, we are always energetically pushing to forge new paths and make ripples in the fabric of all artists around us, which throws off the monitor...I mean prescribed molds around us.

It is important to have molds, and we should always try to fit to some.  Trust me, it helps in your marketing ventures.  The general public, and quite a few folks who are artists themselves like molds, and see them as the defining feature of a successful artist.  I, however, would like to challenge all artists to look through the other end of the kaleidoscope and notice the artists who don't fit molds, those are the ones doing different things and expanding the opportunities for all of us in the future.

I have recently been described in various settings as someone who is "up and coming".  This, of course, prompted the current blog posting, or rather, gave it the push over the edge.  This is also something that is not bad, but it was a little surprising, and I have to take a step back each time it comes up and examine the whole situation.  I felt that I had arrived long ago, and have been doing many creative and "off the beaten path" artistic activities for some time now.  Basically, accurately not fitting any mold.

So my advice is to find your molds, overflow from them, and make a mess.

Sonic Inertia in 2007.  I choreographed, composed, and directed this piece...oh, and sometimes danced in it!  "1-e&-a; Right hand and feet together":

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Collab Notes >4< :: CLEARLY

More exciting progress on CLEARLY.  Hiromi, the visual artist, and I visited the Gaffer's Guild studio last week and shot some really great video of molten glass, as well as some of the basic processes of blowing glass...I think we even got some glass breaking in the video!

I have begun experimenting with video and sound clips in my studio space at the Octagon Center for the Arts.  A small video clip is below.  The atmosphere of the installation will be filled with electronic sounds, both pre-produced and recorded as well as processed sound and delay of the live music.  I will be revisiting the music processing program Max MSP as well as utilizing a sound editing program.  This is probably the most daunting part of the project as I spend most of my time working in the acoustic world of music and only preliminarily know what I am doing with electronic tools to process music.

New wind chimes came in from Nathan Ratliff last week.  They look and sound amazing.  In the process of hanging them I dropped an older wind chime flat on the was the greatest sound, but didn't prove to be so good for the thin glass bars.  That one has been shipped back for salvaging pieces.

We have been asked to perform at the Des Moines Arts Festival this year on June 25 at 7:30 on their performing arts stage.  And I am anxiously awaiting any news from the Iowa Arts Council on the Major Grant I applied for.  This will determine what happens next with regards to how I organize the music and all, so it kind of puts us at a standstill while the Iowa Government deliberates on the funding cuts (let's hope not) to the IAC.

Collab Notes >5< :: The Glass House Concerto

So far the "Collab Notes" have been about the CLEARLY Glass Project, however they are intended to cover the whole gamut of collaboration that I always seem to have going on.  And I am happy to begin the first posting about a collaboration with Andrew Ardizzoia that I am very excited about, The Glass House Concerto.

I don't need to write much here because both myself and the collaborator have written descriptive pros about the early stages of the project that I believe give perfect insight into what is to come.  You can read those here:

Composer, Andrew Ardizzoia and I have started a project of working on what we feel will be a truly unique percussion concerto.  I tinker a lot with the odder percussion instruments, as well as collections of multiple instruments of the same timbre.  A few years back I wanted to meld a row of woodblocks with the marimba sound, make it basically a triple-rowed wooden keyboard, and Bjorn Berkhout wrote me a marimba/woodblock concerto for this called, "Tides".  Additionally, I am now working on CLEARLY, an installation of over 100 glass instruments, and I have a collection of three types of zithers.  I saw Andrew's new piece "*Some Assembly Required" premiered by the ISU Symphony Orchestra and immediate was inspired to ask him to write me a concerto, which we later decided would be for soloist and wind ensemble, for my interests in the less-mainstream percussion objects.

Andrew is keeping a wonderful blog about this project on his website, which you can access here:  We have gotten a few ensemble conductors interested in being a part of a consortium of premiering groups, including the ISU Wind Ensemble, Mike Golemo; UNI Wind Ensemble, Ron Johnson; and other groups in Canada and the Pacific NW.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Collab Notes >3< :: "Clearly" Glass Project

Progress is being made with the GP everyday.  I am somewhat at a standstill with waiting for grant money to purchase hardware to hang glass as to get a sense of how it will work in the space, but things are getting done.  I have gotten some more pieces hung that the Gaffer's Guild has made for the project, and will do some research for materials in the hardware store today.

Hiromi and I met with our Gaffer collaborator, Keith Kutz, at the glass blowing studio last night and did some video of dripping molten glass, as well as some basic footage of glass blowing and working with the ovens.  Today I will do some video and audio using marbles, glass bowls/vases, and water and I hope to do some video of Bach on the glass xylophone this weekend.

Here are some photos of the new pieces I hung yesterday.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Collab Notes >2< :: Glass Project

Day 2 of work on the "GP" at the North Grand Mall in Ames.  I unpacked 24 pieces that the Gaffer's Guild of ISU (glass blowing club) had created for the project and began experimenting with hanging them.  I got the 30" glass gong hung and unpacked a few other larger glass gongs.  We are up to about 90 glass instruments now!

Choreographer, Valerie Williams and visual artist, Hiromi Okumura and I met to view and discuss video footage to fill the space using 3 projectors.  We are planning to combine unique images of paint and glass, as well as capturing audience members to superimposed in the projections.

The music will develop and evolve over our workshopping time during May as the collection of glass grows and evolves.  Ideas are swirling around about the sonic environments.  Much may include a base of varying improvised palettes with remnants of tonality and familiar pieces of music convalescing about the space, but I am still in the very early stages of this, and this will likely take shape later this month.

Many wind chimes made by Nathan Ratliff, and good friend in Texas, are on their way later this week, as well as more goodies from the Gaffer's Guild.

Collab Notes >1< :: Glass Project - Day 1

Clearly/Clear Refraction (?) Glass Project.  It is very difficult to settle on a name for a project of this size.  So "GP" has finally begun it's move into a 4000+ sq/ft store space in the North Grand Mall of Ames, IA!  This tops any project I have done...ok, maybe note the dance show in an Olympic-size drained swimming pool with The Seldoms...but, this is a very unique experience.

The dream of "GP" probably began sometime around 2003, SONIC INERTIA did a project that began making it a small realization called "Inspirations of Glass", and starting in the fall of 2010 I began discussing with choreography, Valerie Williams what I really saw in the idea.  We have been grant applying (still are), pondering, planning, collecting, collaborating, and hoping since then, and now it is starting to become a reality.

The month of May will be used to experiment, design, and figure out just what we can do with a large enough space, lots of documentation, and maybe some broken glass (by accident).  In June I hope to have a grasp on what pieces of glass I have, where to put them, and what to play on them, so that rehearsals can begin.  Mid-June we hope to open the space for a series of performances and presentations, probably culminating in a fundraising party.

I plan to have more than 100 pieces of glass musical instruments; found glass, glass blown generously donated by the ISU Gaffer's Guild, plate glass, glass wind chimes made by Nathan Ratliff, and much more.  Video and lighting will be an important element of this project, along with the music and dance.

In the meantime we should settle on a name.