Wednesday 27 June 2012

Aldeburgh Adventure with Aimard: a triple A experience!

Aldeburgh Adventure with Aimard

After conceiving, designing and practising the Piano Colours programme for a year and a half, how can you describe the kaleidoscope of feelings after our premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival on June 22nd: relief, happiness, exhaustion, pleasant surprise and deep satisfaction? Three curtain calls from a packed house (on a Friday morning!); an animated discussion for 45 minutes with a hundred people crammed into the room available; and I began to realise that this project really was a success. Together with Pierre-Laurent, I had moved people to tears, joy and understanding. They told me.

Before driving back to Holland, I took a moment to gaze out over Aldeburgh’s marshy landscape to reflect on this wonderful experience in the country of my birth, invited back here by a Frenchman.
Peaceful Snape landscape encompassing a turmoil of musical excitement.
The challenges of staging, logistics, rehearsal conflicts, projection-technique and nerves almost overshadow the actual performance of live kinetic painting - the purpose of the trip. As everyone in music-theatre knows, you have to hold it all together, stay focussed, then peak artistically for the relatively short time you’re on stage. 

How the pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, torn between a thousand demands and commitments as festival director and also performer in multiple programmes, survives this pressure is a miracle.

He and I so much enjoyed the rapport we discovered in performance, giving and taking as he watched my screen and I took his musical cues. Even though I had memorised the score, I realised how much flexibility and yes, improvisation there can be in music that is live and therefore creative. Flexibility in my case, as my colours flowed in slightly unexpected ways – (the hall was very dry) or my brush-strokes had to be adjusted to PLA’s tempi, where they differed slightly from the dress rehearsal. You are never satisfied and I’m preparing myself for the fact that the next performance will be different again.

If you’re not familiar with my performances of kinetic painting to music, read my blog post of June 11th, or go to the videopage on my website.
Moment of calm after the dress-rehearsal in the Britten Studio at Snape.

Just before leaving, what really made my (birth)day was the news that a certain super-intelligent and celebrated composer had been overheard to say after the concert that it was my visuals that “made sense of music that he knew, but hadn’t appreciated before”. Thanks a million. He and I have to talk.

Off to the Helsinki Festival in August with Piano Colours, but I’ll tell you all about that after the summer break. No more blogs until September. Have a great summer!

P.S. Bob Singleton, in his blog On an Overgrown Pathwrites with real understanding of the aims of our Gesamtkunst art form. His earlier blog was headed: "Pierre-Laurent sees the Light" :).


  1. Congratulations, Norman - what an achievement! And a super birthday present All the best - Catherine Sommer