Saturday 7 September 2013

Cloud & Light 2.

Cloud & Light: "A line that sings"

These notes come to you from my studio, as I take a break from an intense creative process, designing kinetic visuals for three works by the acclaimed Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa. It's hot - painting on six overhead projectors - and the music sears through heart and soul. The score is abstract, difficult for a non-professional musician to memorize, so I'm spending a lot of time looking for structure and recognizable cues and listening to the CD again and again, until the music becomes part of me and my hands and paintbrushes react intuitively and a tempo. During a performance painting there no time to look at the score! This is the première of these works in concert with visuals, so I'm curious to know how the composer will react to my treatment of his offspring. But I have reasons to be optimistic.

A practice still from kinetic painting to Toshio Hosokawa's Cloud & Light

For years, Asian art and music have had a big influence on my paintings and performances (Takemitsu, Huang Ruo, Asian watercolours) so this collaboration is a dream come true. When I read in Toshio's memoir Stille und Klang, Schatten und Licht (Silence and Sound, Shadows and Light) that his aim is to compose music "like a calligraphy of sounds on a canvas of silence", then I know that he speaks my language and that we can work together. His book is full of such metaphors. 

In earlier blogs you can read my own thoughts on how I use space (as silence) in my visual compositions: The beauty of space and silence and Music and space in watercolour painting.

Hosokawa quotes a Zen proverb: "It's the silence between the notes that creates the music". The significance of Toshio's silences will hopefully be enhanced by my visuals. For example, just after I make a brush-stroke (synchronous to a tone), the sound will "decay" into silence and you can see on the screen how my fluid paint also slowly spreads and settles, sometimes "bleeding" into another colour. Visual silence, you might say. 

Hosokawa's music grows from his deep oneness with the organic properties of Nature, with its unpredictability, beauty and terrifying power. My kinetic designs often originate in the organic potential of my liquid water-based colours. For example, you can watch pools of colour slowly drying from the heat of my projectors and taking on unexpected forms. I try not to intervene, because our audio-visual harmony will develop intentionally and coincidentally. Yes, I'm following the music, but this audio-visual collaboration is a live art form, so the silence between the notes, between each fragment of our "conversation" will be unique. 
From Cloud & Light (for shō and orchestra): "Premonition of Shadows".

In Hosokama's Cloud & Light for shō and orchestra, the celebrated soloist Mayumi Miyata, clad in white, will sit in front of the projection of my live painting, so she will change colour, warm or cool, according to the tones she plays. She will become part of the visual drama.

Whereas Cloud & Light has a calm, mystical, other-worldly beauty, Hosokawa’s music can also reflect the destructive primal forces of nature, as in his Meditation (for the victims of of the Tsunami & Fukushima).  Rather than just illustrating a tsunami, I'm looking for ways to spread the projections of my floods of colour all over the stage, to envelop us all in the angst of the victims. This tragic music gradually develops into an elegy, a tear, then a prayer.

But I must get back to work. You're always afraid that you won't be ready in time!

Cloud & Light. Bach and Hosokawa. 26th October, 20.15. Muziekgebouw aan 't Ij, Amsterdam. Netherlands Chamber Orchestra (leader Gordan Nikolić). Conductor: Toshio Hosokawa, Shō: Mayumi Miyata, Violin: Gordan Nikolić and Lisanne Soeterbroek. 
Click here For tickets.