Eric had a gig Friday night at Gallery 119 in Lowell. He played with two other musicians; Karen on augmented cello and Michael on bass and table guitar. The three of them (Impromptu 3) were accompanied by Dr. T, who provided video mixing.
So what does that mean?
Dr. T (aka Emile Tobenfeld) mixes video images that he has compiled and projects them on a large screen while the musicians create music to compliment the images. I consider it performance art that is truly spontaneous. You’re not quite sure what images Dr. T will project on the screen, though he will give the musicians a general theme as a starting point. From there they have to keep an eye on what is projected on the screen, develop and play music to match (or perhaps not) the images, and then also try to compliment what each other is playing.
Hence the names improvisation and impromptu (also because Dr. T often knows each musician, but they may not know each other.)
As I watched and listened to the performances I started to think about altered art work. How the artist starts with an image or surface and then adds elements, removes elements, and transforms the piece until it feels complete. Or perhaps round robin art events where individual pieces of art are passed amongst a group of artists, each person adding elements until the piece returns, transformed, to the original artist.
I also wondered what it would be like to make art to music. I don’t mean working on art while listening to music but making an original piece of art influenced or inspired by a piece of music. (For some reason Jackson Pollock paintings come to mind.) You’re constrained by the type of music and the length of time the song plays. But often out of constraint and limitation something wonderful emerges.
And so it was with the performances on Friday night. A little constraint to begin with as the images appeared onscreen and one musician would begin to play a rhythm. As more images appeared, changed, and repeated, the musicians joined in; each adding his or her signature to the piece. The music would swell, dip, and sometimes become a little frenzied. A range of emotions was sometimes evident.
And then the improvisation, the pictures, the music, would quiet and come to a close. And before the audience was a finished piece.