Monday, May 26, 2008

Hearing colours & seeing sounds

This is one of the big things I've been working on that has taken me away from blogdonia lately. I've been commissioned by Biennale Montreal (Montreal Biennial of Art) to participate in their Open Music project. Artistic Director Scott Burnham's theme for the entire 2009 biennial is "Open Culture" which has spawned three open-source style projects: Open Music, Open Design and Open Cinema. Burnham's concept is that in our age of Flickr and YouTube, the individual becomes at once creator and curator. Is the traditional role of a curator and the traditional function of a biennial - one person's view of the state of contemporary art - outdated? How can we foster dialogue not only in the curatorial process but in the creation of the works themselves?

Scott Clyke asked me to become involved a few months ago, and when he ran a cursory project description by me I was immediately on board. I was to compose a "soundtrack" to Rick Leong's painting Dancing Serpent in Dawn's Quiet. This was up my alley anyway, because two of my recent pieces have been catalysed by poetry and I'd been trying to figure out ways to work with visual artists for a while. Once Scott showed me a photo of the painting (it's 8' x 6' - I still have yet to actually see the original) I was immediately inspired and had some fairly clear motivic ideas in my head. I wrote for totally different instrumentation than I normally work with, but for colleagues I'm familiar with - Mario Allard and Ben Henriques are two saxophonists I always call for my big band work; Gary Schwartz on guitar, who can fulfill any hare-brained idea I throw at him; and a rhythm section of Scott Kingsley on bass and Phil Melanson on drums.

The multitrack recording of this commission - in the vein of Radiohead, Dave Douglas, Nine Inch Nails and others - will be posted on the Biennale website for anyone to download and remix as they wish. The score will also be posted for other instrumentalists and singers to work with. A selection of remixes will be issued on a compilation to coincide with the Biennale in May 2009; and there will be an evening of live performance during the Biennale as well. There may be more to come in how this is all exhibited next year, but details are not yet confirmed and they're not mine to divulge, anyway.

More information is on the Biennale website, and it's just the tip of the iceberg. Much more - including photos and video of the rehearsals and recording session - is forthcoming.

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