Mixing Music and Art
04/06/2019 - & April 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30*, May 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, June 1, 2, 2019
Arvo Pärt: Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima
Steve Reich: Reich/Richter
The Choir of Trinity Wall Street*/Brooklyn Youth Chorus, International Contemporary Ensemble, Nicolas DeMaison*/Jeffrey Means/Daniela Candillari (Conductor)/Ensemble Signal, Brad Lubman (Conductor)
Gerhard Richter (Painting), Corinna Belz (Film)
(© Courtesy of The Shed)
Alex Poots, now artistic director and CEO of The Shed in New York, brought German painter Gerhard Richter and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt together in Dresden in 2013. The two men immediately took to each other. Poots, founding director of the Manchester International Festival, commissioned collaboration. Arriving in New York, Poots wisely decided, with Hans Ulrich Obrist, king of the interview, to commission a work from the two for the opening of New York’s new event space. “Reich, Richter and Pärt” is playing in two galleries on the second floor of The Shed.
Entering the first gallery, you are first struck by Richter’s work, especially some colored vertical pieces that suggest stained glass. The Choir of Trinity Church bursts into song, but the listener/viewer finds oneself in their midst. They are capering around the floor, mixing and mingling with the standing audience. We also have a chance to move to and from them. Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima lasts under three minutes, but is repeated over and over. It is a jewel.
When the Rundfunkchor Berlin sang Brahms’ Requiem at the Synod House in New York in October of 2016, the singers moved among the audience singing. It became clear that a choir is made up of a mix of singing textures which can sound, when in unison, like one. Yet each individual voice has a singular and special texture. Listening to the Pärt Allelujahs, you could hear one voice if you chose, or you could step out of the mix to hear the group. Hearing is enhanced by its immediate, physical presence of the voice. Pärt’s music often has a religious feel in its simplicity and tonal reverence. The accompanying stained glass images by Richter enhanced this experience. Seeing and hearing combined into unexpected and often stunning moments of feeling.
Moving on to the second gallery, we are invited to sit on benches lining the south and north walls above which hang Richter’s horizontal paintings of colored stripes. Most of the audience picked up stools and sat in front of the International Contemporary Ensemble positioned at the east wall. Above them hung striped horizontal images by Richter. These images are stationary, but seem to point to the west wall, where a large striped image soon comes to life. Richter worked with film artist Corinna Belz to animate the image. Philip Glass’s work with Godfrey Reggio immediately comes to mind. In those films, however, the images and music are synched. Listening at The Shed one is tempted to hear a prompt from the music to move the image, but this is not the way the piece works. Instead, lines and shapes are animated. Images grow larger and smaller. They often fold out from the center like a vulva in motion. The effect is repetitive and sexual. Reich had to time his entire composition and the musicians from the International Contemporary Ensemble led by Nicolas DeMaison, followed time prompts to give the extraordinary impression of responding to the animated painting. Musicians perform four times a day and report fried brains. Yet for the audience the repetitions in music and image are thrilling.
Surely this kind of experimentation with the simultaneous reception of music and art is an exciting mission for The Shed. It does not feel at all like an avant-garde effort. Rather the experience roots us in the multi-dimensional world in which humans have always lived.