In this 90-minute work for solo piano, the Sanctuary of St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla will be transformed into a large-scale video and sound installation gallery space. While the concept is centered around a zen-like simplicity, the production of such a dramatic staging in a large space is not.
A MESSAGE FROM MULTIMEDIA ARTIST JASON PONCE
In a “formless” music there are many opportunities to experience aspects of organized sound that rarely enjoy the foreground. For a listener accustomed to periodic relationships, overt structure, and other common musical or psychoacoustic anchors, encountering a music that is organized in terms of scale and proportion is a rare opportunity indeed. It is a chance to enter into what feels like a boundless, stateless soundworld. When I was asked to create a something for this performance of Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories, my first thought was: what can possibly be added to the experience of this incredible work that won’t detract from its delicate and unusual beauty? For a composition so full of asymmetries and thwarted pattern the notion of how musical memory functions isn’t just subverted, it is central to the entire experience. Inside Triadic Memories, time and therefore memory occur along uncertain trajectories, and the clock ticks only when it wants. So my something, whatever it was going to be, needed to consider that too.
As with many others who have worked to find themselves within Feldman’s music, his well-documented fascination with hand-woven carpets was my way in. Embedded deep within these artifacts, and seemingly at all levels of zoom, exists a veritable dictionary of late-era Feldman aesthetics: repetition, pattern, memory, “imperfection”, disruption of form, tiny maneuvers writ large across evolving fields of sound and color. But unlike the seeming boundlessness of his music, the carpet itself is material; It can be held and touched and scrutinized. It begins and it ends. It is not bound by time in the same way.
So after a couple false starts my project clarified: with this installation I would not “add” anything. Nor would I represent anything that was not already there in the music, available to be discovered by other means. Nor would I present anything at all that could not be ignored entirely in favor of a pure sonic experience. And I would return to the material, as Feldman did with his carpets. In this installation I represent the mysteries and complexities of the score using light projected onto two upward sloping corridors of fabric. Both the color and the projections themselves are algorithmically linked to Feldman’s original materials (the score) via real-time analysis of audio captured during Brendan Nguyen’s live performance. In this way musical memory, in the ways it is inscribed and erased from our minds via the ears, is given a new way to inhabit us via the eyes. Another opportunity to create and convey meaning. A new life via a new sense of the body. As with sound, this translation will work for some and not for others. If you are inspired by the process I invite you to leave your eyes and ears open as you explore these intermodal spaces. And if instead you prefer to let your ears alone guide your journey I know you will be in excellent company.
MEET THE ARTISTS
BRENDAN NGUYEN, PIANIST
Brendan Nguyen is a pianist who displays uncommon versatility as a performer, artist, and producer. His bold programming style, infusion of technology and extravagantly produced concert concepts aim to explore new musical territory while casting a contemporary eye on the established canon.
Brendan has performed at prestigious concert halls and concert series including the REDCAT Theater at the Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Zipper Hall, the Monday Evening Concert series, Merkin Hall, and The Stone in New York, wasteLAnd concert series, Ensemble Echoi at Oberlin Concervatory, and the Palimpsest Ensemble at the University of California, San Diego. Nguyen has recorded with Carrier Records and Populist Records. He has worked closely with composers such as George Crumb, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and Lewis Nielson, and has premiered a number of works by Wojtek Blecharz, Aaron Helgeson, Nicholas Deyoe, Clint McCallum, Josiah Oberholtzer, and by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Roger Reynolds.
Brendan performed at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine as a recipient of a Performer’s Associate Fellowship. There, he was featured both as soloist and chamber musician on the Upbeat! Concert Series and the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music alongside esteemed faculty and guest artists. Brendan has also made appearances at the Shandelee International Music Festival in New York as two-time recipient of the C.J. Huang Foundation Scholarship and the Jim Ricketts Foundation Scholarship.
JASON PONCE, DESIGNER
Jason Ponce is an award-winning intermedia artist, composer, and interactive arts researcher. He brings elements of design, engineering, and scientific inquiry to his creative work, which ranges from music, interactive sound and video installation, real-time sound and video processing, multi-channel audio spatialization, instrument-building, and performance.
Jason has been active in the experimental music scenes in NYC, Berlin, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and has worked closely with many prominent figures in contemporary art and music, including multiple Pulitzer Prize, Macarthur Award, and Grammy Award recipients. Past and recent collaborators include James Turrell, John Luther Adams, Roger Reynolds, Susan Narucki, Nam June Paik (estate), Terry Allen, Pauline Oliveros, Miller Puckette, and George Lewis.
His creative work has been presented throughout the United States and Europe, and during artist residencies at: the Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music (Netherlands), Studio für elektroakustische Musik (Bauhaus Universität, Germany), KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin), Issue Project Room (NYC), the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (Berkeley), Stanford University, and High Concept Laboratories (Chicago).
Jason is also founder and director of interactive design org Eidetic, which develops custom hardware and software tools for electroacoustic performance, interactive installation, and realtime multimedia for stage and theater.