Last week I had a wonderful conversation for an interview articlewith Linda Wehrli, the founder/instructor of Pastimes for a Lifetime, for a “First Fridays at First!” Season Finale concert appearance which is tomorrow, June 4 at 12:15pm. This virtual concert features my performance of Brahms’ variations on an original theme Op 21, No 1, collaborating with the artist Moonsub Shin.
I’ve always loved this piece by Brahms and fell in love with it at first hearing about 20 years ago. Once I started working on this piece, however, I noticed that it was a rather difficult piece for people to digest at first. From my search for a better connection of listeners with a piece I decided to add a visual element to a piece, creating something visual for each variation. Collaboration with a visual artist and musician is nothing new in the history of art, yet I was afraid whether the collaboration would take the focus away from the listening experience.
I came across Moonsub’s work through the Carnegie Hall’s official instagram where he created a live pencil sketch of a performance in one posting. I thought it was an intuitive process and loved this style of art. I contacted him for a possible collaboration without having any solid plan or agenda for my project. I told him that I wanted to create something to enhance the experience of this Brahms piece. I always felt that listening once was not enough time for everyone to catch every nuance like I feel as I’ve lived with the piece and know it inside out, and perhaps this could help a listener to make each variation linger. After many conversations with him about the piece I flew to NYC to perform the piece for him, and I let him freely create any visual scene from the live performance. As I performed each variation I looked at him and he would describe something he could see in his mind, creating a quick sketch on his notepad. It was such a fun process.
The intuitive process went on for hours. Then I played the whole piece (about 20 minutes long) with the vision of the image in our heads. We looked at each other, smiled big, and said: “I think we’ve got it.”
Before Covid-19 I traveled with these images as part of my Over. Above. Beyond. concert project. I still hope that I will continue my tour with the project soon. For now I am pleased to let you know that I will be performing this piece tomorrow at 12:15pm. (PST) at “First Fridays at First!” in Torrance, CA with Moonsub’s illustrations. No ticket is necessary for this concert! I went to this location and recorded the performance, so I can sit next to you in the front row and enjoy the piece with you.