Tag Archives: Hammer Museum

Breathing Circles

We began rehearsals this week with flutist extraordinaire Claire Chase to prepare for the West Coast premiere of Cerchio Tagliato dei Suoni (Cutting the Circle of Sounds). This is a rarely performed work for 104 flutes, four soloists situated at the four corners of the performance space and 100 migrating performers who continually move throughout the space, cutting into the circle of sound created by the soloists.

We gathered at the Hammer Museum Wednesday and Thursday night for public rehearsals where we were introduced to several very interesting breathing techniques that make this instrument play a very different role than one would usually expect from it.

It was fascinating and kind of physically dizzying actually. As Claire pointed out several times, we were doing breathwork tantamount to several yoga classes.

We all brought our own relationship to the flute, to performance and to music in general and it is a piece that creates space for that individuality to shine.

Tonight we move over to Schoenberg Hall and we’ll explore how to activate that space in this very purposeful manner.

Check out images from our rehearsals below and read Claire’s note for the program. We hope you’ll join us and become part of this circle of sound and breath we are creating.

I have always been fascinated by the emotional impact of a single, unpitched exhalation into the flute, a sound that, as we discovered during our thrilling public workshops at the Hammer Museum this week in which both flutists and non-flutists participated, anyone can make with exhilarating individuality, purpose and nuance. There is a kind of irrepressible poetry to this most quotidian of labors: the simple gesture of breathing in and out, trying precisely not to make a tone on the most lyrical of musical instruments. As I found myself engrossed in the sounds that this remarkable group of people, the youngest of them ten and the oldest in his seventies, were huffing and heaving and woooof-ing into these tiny metal tubes Wednesday night, I was reminded of Rumi’s wise words on flute-playing from nearly 800 years ago: We have fallen into the place/where everything is music.

 Salvatore Sciarrino’s sonic explorations of the flutist’s bow arm – our breath — have metabolized into slow-moving soundscapes, operas and immersive musical experiences that defy categorization. There are few composers since the 18th century who have done more to expand the expressive capacity of the flute than Sciarrino, whose compositional influences range from Perotin to Punk Rock.  Cutting the Circle of Sound, which takes its inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic spiraling architecture, is one of the composer’s most intrepid investigations into a few simple, barely audible sounds re-imagined en masse.

The composer describes the impulse of the work through the patterns of a particularly fearless, but supremely delicate migrating animal:

 “A wild butterfly crosses the space and seems to fly randomly, but she has a precise direction and she is at once moving of her own volition and not ever alone. There are no living beings that don’t move periodically…. In recent times we have seen that our species is very attracted to the opposite instinct, to home, to stability, to the absence of motion, to keep ourselves and our society in balance. An impossible balance. Impossible? Yes, life is mutation.”

 The hour-long piece has only been performed a handful of times, and it has never been documented as a complete performance, so our work this week has been equal parts inventing and inheriting a nascent oral tradition. I have been in constant contact via Skype and e-mail with Luisa Sello, the Italian flutist who premiered the work under Sciarrino’s supervision, and members of our dedicated migrating flute force have been online with one another, communicating between Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Brooklyn, sharing instructional videos, impressions, musings and ideas on breathing new life into humankind’s oldest musical instrument.

 I am grateful to The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA for taking the leap to present the West Coast Premiere this afternoon; to the brilliant sound engineer and instrument-builder Levy Lorenzo whose idea it was to design LED lights that illuminate the migrating flutes; to Erin, Christine and Michael for their tireless work on the devilishly difficult solo parts; and most of all to my fellow fearless, migrating, metamorphosing flutists.

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Flutes, Flutes and More Flutes!

We are looking for 100 flutists of all shapes sizes and skill levels to comprise our “Flute Migranti” as part of master flutist and International Contemporary Ensemble co-founder Claire Chase’s April 4 appearance at CAP UCLA. She will be leading a special performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s  “Cerchio Tagliato dei Suoni” (“Cutting the Circle of Sounds”) an immersive 60-minute work for 104 flutists: 4 soloists and 100 migranti, who move throughout the theater playing air sounds  and simple extended techniques. Participants in the migranti can be all ages (10 and older) and all levels, all you need is a flute and an enthusiasm for making new sounds on the instrument.

Flute

This piece is aural theater and it has only been performed once in the U.S. Our presentation is the official West Coast premiere and it’s not soon to be repeated. Read more about this unique work and its 2012 presentation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Positioned around an audience arranged in a square with an aisle cut through it, the soloists exchanged trills, hisses, sputters and violent bursts. Around 10 minutes into the 70-minute work a cadre of 100 additional flutists — “migranti,” Mr. Sciarrino designates them — marched through the aisle, playing breathy, hooded sounds at the cusp of audibility. These players, seasoned professionals and small children alike, circulated intermittently, some using intact instruments while others blew through head joints only.

I’m tickled at the thought of a heard of flutists floating through Schoenberg Hall. I have many memories of being part of herds of flute players in my life. And there’s this very incredible emotional high you get from being inside a sound, being part of an orchestra or conglomeration of people making music, making sounds.

I started playing the flute when I was 11 years old after experiencing an introduction to orchestral instruments in the weekly music class at my middle school. (This was in the 1980s, we had music class every week, we learned to sing and read music and play basic tunes on myriad instruments). I, like so many other musically inclined young girls, fell in love with the flute. It was beautiful to look at, beautiful sounds came out of it. I felt (and still feel) beautiful whenever I pick it up and make music with it.

As I traversed the years that followed, I discovered the flute appealed to a multitude of young musicians, many of them girls. Every audition, every competition, every music camp I attended for the next 15 years was punctuated by a sea of fellow flutists vying for a seat, a spot or a score. My private teacher would gather together all of her students every Christmas and institute a “flute choir,” and we would perform crowd-pleasing songs of the season at a busy shopping mall in Phoenix, Arizona. It was almost always an all-girl group of performers, even though at the time my only knowledge of a professional flutist in real life was James Galway, who I adored and wanted to see whenever he came to my city.

Counting myself among a sea of flutists was a big part of my artistic development. I eventually became good enough to find myself a soloist, or a featured performer, earning a scholarship to college in 1990 where I discovered an even greater sea of more-talented and more-dedicated flutists in the world than I was.

But I was young and content for my chosen instrument to become a hobby rather than a career. I still love to play. I look at music that I used to proficiently perform and enjoy and can pick out much of it, which makes me feel more nostalgic than chagrined at my deteriorated skill.

It’s a beautiful instrument and I still love making music with it and hearing others make music with it.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Claire Chase perform and witnessing every possibility of this wonderful instrument in the hands of a contemporary master.

And of course I jumped at the chance to join the gathering of flutist that will be part of her performance.

If you play the flute, or used to play the flute and long for an opportunity to dust it off, please join me. It’s going to be a very special moment on the season.

Claire will lead two public workshops with the migranti to prepare for the performance.

Ideally participants would be available for all rehearsals, but we can be flexible with schedules.

Schedule:

Wednesday, April 1: 4-7 pm

Thursday, April 2: 4-7 pm  (April 1st and 2nd are at the Hammer Museum, free parking available)

Friday, April 3: 6-9 pm  (Rehearsal at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall)

Saturday, April 4:  (1:30 rehearsal, 4:00 Performance at Schoenberg/UCLA)

For more info and to confirm participation, contact Meryl Friedman mlfriedman@arts.ucla.edu

 

Restoring Westwood

What does the existence of art and artists within a geographic landscape mean for a community? How important is it? What might happen if empty spaces could be converted into energetically abundant vortexes of creativity?

We’re very glad to be part of an upcoming attempt to answer those questions in direct relation to our immediate surroundings. The Hammer Museum was recently awarded a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation for its Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood urban renewal project. Check out the proposal video below and see if you just might also be able to visualize what our friends at the Hammer have planned to boost the presence of the arts in Westwood Village  this fall.

If you’ve spent any time in Westwood Village over the last several years, you’ve probably witness first-hand phenomenon this video illustrates. There are a lot of storefronts left fallow. A lot of “For Lease” signs emblazoned with the labels of just a handful of real-estate or management companies.

But those empty store windows tell a false story. It’s not that there is a lack of creativity or energy in Westwood Village or among the people who live and work nearby. The Hammer itself is a tireless hub of creative energy and artistic innovation. The people who live, work and attend school in the area are greatly interested in experiencing the arts and in participating in a thriving local community.

One example is a particular cadre of UCLA students, who in looking for an outlet to perform and enjoy live music, have taken it upon themselves to create their own nightlife in an area that admittedly doesn’t support one. These young artists and arts lovers have found creative places to experience live music and these are the kinds of people who will we can serve and who will also hopefully help out  in the upcoming efforts of Arts ReSTORE LA.

Creativity is not lacking. Situated so close to a University populated by tens of thousands of people devoted to betterment, to knowledge and to new experiences, Westwood Village can and should be a culturally relevant place not only for its immediate neighbors, but for anyone visiting this part of Los Angeles.

Westwood is in a precarious situation. Understandably, property owners and landlords can’t be expected to function from a purely altruistic state…there are investments to be returned upon and potential profits to pursue. But until the economic realities of potential business renters in the area match up with the economic aspirations of the landholders, it’s exciting to at least consider the opportunities and possibilities of what these spaces might become.

Most people would likely agree that arts and artists provide valuable ideological, emotional, cultural and even spiritual capital to a community. But it’s a proven fact that the arts also play an integral role in the economic well being of our society.

Nonprofit advocacy group Americans for the Arts’ most recent Arts & Economic Prosperity report  demonstrates that the arts are an industry—one that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is a cornerstone of tourism. Business and elected leaders need not feel that a choice must be made between arts funding and economic prosperity. This study proves that they can choose both.

According to this study, nationally the arts industry generated $135.2 billion of economic activity in 2010. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations pumped an estimated $61.1 billion into the economy even in the middle of the “Great Recession” in addition to $74.1 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This economic activity supports 4.13 million full-time jobs and generates $86.68 billion in resident household income. Our industry also generates $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year—a yield well beyond the collective $4 billion that these entities contributed to the arts in 2010.

We believe this model can play out on a micro level in our immediate community; that the arts can play a major role in not only the cultural vibrancy of Westwood, but also in its universally desired economic revitalization.

We’ll be collaborating with the Hammer, campus groups and artists to contribute a performing arts perspective to the Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood project.

Stay tuned for updates and get ready to be part of it this fall.