Sunday, October 30, 2011

Superfluous H: What could have been and was.

So superfluous_h had there first and ostensibly last performance last night. This was my first time performing as an artist. The whole thing is a blur to me. The process of drawing is so absorbing that I really was only conscious of what I was doing between pieces and right at the start, just getting started.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, like better than I ever could have hoped for, I guess once again proving I'm my own harshest critic. The only thing I found odd was people clapped between each piece/song in our set. I found this strange, getting appluaded for a drawing. Not good or bad, just strange. I guess I clap after each number in a bands set, so I don't know.

At the same time I felt really self conscious. Just like my face was burning up the whole time, it was weird, I don't think I choked or anything.

We played for an hour and did I don't know somewhere between 8-10 pieces in the end. John layed down his tracks really well, and I didn't have a single composition I needed to scrunch up midway through.

For my part, the drawing side, it's been really bizarre and incredibly interesting project to develop. There's a number of challenges in trying to bridge the audio/visual divide and a number of solutions that John and I have been looking at and exploring. Maybe I'll give you a brief run down of the history of the project.

It started with a copy of Japanzine which I read in early 2008, featuring VJ and artist Shantell Martin whom really is as far as I can deduce the pioneer of this 'illustrated music' thing, as in doing it live.

She used digital painting on a tablet projected at nightclubs to avant guard dance music. I don't like dance music, and particularly not avant guard ones, so I approached my sax playing friend from the Skylines about doing something like this, using the terms VJ and sending him some clips of Shantell's work + De La Soul's 'I Be Blowin' suggesting we do something like that together. Sean never responded to my email.

Then I mentioned it to a drummer whom was initially keen, but fell through when I started running wild with my imagination and talking about how ambitious I wanted the project to be and how much work was involved. I also was really getting into 'The Pleasure Principle' at the time, which was far from the preferred jazzy style of that collaborator.

Then came looking for an exhibition space for a solo show. Ironically John came at me with feedback about my unbridled ambitions for the show and suggested I do something smaller and more grass roots. Contrary to his advice on cutting back I asked him if he was interested in doing this VJing thing.

Emails were exchanged and here is where John was for me at least an ideal collaborator. He could at once accept the scope and magnitude of my inspiration and ideas, whilst pragmaticcally drawing everything back to something that could be achieved.

It became this challenge of trying to make an accessible visual/audio artpiece. Drawing to music. The problems being many just to name a few and whether musician or artist I would definitely recommend taking on these challenges some day:

1. With drawing the 'details' or soloing, takes most of the time, the construction or 'rhythm' of the piece is important but takes less time to lay down. Music is the reverse, the rhythmic components of the song, the chorus the melody are 90% of the composition or more, the solo is the least.

2. 14 minutes is a really long song but a really quick drawing. 7 minutes is flying.

3. It is much easier for me to draw any kind of subject matter than a musician to play any style of music.

4. A visual composition is usually fairly linear - foreground to background, left to right, top to bottom. Music jumps around.

These are really the tip of the iceberg of interesting things trying to draw live to improvised music. Then there's how to match musical sounds to an artists repertoir of mediums and tools. What does a sharpie sound like compared to a copic marker? These are different from the more obvious questions of how does green sound compared to blue?

So we just rehearsed, and built up a repertoir of tricks and things and ideas, and many of the quality ones we managed to pull off in new and improvised ways last night for a crowd of 12-15 or so. Which I was exceptionally pleased with.

And yet, it's bittersweet. I'm losing John to Sydney. We really only scratched the surface of what we can do as an act, and that was it, that was our one and only act. I'll definitely resurrect it in one form or another, but John is irreplaceable.

He really was the perfect collaborator for this project. Like me he is largely self instructed in music, we have similar approaches to problem solving.

John is one of those rare people that is both reliable and easy going at once. If he says he'll be somewhere he generally will be, but at the same time, is not anally retintive with holding others to such expectations of reliability. He assumes the respect he pays others but does not expect it of them. Its qualities like these I strive to have, whether I do or not is not my subjective experience to say, but John in my opinion does.

As sure as I am he will read these words I'll also miss him as an evangelical supporter of my creative works.

It'll be hard to work with other people that don't read too much into my highly self-critical (extended to collaborators) approach that he never actually seemed to take personally or attribute any maliciousness on my part. (I just calls it as I sees it). Somebody willing to put in the hours of practice, without acting like I'm putting them under pressure.

They will be literally big shoes to fill.

I wish superfluous h could continue, and play bars with data projectors and fancy drinks and lemon slices in the complimentary water. I wish we could practice performing for 3 or more years till we become a true example of creative synesthesia. It's not going to happen, at least not like I want it to. But what we've done is more than most other audio/visual collabs seem to achieve (John maintains he couldn't find any examples of people doing anything like it, the audience we had seemed to act that way as well)

So this is a notch among my notches on my notch system of self esteem and achievement. And a farewell to John.

John on the guitars ladies and gentlemen...

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