Introducing Piano Sketches
Painted music? Underscored painting? Actually both.
It’s a different kind of improvised duet where artist Jeremy Harrison improvised a painting to my piano improvisations (Painted Music), or I improvise a piano piece to a video of Jeremy painting (underscored painting.) This, the first finished work, is the former.
Because this is such a novel artistic endeavor, we thought it would be interesting to document our process and thinking
Nervously Painting Music
My short improvisation here feels like all nervous anticipation. Nervous anticipation of what? Who knows. I recorded it on March 10, which I believe is the day after Governor Pritzker of Illinois declared a lockdown in Illinois due to the pandemic. But the nervousness here sounds too optimistic for that. So…
The actual musical technique is an ostinato—repeated figure in the bass over which I build irregular melodies in the right hand.
Once Peter and I decided to collaborate, I quickly realized that I would need to develop my work over time. This video-painting is the result of my first experiments using a Buddha Board, a tablet that when brushed with water creates a transient dark mark. I chose Merged to work with first because of its frenetic pace. I had no initial visual ideas at first except that I wanted an abstract expressionist approach. I tried to keep my hand moving with the pace of the rhythm of the music while frantically struggling to maintain a balanced and dynamic composition.
This being our first attempt, I had no idea what to expect. Jeremy took one of my Piano Diaries improvisations and did his Buddha board painting to it. Wow! It’s not merely that he captured the music, it’s that he transformed it. I have a hard time now listening to this without seeing his imagery.
Trial & Error
I made a number of videos deleting them as I went but I was learning from the process and getting to know the music. Knowing the surface would transition back to white as it dried, I enhanced this process using a hairdryer. That decision soon led to the use of canned air that I saw on a nearby shelf in my studio with which I could use to blow water into quick explosions of fine lines.
So the Buddha board transitions back to white? I kind of assumed that but didn’t know. It’s inherently a temporary form then—made somewhat permanent by the video. Like sandcastles…