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

Peter Saltzman, headshotNervous Anticipation

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.

Jeremy Harrison, the artistVideo Painting

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.Buddha Board, blank 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.

Peter Saltzman, headshot

First Completed

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.

Jeremy Harrison, the artistTrial & 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, IBuddha board, mid painting 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.

Peter Saltzman, headshot


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…

About the Artists

Jeremy Harrison, the artistJeremy Harrison recently retired from teaching art at The Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts where he joined the faculty in 1988.  His teaching included drawing, painting, printmaking, and digital photography.  He earned a BA from Kenyon College in 1982 double majoring in studio art and religion. He earned his MFA from the University of Iowa in 1985 majoring in printmaking and minoring in drawing. Inspiration for his landscape images comes from his experiences in the wildernesses of Canada, the Adirondacks, and Maine. An experienced canoeist, he helped lead a six-man, 800-mile canoe journey across the Canadian tundra to the Arctic Ocean. He continues to canoe and hike in Maine, Massachusetts, and the Adirondacks while making paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs as often as possible.
Peter Saltzman, headshotWith a deep jazz-and-blues core, Peter Saltzman has produced a broad career in the music industry as composer, pianist, singer-songwriter, and author. Various ensembles have performed and recorded his work globally—the Czech National Symphony Orchestra recorded his orchestral dance suite “Walls” (1996), and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre performed “Walls” during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Dallas Morning News reviewed Saltzman’s music as “powerful stuff.” His second album, Kabbalah Blues/Quantum Funk (2000), earned critical acclaim for its jazz/classical/pop fusion, hailed as “ambitious, richly layered, wonderfully accessible.” Saltzman studied jazz at Indiana University (Bloomington) and composition at Eastman School of Music. He was an adjunct professor of music at Columbia College Chicago, where he taught music technology and piano. His concert works are published by Oxford University Press; his film and television works are published by Wild Whirled Music. Saltzman’s music has been licensed for television shows, jingles, and industrials, including My Name is Earl (NBC, 2006).

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