Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The first multimedia document: Atalanta Fugiens -Uccello style-



My older brother Joe is an amazing artist, he was self taught for a long time, sometimes toiling away for years on one drawing, developing his intricate skills, and most importantly, his own style. Now years later he's a totally 'legit' artist and he runs Viatorium Press. But remembering back, one of his early training techniques was to put on music, completely surrender to the sounds and then literally DRAW THE MUSIC, as he heard it. His tastes were consistently as varied as Japanese Shakuhachi music, Pakistani Tar music, Persian Classical, Chinese Guqin music, Jazz, Blues, various Ambient artists, even bands like Black Sabbath and Hawkwind, to name only small fraction of what he listened to, and indeed, still listens to.

Truly I say that for my brother Joe music is a bigger part of his life than anyone I know. He’s doesn’t play seriously himself (though he has the talent to) but the priority he gives music in his life is awe-inspiring. He listens to music for hours, ingesting it, letting it shape his mind, spirit, and heart. He listens more than most musicians I know and it’s awesome to see that there is someone who makes music such a big part of their life! In this age where people have so much music smashed into low-grade mp3s into their Ipods (I am sort of included in this category;) that there’s no possible way they can even listen to it all in their lifetime, here is a gem, someone who still truly values the WORTH OF MUSIC.

I used to watch him work on his drawings and I would be aware of which musician he was ‘drawing’ and one of my goals as a musician, aside from ‘paying my dues’ and getting my skills together and surviving as a full time musician (which I have done for 12 years) was to be one of the musicians that Joe ‘drew’. Thus the birth of our music/art collaborative group ‘UCCELLO PROJECT’ in 2005 was a major step forward for us as brothers, and for my creative core as a musician. It was a reclamation for me to go back to the original creative impetus that made me want to be a musician in the first place. We then went on to create yet another side project called 'CLARIFIED BIRDS'. It’s been amazing, having completed two works together so far: ‘Symmetria’, (under Uccello Project) and 'The Forest that Hears and the Field that Sees’ (under Clarified Birds). The Forest That Hears And The Field That Sees is based on the Hieronymus Bosch painting of the same name-actually on that one we switched it around and I 'played the drawing' & Joe did a letterpressed art piece inspired by the Bosch painting.

Now we are in the process of tackling our most massive project yet, our tribute to the famous, ‘ATALANTA FUGIENS’ by composer/physician/alchemist, Michael Maier (1568-1622). Combining 50 fugues, 50 emblems, and 50 epigrams, this work is considered by many to be the first ‘multi-media’ document in history. The intention of Maier being that people would get together to sing the 3 part fugues, inspect the art of the emblems, and discuss the philosophy and meaning behind the epigrams. This all started when sometime in early spring 2010, Joe sent me the sheet music for about 30 of the fugues, curious to know what they'd sound like if I read them down with bass. Somehow the fugues fit the bass really well and we were encouraged. Many different 'ensembles' were tried & finally we've settled on bowed upright with two electric basses (one fretted & one fretless). I feel thankful to Joe for discovering this music and passing it on to me, it's been a joy recording these fugues. Now, of course, we are going to build our own multi-media document that will honor the original, yet also bring something fresh to it.

So far, our intention is to create a fine book that includes a CD along with it. Joe will be toiling at length as he’s planning to create 50 emblems of his own inspired by and based upon the original 50! The epigrams may receive a similar creative treatment by Joe, or possibly a translator may be employed, or we may try to gain permission to use translations already in existence.

As for my part, the fugues, I am recording them myself using the art of ‘live looping’ and a three voiced ‘BASS CHOIR’ comprised of BOWED UPRIGHT BASS, ELECTRIC FRETTED BASS, and ELECTRIC FRETTLESS BASS. By the way, I use a Looperlative 1, the best looper in the world, hand built by Robert Ahmstadt. If it was not for the high def sound and ease of control (all with my feet) this project would have taken soooo much longer to track. It’s been such an experience of growth for me musically and spiritually, I really feel this project is making me a better person, I know that’s sounds over the top, but that is my sincere feeling at the moment.

There’s so much more I’d love to tell you about regarding this esoteric project, but I feel I’ve already run too long. One thing I do really want to mention is that I am reading the transcriptions by the great Joscelyn Godwin during my tracking. There is just such a multi-layered complexity behind this work that I’m going to go ahead and link to some cool stuff I found on the web regarding different aspects of this amazing work: