Concert – PHILIP GLASS – MUSIC FOR PIANO – Sunday, 22/23 october – Melkweg Amsterdam (Rabozaal)

Philip Glass, der 80-jährige Pionier kehrt zum Melkweg nach Amsterdam zurück.

Am Sonntag, den 22. Oktober, spielt er drei seiner Klavierwerke. Gespielt von Maki Namekawa und Dennis Russell Davies wird “Mad Rush” (1980), “Four Movements For Two Pianos” (2008) und “The Suite from Les Enfants Terribles” (1996). Darüber hinaus präsentiert das Amstel Saxophon Quartett & DJ / Produzent Kypski, anlässlich des 80-jährigen Jubiläums des Komponisten, “Glass On The Roof”. Tickets sind am Mittwoch, den 20. September um 10 Uhr über diesen Link erhältlich.

Montag, 23. Oktober, in diesem Jahr lädt Philip Glass & Friends ua das Alma Quartett, den Cellist Matt Haimowitz und die Pianistin Maki Namekawa als besondere Gäste. Sie werden diesen Abend zweifellos zu einem außergewöhnlichen musikalischem Genuss kommen.

Interview – As if in a Trance: Maki Namekawa and “20 Etudes for 20 Etudes”

An Austrian premiere concludes the Festival on Monday, September 11, 2017. Maki Namekawa will perform all 20 of Philip Glass’ piano etudes accompanied by artist Cori Olan’s real-time visualizations. The duo will also present a daily demonstration of their virtuosity in Deep Space 8K. Maki Namekawa tells us more in this interview.

The setting: The huge Gleishalle [former railcar loading dock] in POSTCITY Linz. A single piano is the centerpiece; jumbo-format projection surfaces provide the backdrop. A pianist takes her place at the keyboard, and the evidence of her artistry slowly fills the post-industrial space. Real-time visualizations of the sounds appear in the background.

On Festival Monday, September 11, 2017, the old Gleishalle will morph into a concert hall, the setting of Maki Namekawa’s Austrian premiere of all 20 piano etudes by composer Philip Glass. The pianist’s work will be accompanied by artist Cori Olan’s real-time visualizations.

The duo’s two-hour performance is certain to enchant their audience in this impressive location. We met with Maki Namekawa to find out more about the music, the special qualities of POSTCITY as a concert venue, and her appearances at the Festival.

Maki Namekawa © Tom Mesic
Maki Namekawa © Tom Mesic

At the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival, you’ll be performing the 20 piano etudes by Philip Glass. Please tell us a little about these pieces.

Maki Namekawa: Philip Glass created his 20 piano etudes over a period of 20 years. Numbers 1-10 were composed about 20 years ago, and 11-20 over the past 10 years. Nevertheless, Philip Glass didn’t compose an etude every year. Actually, he tended to work in blocks. Moreover, the order in which they’re played doesn’t correspond to the dates of their creation. For example, the first six were composed for my husband, Dennis Russell Davies, on the occasion of his 50th birthday.

Finally, I played the 20 piano etudes together with Philip at their premiere in Australia at the Perth International Arts Festival. And we’ve been on tour ever since—in more than 10 countries so far, including Japan, the USA, several European countries and Mexico. After the Ars Electronica Festival in September, we’re flying to Brazil. Philip Glass and I divide up the etudes between us, and we also bring in a local pianist. Occasionally, there are even five pianists, and there were 10 of us once.

At the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival, you’ll be performing the 20 piano etudes by Philip Glass. Please tell us a little about these pieces.

Maki Namekawa: Philip Glass created his 20 piano etudes over a period of 20 years. Numbers 1-10 were composed about 20 years ago, and 11-20 over the past 10 years. Nevertheless, Philip Glass didn’t compose an etude every year. Actually, he tended to work in blocks. Moreover, the order in which they’re played doesn’t correspond to the dates of their creation. For example, the first six were composed for my husband, Dennis Russell Davies, on the occasion of his 50th birthday.

Finally, I played the 20 piano etudes together with Philip at their premiere in Australia at the Perth International Arts Festival. And we’ve been on tour ever since—in more than 10 countries so far, including Japan, the USA, several European countries and Mexico. After the Ars Electronica Festival in September, we’re flying to Brazil. Philip Glass and I divide up the etudes between us, and we also bring in a local pianist. Occasionally, there are even five pianists, and there were 10 of us once.

At the Festival, you alone will be playing all 20 etudes in two one-hour blocks…

Maki Namekawa: Since last year, I’ve also been playing them alone. In 2015, I recorded them all for a CD, and since then I’ve also been playing them without Philipp. But when I play solo, artist Cori Olan accompanies me with visualizations of the music. At the Ars Electronica Festival two years ago, we chose a couple of the etudes and performed them for the first time with real-time visualizations.

What technical challenges do these 20 etudes confront you with?

Maki Namekawa: When Philip Glass composed the etudes, he wrote the first 10 for his own piano technique and, at the same time, to nurture his own composition technique. He knew that he wouldn’t play all 20 alone. Beginning with Number 11, you notice a very wild piano technique. Compositionally, that’s really very innovative. When you listen to etudes 1-10 and then take a short break and come back for the second half, you’re then confronted with a totally different world.

Maki Namekawa © Tom Mesic
Maki Namekawa © Tom Mesic

How is it for you as a pianist to play to real-time visualizations?

Maki Namekawa: Sometimes I used to perform the “Suite from ‘The Hours’” by Philip Glass for a ballet, but I couldn’t really observe the dancing because I was simply too focused on playing. But now I’m very familiar with the pieces, I have a great deal of experience with them, so I also have the capacity to partake of the visualizations.

I really enjoyed it, for example, when we performed the etudes in New York this year. I could directly observe from the visualizations how I’m playing. It’s a little like Jazz—ideas emerge very spontaneously. What I find so wonderful about Cori Olan’s visualizations is that they get my imagination involved while I’m playing. I suddenly become aware of completely novel perspectives that I hadn’t yet discovered playing piano alone. That’s a really lovely experience!

You’ll be performing the 20 etudes in the Gleishalle of this former Postal Service logistics facility in Linz. What’s special about this concert venue?

Maki Namekawa: In Austrian dialect, they would say it’s narrisch [eccentric, to say the least!]. Initially, we thought we’d perform the etudes in Deep Space 8K, which is a highly concentrated and very beautiful setting, but since it’s the Austrian premiere of the 20 etudes, we wanted a somewhat larger venue so a bigger audience can experience it all at once. The Gleishalle is very stark with a lot of concrete and a certain coolness. As a result, the audience is in a more intimate relationship with the projection screen and the piano. An entire orchestra won’t be playing; you hear only the piano. So I think it’s really unique, the way the Gleishalle allows for this triangulation involving the audience, the visualization and a single piano. On one hand, a very large number of people will be able to experience the music together, but, at the same time, each individual can shut out the surroundings and withdraw into a personal space. Especially with Philip’s music—you really go into a sort of trance. This is what we want to bring forth.

It’s a trance for you! But will it be one for the audience too?

Maki Namekawa: Yes [laughs]. As a pianist, I need a foothold, as it were, but for the audience it really can become a deep trance. Which is why the concert is two hours long—so you can really enjoy the music; totally immerse yourself in it. My wish is that the people begin by listening, but after two hours, they’re utterly engrossed in themselves. The music and the visualizations make this possible.

It’s extraordinary that the 20 etudes are all being played together in a single concert.

Maki Namekawa: Yes. And the sequence is organic and natural. When I play the etudes at home, before beginning, I often imagine that I’m at the start of a marathon and I just start running. But the pieces are so organic, so natural and so pleasant, that they really are sort of trance-inducing. For the audience too—you forget everyday life. The sequence of the etudes really has become quite lovely.

During the festival, you’ll also be performing “Interludium A” by Isang Yun in Deep Space 8K. Tell us about this piece.

Maki Namekawa: Isang Yun was a Korean composer. This year would have been his 100th birthday. When he was young, he studied in Japan, even though there was much friction and tension between Japan and Korea. His works are about forgetting these crises and conflicts and simply standing up as a human being. Once, he was even kidnapped due to his political views, and he spent some time in prison. For a long time, it wasn’t clear whether he’d survive or not. During his incarceration, he composed many pieces that were very politically motivated—they’re about Korea’s freedom, and human freedom and depth in general.

“Interludium A” concentrates on the key of A, which is right in the middle of the piano keyboard, right in front of the pianist’s navel. From this starting point, the piece moves successively upwards as if ascending into the heavens, and then downwards into the depths. It’s a simple movement, but the thought behind it is the principle of yin and yang. Inherent in this is Korean-Asian concept or philosophy is the assertion that there is a positive and a negative in everything. Life has its ups and downs; it’s normal to have good times and bad times. This is all a part of life, and that’s what this piece is all about. Cori Olan will be designing the visualizations here as well. His insights into this music are most profound, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing his work.

Review – 20 Etudes and 20 Visuals Wound up the Ars Electronica Festival on a High Note

Linzer Festival Concluded Brilliantly with a Gesamtkunstwerk of Music by Philip Glass and Images by Cori Olan

An audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerk set amidst the industrial ambience of Linz’s PostCity brought the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival to a close on Monday evening. In this marathon performance of all 20 etudes by Philip Glass, pianist Maki Namekawa’s interpretations were accompanied by Austrian video artist Cori Olan’s visuals. This duo, which also staged this project’s world premiere in New York, conjured up a hypnotic experiment for the senses.

It is Linz’s great good fortune to be Namekawa’s new home-of-choice. A world-class specialist in Glass’ music and wife of Linz’s former general music director Dennis Russell Davies—whose 50th birthday Glass himself celebrated by writing some of the etudes—she has already performed several of the composer’s works, including the 20 etudes in 2014.

Between 1991 and 2012

They were created in phases between 1991 and 2012, whereby Glass initially wrote these exercises for himself but then composed increasingly advanced pieces for other artists of the keyboard. Thus, star pianist Vikingur Olafsson recently celebrated his Deutsche Grammophon debut with the etudes, some of which the composer had derived from other works.
Namakawa configured her interpretation somewhat less mechanically than her Icelandic colleague. She sometimes seems to flee from the melody line, only to abruptly return to it, whereby the fundamental theme of the interpretation as a whole remains high. At times, the Japanese woman cedes dominance to the left hand, shifts accents and rhythms, smoothes edges, underplays.
The interpreter understands that one cannot shuffle along in the cuddly flow of the repetition of these minimalistic works; rather, one must preserve the biting potency and the wealth of contrasts if one is to resist drifting off into arbitrariness. Glass creates a music that gyrates on the spot. Mostly, it does not move forward insistently, but rather lets the moment persist. It is a music that succeeds, if not in making time as such stand still, than at least making its passage a rather pleasant sojourn.

“Fantasia”

Cori Olan’s work superbly complements these sounds. Since Disney’s megalomaniacal “Fantasia,” visual artists have sought ways to translate instrumental music into images, and only a scant few have succeeded as paradigmatically as this Austrian. His visuals never insinuate themselves into the foreground or just react all too mechanically to the music; instead, they constitute the transposition of one world into the other. Three jumbo-format screens transformed the huge Gleishalle into an arc of imagery. Olan makes musical movements dance, expands a record album into a three-dimensional object and clockwork, dispatches blocks on their way into the endless expanses of perspective, and endows shingles with tiny feet so they can compete in a race.
Much of it corresponds to the associations immediately evoked by Glass’s always highly visual music—images such as fluid motions, water and wind. Often, though, these presumably organic forms also intentionally put their digital makeup on display and permit a glimpse of the grid behind the scenes. Here, like the etudes, one definitive creative signature cannot be ascribed to all the visuals. High-definition swaths of color are juxtaposed to graphics evoking the style of the 1980s, film sequences to abstraction, monochromes to colorful excesses. The spectator is occasionally reminded of the screen savers that used to pop up on monitors back in the old days, only to be overwhelmed once again by the plasticity of what is on display here, imagery coordinated to the music with consummate precision.

Linzer Festival Concluded Brilliantly with a Gesamtkunstwerk of Music by Philip Glass and Images by Cori Olan

An audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerk set amidst the industrial ambience of Linz’s PostCity brought the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival to a close on Monday evening. In this marathon performance of all 20 etudes by Philip Glass, pianist Maki Namekawa’s interpretations were accompanied by Austrian video artist Cori Olan’s visuals. This duo, which also staged this project’s world premiere in New York, conjured up a hypnotic experiment for the senses.

It is Linz’s great good fortune to be Namekawa’s new home-of-choice. A world-class specialist in Glass’ music and wife of Linz’s former general music director Dennis Russell Davies—whose 50th birthday Glass himself celebrated by writing some of the etudes—she has already performed several of the composer’s works, including the 20 etudes in 2014.

Between 1991 and 2012

They were created in phases between 1991 and 2012, whereby Glass initially wrote these exercises for himself but then composed increasingly advanced pieces for other artists of the keyboard. Thus, star pianist Vikingur Olafsson recently celebrated his Deutsche Grammophon debut with the etudes, some of which the composer had derived from other works.
Namakawa configured her interpretation somewhat less mechanically than her Icelandic colleague. She sometimes seems to flee from the melody line, only to abruptly return to it, whereby the fundamental theme of the interpretation as a whole remains high. At times, the Japanese woman cedes dominance to the left hand, shifts accents and rhythms, smoothes edges, underplays.
The interpreter understands that one cannot shuffle along in the cuddly flow of the repetition of these minimalistic works; rather, one must preserve the biting potency and the wealth of contrasts if one is to resist drifting off into arbitrariness. Glass creates a music that gyrates on the spot. Mostly, it does not move forward insistently, but rather lets the moment persist. It is a music that succeeds, if not in making time as such stand still, than at least making its passage a rather pleasant sojourn.Philip Glass and Maki Namekawa © Andreas H. Bitesnich

Philip Glass and Maki Namekawa © Andreas H. Bitesnich

“Fantasia”

Cori Olan’s work superbly complements these sounds. Since Disney’s megalomaniacal “Fantasia,” visual artists have sought ways to translate instrumental music into images, and only a scant few have succeeded as paradigmatically as this Austrian. His visuals never insinuate themselves into the foreground or just react all too mechanically to the music; instead, they constitute the transposition of one world into the other. Three jumbo-format screens transformed the huge Gleishalle into an arc of imagery. Olan makes musical movements dance, expands a record album into a three-dimensional object and clockwork, dispatches blocks on their way into the endless expanses of perspective, and endows shingles with tiny feet so they can compete in a race.
Much of it corresponds to the associations immediately evoked by Glass’s always highly visual music—images such as fluid motions, water and wind. Often, though, these presumably organic forms also intentionally put their digital makeup on display and permit a glimpse of the grid behind the scenes. Here, like the etudes, one definitive creative signature cannot be ascribed to all the visuals. High-definition swaths of color are juxtaposed to graphics evoking the style of the 1980s, film sequences to abstraction, monochromes to colorful excesses. The spectator is occasionally reminded of the screen savers that used to pop up on monitors back in the old days, only to be overwhelmed once again by the plasticity of what is on display here, imagery coordinated to the music with consummate precision.

100,000 Visitors

The only thing to pan about this evening was the audience itself. It would be impossible to imagine less suitable listeners for these fragile piano pieces than some of the festivalgoers who gathered in this jam-packed venue. Your run-of-the-mill digital artist obviously isn’t well enough acquainted with instrumental music to know to show up on time and not leave before it’s over, to keep the chatter down and refrain from noisily stomping about during the performance. They’re a shoo-in for the Prix Ars Electronica in the Most Ignorant Concert Audience category.
Nevertheless, after five etudes, even the rudest offenders had settled down. And finally, the evening—and, with it, this year’s Ars Electronica Festival—ended peacefully with the long 20th Etude and a red thread dancing for the sake of its own life. This was a worthy conclusion to this year’s event, which attracted 100,000 visitors.

(APA, September 12, 2017)