The Farfield Residency (6:14)

The really major event of my residency happens today – Saturday 8 August. This is the first performance of Fifteen Images (Le Jardin Pluvieux) in its on-line version for Active Notation and Digitized Textile Images.

Matt and the 15 rel and digital images

Matt and the 15 real and digital images

There must be just so many references on the blog to this work over the past month or so . . . and now it’s finished and the team of four – a jazz pianist, a textile artist, a technologist and programmer, and me the composer will come together in one place for the first time. Prior to today we’ve been corresponding through e-mail and passing data around on the web, occasional getting together in twos to brainstorm, devise ways forward, be critical but supportive. The whole project began tentatively just four months ago, but has gradually occupied more and more of our individual and collective attention. Last week Phil Legard (technologist and programmer) and Matt Robinson (jazz pianist) were burning the midnight oil to bring the adventurous realtime aspect of the work to a state of readiness. Although Alice Fox (textile artist) finished her digitized images some time ago (to be animated by Phil), she’s been here at Farfield Mill this week preparing an exhibition of the ‘real’ 15 textile and dry-point print images for showing on Level 4 of the arts and heritage centre  (and kindly taking over my blog for two days – thanks Alice). As for me, I’ve been trying to keep everything in order, taking on a production manager role: writing the interpretation for the public spaces at Farfield Mill, web content, press releases and programme, co-ordinating equipment hire and travel arrangements, negotiating with Farfield Mill (we discovered our performance space was going to be shared by a textile workshop!),  curating the content for the concert itself, and doing the artist in residence business.

Chained warps for my garden project

Chained warps for my garden project

All that said, come the day of the performance – an afternoon concert amongst the looms of the Mill’s top floor gallery – I’m spending a good part of my morning starting to wind the warp lengths for my weaving project. I didn’t want people coming to the concert and seeing no evidence of my weaving except the visual realization I’ve been engaged with to design warp and weft. Yesterday’s blog showed the sketch I’d produced of the colour and yarn sequence. Today I’m sorting out the number of ends for each block of colour and yarn type across the warp. I then start to wind the correct number of warp ends, but without the portee cross – no need as the warp ends are going to be tied on to the ends of the existing warp currently tied up in front of the reed.

Not content with having this ground-breaking ‘textiles meets music’ event Farfield Mill is also hosting today the first day of a two-day workshop by textile and mixed-media artist Maggie Ayres. She currently has a lively exhibition at Farfield Mill, and by the concentration and enthusiasm of her workshop class is a certainly an effective and popular teacher. I was really intrigued to see how Maggie makes use of YouTube on the web: to tell the story of the background and the making process of some of her creations. Here’s a link to a piece called Window, which both intrigued and impressed me.

Matt and I playing Icarus

Matt and I playing Icarus

Back to my concert event – First to arrive is Matt and his mum Sue. After setting up his keyboard and amplification they go off to see the Brigflatts garden and meeting house. Matt is the son of the Suffregan Bishop of Pontefract no less, but has probably never been to a Quaker meeting house before. It is, I gather from him later, a rich experience. Next, my wonderful wife Susan turns up with a very nervous Phil (a spare computer in the car and all sorts of fall back scenarios developed on the 70 mile journey from Leeds) and a fantastic studio picnic, which she assembles in great style in the Bainside space. Sadly I’m just too preoccupied to eat very much and I have to fit in a quick rehearsal with Matt – we are ending the concert with a contemporary jazz standard, Ralph Towner’s Icarus, which in time honoured fashion in the jazz world we’ve never played together before. In fact, we’ve never played anything together before!

Matt with his Active Notation online score

Matt with his Active Notation online score

We find we do have a good size audience and after a friendly introduction by the chair of Farfield’s trustees and caretaker director Anne Pierson, Matt comes on to play one of his own compositions. Then it’s the premiere of 15 images  – over 40 minutes of wonderfully meditative and inventive playing by Matt with the technical co-ordination of the web-based ‘active’ score and digital images (looking great on this 42 inch plasma screen) working perfectly. Coming soon (Wednesday) . . . a link on these pages to Matt’s recording of the complete 15 images in tandem with the animated images by Alice Fox and Phil Legard. A recording of extracts from the programme of the first concert of my residency at Brigflatts meeting house is now online here.

Matt and an attentive audience

Matt and an attentive audience

The concentration and involvement of the audience is wonderful and a very friendly and enthusiastic reception is given to the new work. The team are duly introduced and applauded, and after the concert finishes with a spirited performance of Icarus, we get lots of valuable comments and discussions going with the audience. Hello to young composer and violinist Helena from Cardiff! She came to the concert with her parents and brother and sister, and asked lots of great questions . . . and then went away with the score of my A World of Miracles for violin and piano.

By 5.0pm everyone has gone home and its just Alice and I left to tackle a welcome gin and tonic before (believe or not) sitting down to what Alice describes as a business meeting. Ok, we’ve done two concerts in a week – where do we go from here? We’d love other people to see and experience what I think is some exciting collaborative work ‘ where textiles, music and digital technology interact’. We also have to think how are we going to make this happen? It’s an interesting meeting, to be continued the following morning when at 11.0pm, and after a picnic supper in the studio, we find ourselves too tired to complete the agenda!


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