The opportunity to do this show fell into my lap on short notice. I was approached mid-February to do a show in March at the Arcadia Art Gallery, a small visual arts space in Arcadia Artists Coop in downtown Toronto. I initially demurred, thinking I didn’t have enough (ahem… try any) visual art to do a show in an Art Gallery (I identify as a musician after all). But the committee persisted, and I kept thinking about it, and eventually a basic wire-frame version of a project popped into my head:
Record a tabla solo album in the gallery, and have the recording/editing/mixing process open to the public.
A tabla solo is an extended drum solo that features a progression through a variety of types of drum compositions (eg ‘kaida’, an extended improvisation on a specific vocabulary, or ‘gat’ a short, complex, pre-composed rhythmic poem), moving from slower tempo to faster, longer to shorter, and more improvised to less improvised, over about an hour. Usually in one tala, or rhythmic cycle, a tabla solo is accompanied by a looping melody called a ‘lehara’ or ‘nagma’ that lays down a melodic framework that contrasts and highlights the rhythmic patterns being played. An illustration of this here.
Then I got thinking about video (as I constantly do these days) and realized I’d have to make a ‘music’ video for each composition. All the video would have to be shot in the gallery, and the subject matter could be the people who came to the show. The purpose of the video would be to illustrate and reinforce the patterns happening in the music, perhaps developing a visual vocabulary and grammar tied closely to the vocabulary and grammar of tabla.
The wire-frame started filling in: Musicians would be welcome to record self-created loops or parts or even single notes on the tracks, which I would use as samples to build the melodic acompaniment. Even non-musicians could record parts:
Anyone who can clap their hands could be on one piece, laying down a huge groove.
Anyone who can sing a single note (in tune!) could build massive drone.
The current state of my art.
The actual recording process will be open to the public, which i imagine some people might find interesting, not to mention that an audience always influences a performance. The goal is less crystalline studio perfection and more raw creation within fixed boundaries of time and space. I’ve been caught in some agonizingly drawn out, angst-ridden and meandering creative processes over the years, and I think it’s important to force myself to do the creative equivalent of speed dating: Make an album, and accompanying music videos in a restricted space, in a compressed time period of period of time. I have 31 days. A few people have said “Sounds like a LOT of work” and it will be, but it will be fun, and I look forward to the challenge.
Stitching all the music videos together with other events captured in the space was the next logical step: put it all together into a ‘Film’, except I’ve never made a video longer than about 10 minutes, and only started working heavily in video in August. I imagine the film will tell its own story, but I won’t know what that is until the process has begun…or maybe completed. I’m planning a showing in early April.
The process itself is more important than the final product. That concept is somehow relaxing. I hope that if I’m true to the process, the final product will take care of itself. That’s the theory, anyway. How well it works remains to be seen.
So, the wire-frame is still filling in, and specific musical and visual ideas I want to work with are coming into focus. It could be a disaster, or it could turn out OK. I really have no idea.
If you can clap, sing, dance, play an instrument or have your picture taken, please come down, and we’ll see what we can create.
Check out the ‘Activity Menu‘ to get an idea of what’s on the go, and check the open hours to see when you the gallery is open (I will update on a daily basis).