The Visual Recital is an exciting new approach to integrating live art music with dynamic imagery, animations, and synchronized video clips, where the performing musician directly controls the digitized visualizations as an enhancement of the musical performance. With the visuals serving as a powerful narrative lattice, art music becomes immediately accessible to audiences young and old who may have never experienced a live recital setting.
Visual Pianist Hugh Sung has developed a system that integrates cutting-edge visualizations with a simple foot-switch trigger that enables the Art Musician to perfectly synchronize visual effects that illustrate the narrative sweep and structure of each musical composition
Yesterday, we had a run-through of my new visualizations designed for 3 piano trio works: the first movement of Beethoven's Trio in C minor, Op. 1 No. 3; the slow movement from Brahm's Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8; and the first movement of "Cafe Music" by Paul Schoenfield. During my initial Visual Recital planning meeting with Astral Artists Jennifer Curtis (violin), Susan Babini (cello) and Michael Mizrahi (piano), Jennifer expressed a desire to participate in the 'pedal pushing' activities (she apparently has a lot of experience with a drumset!) My initial idea had been for the pianist to do all the video triggers himself, but getting the other players involved made so much sense!
The initial problem was finding a hardware solution to allow for multiple pedal and keystroke assignments into a single computer. Fortunately, i found a great product from P.I. Engineering: a USB Switch Interface that allows for up to 12 push button or foot tredle inputs. A friend of mine suggested using standard MIDI Damper pedals with 1/4" - 1/8" mono adapters, and it turns out that they work beautifully as input triggers!
Each pedal was assigned a letter keystroke ("A" for the piano, "B" for the violin, and "C" for the cello).
Splitting the pedal trigger tasks among 3 players makes for a much easier job, particularly in situations with tricky page turns. It also opens up the possibility for much greater complexity and interactive visualizations!
Michael was a brave soul, not only using the pedal trigger for the visual triggers, but also tackling the use of my Tablet PC as a digital music reader with a second footswitch for turning pages!
We're aiming for our first Astral/Visual Recital show at one of the Philadelphia public schools sometime next month. In the meantime, Michael will be borrowing both my Toshiba Tablet PC (which will run the visualizations via Liquid Media) and my backup Fujitsu ST5022D tablet pc as a digital music reader ("Kaylee"), along with the USB Switch Interface and the pedals for the group to practice on. Generous soul methinks i yam, eh? Well, the excitement really comes from seeing other musicians having an opportunity to try out some cutting-edge technology and seeing the true benefits that come from these tools. That can only happen with hands-on experience.
BTW, special thanks go to David Michie for taking time to show the wares of his beautiful Violin shop (right next to my office!), and to Rich Galassini for the fantastic tour of Cunningham Piano Factory. I'm using pictures taken from both locations for the Beethoven Trio movement, giving a visual "story" of how trees become musical instruments. I can't wait to show you clips from the 'finished product' once we play this show in public!
Things are really beginning to move forward for the Visual Recital concept! Last week i had the opportunity to have lunch with Elizabeth Serkin, daughter of legendary pianist Rudolph Serkin, and Thomas DeWolfe , director of a wonderful classical music outreach program to public schools in Greenport, NY to discuss ideas for how the Visual Recital could be used to connect with young audiences that have had absolutely no exposure to classical music. Much enthusiasm ensued over a delicious lunch at Branzino's! Looks like we'll be aiming to put together a combination workshop/performance project for sometime in the fall, possibly in November, and maybe even some other collaborations with local art institutions in the near future...
The following day, in a small classroom at Juilliard i had the opportunity to get together with three Astral Artists - violinist Jennifer Curtis, cellist Susan Babini, and pianist Michael Mizrahi - to demonstrate the Visual Recital and brainstorm about creating a new show in collaboration with them.
Being able to expose classical musicians to cutting edge technologies like the Tablet PC and multimedia enhancements to live performances is a tremendous credit to both the visionary outlook of Astral Artistic Services and the creative open-mindedness of the artists in their roster!
We're hoping to put together a program of three piano trio movements from Beethoven, Brahms and Paul Schoenfield's "Cafe Music" for a trial outreach at a North Philadelphia public school in May. After having been the only one designing, assembling and operating the whole system single-handedly, it's going to be a lot of fun 'handing this off' to other performers!
Equally exciting will be the opportunity for the Astral Artists to borrow some of my computer equipment to get some real 'hands on' time with all the technologies i've been so passionate about.
Michael's even open to the idea of trying out my digital piano setup! I can't wait to get his reaction to a program like Pianoteq...
A warm "Thank You" to Bonnie Slobodien, director of Astral's outreach and education programs, for sharing the wonderful pictures! I'll be sure to keep you all posted on the young wings of the Visual Recital concept!