Recording As Performance

 

 

Motion picture in its infancy was sometimes called photoplay. The implication was that it captured and reproduced faithfully a live performance.

 

We know better today. We accept film as an art in its own right, not theatre recorded on film. It is an art of framing and editing, that is to say, composing photographed images and selecting, sequencing, and layering audiovisual performance units. In independent filmmaking the film-maker is often at once the producer, director, cinematographer, sound technician, editor, and often also the writer of the screen play to start out with.

 

In this CD, the virgin issue of the Reflex Editions of his founding, Adam Grabois is the producer of the music he performs. He supervised the performance with his pianist John Nauman and then recorded and edited it in collaboration with his sound engineer, Da-Hong Seetoo. Through this process he also personally attended to every technical detail from the start to the end. This level of artistic responsibility is unusual in the production of recorded music; musicians normally relinquish their control once they leave the recording studio. Instead, like an independent filmmaker, Grabois would have as nearly complete control as possible of the music he brings to the listeners. Only then would he be assured that his recorded music fully represents his encompassing musical idea. It is as though he were conducting his own performance. To Grabois this is a matter of artistic integrity.

 

Live performance, like live theatre, addresses a specific given audience. Artistic energy resides in that interaction. Recorded music, like film, must assume an abstract audience which may be invisible but it is no less real. Grabois understands this challenge as an opportunity for heightened expressiveness, sharp refinement, and emotional immediacy. So, he works personally on all the variables in the recording studio: positioning the microphones, instruments, and seating this way and that, sitting on a special platform he built for himself to play on, room temperature, humidity and acoustics -- all the components of the auditory mise-en-scène. He plays his music for the listener positioned in the optimum seat in the ideal concert hall to achieve as immediate and expressive a performance conceivable. All these efforts are a part of his performance guided by the same intelligence and sensitivity that he pours into live performance. Digital technology serves him to make recording into a performance that is uniquely his own.

 

The repertoire he chose for this first recording shows his interest in demonstrating a wide range of style, technique and timbre. The first piece, 7 Variations in Eb major on "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen" from Mozart's The Magic Flute, WoO 46 (1801), shows off Beethoven's art of variations which playfully makes us chase Mozart lurking underneath Beethoven. Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano (1915) allows the instrumentalists a full palette of subtly changing colors and textures with memorable pizzicato passages for the cello. The last piece, the Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, op. 19 (1901) by Sergei Rachmaninov, by contrast, is a work of grand gestures with sweeping melodies and sonorous harmonies, bathed in the composer's hallmark melancholy.

 

-T. Kaori Kitao

 

T. Kaori Kitao, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor Emerita of Art History, taught courses on architecture and film as well as Renaissance and Baroque art at Swarthmore College. She was born in Japan and describes herself as a balletomane and opera fanatic.

 

Click here to visit the web site of T.Kaori Kitao.

 

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