In Ears ‘n’ Eyes (IENE) is a performing ensemble that treats ones ears and eyes to new conversations in jazz idioms, both visual and auditory. This season’s In Ears ‘n’ Eyes fused painting, song, poetry, modal, tonal, bebop and classically inspired compositions into an astoundingly original cultural event. IENE presented 5 original compositions plus one original arrangement based on a poem by Czelaw Milosz.
Past IENE performances have included jazz tap and video, but this iteration offered something new. In Ears ‘n’ Eyes 2013 enjoyed the addition of vocalist Taylor O’Donnell. She presented her arrangement for ‘voices,’ of Milosz’ poem Love, set to the music of Sam Sadigursky. Composer/musician Jonny Peiffer arranged his composition ‘Starlings,’ which is based on the intuitive, mesmerizing movement that starlings display when they migrate in flocks. New compositions will be debuted by Rob Gerry, Eric Klaxton, Zach Lange, Chris Klaxton and Matt Langley. Matt offered this about his piece. “It’s taking shape, Matt stated.” Chuckling, he continued, “No really, my piece is called Taking Shape. It explores the link between lines, spaces and shapes as they relate to art and music and shows how the two genres effect each other using written and improvised musical material.”
Each piece in the performance is designed to develop conversations with each performer: the instrumentalists, painter and vocalist. Rob Gerry’s piece has classical roots uses voicings and contrapuntal melodies with a straight eighth approach while Chris Klaxton’s song builds from a single tone into a full-blown discussion as Goldenberg’s painting develops similarly. Because the production intended to engage the audience as Participant, each composer said a few words about their compositions and in some performances the audience has been invited to participate.
The concept for In Ears ‘n’ Eyes germinated about 4 years ago after Roger Goldenberg performed his first improvisational painting with pianist Mike Melvoin at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center during the Class of 59 reunion. Goldenberg was already thinking of his artwork as visual jazz, however, and it was the inventive mind of Goldenberg’s friend Matt Langley that suggested the alchemy resulting in In Ears ‘n’ Eyes. In fact, it was Matt who came up with its moniker. Matt proposed a robust collaboration that would combine Roger’s visual jazz with performing jazz musicians. Goldenberg hesitated to make this leap because he had yet to work out the logistical details of mixing colors on stage during a performance. The idea percolated in Goldenberg for about a year. Roger commented on his hesitancy, “The painting process is so much slower than music-making. I worry that watching me mix paint for a couple of hours would be only slightly more interesting than watching the paint dry.” In 2012 Goldenberg’s logistical dilemma was solved and his performer chops began to be honed during his onstage performance in the West End Theatre’s production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris. And now that a number of performances of In Ears ‘n’ Eyes are under their belts, these adventurous performers are working to deepen the level of murmuration and conversation between their instruments and genres; always thinking of new ways to present their material, how to include yet untapped genres for future performances and how they will integrate these into upcoming educational creativity and performance workshops.
The performance at the Dance Hall on March 9th marked another landmark for In Eyes ‘n’ Ears. This performance was recorded. The documentation was done by videographer Amanda Kowalski (Amanda Kowalski Photo) and sound engineer Chris Chase (1130ft Creative Media). The reason for the recording was to document the performance as an educational resource, to register IENE on NHSCA Artist/Teacher’s Roster and to promote In Ears ‘n’ Eyes workshops and performances to schools and universities in NH and beyond.
In fact, Roger Goldenberg received the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts’ prestigious Artist Entrepreneurial Grant Award to partially fund the creation of this video. At the end of March, Goldenberg will file the video with The Council when he registers In Eyes ‘n’ Ears on NHSCA Artist/Teacher’s Roster. The Artist/Teacher’s Roster is a tool used by New Hampshire schools as a resource for finding quality, visiting artists for their schools and for artists to promote the sale of their workshops to schools. One of the musicians commented “We are all experienced and devoted educators, so it’s a no-brainer that we present educational workshops in our schools.”
To date, a condensed version of an In Eyes ‘n’ Ears educational workshop was presented at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center to an all-ages contingent of students numbering eleven. The ages ranged from 12 to 70 something. “It was a blast!” exclaimed Skylar, a 12-year-old drummer. In March 2014, In Ears ‘n’ Eyes has been hired to present a workshop and performance at the Portsmouth Middle School during the art department’s Harlem Renaissance project. The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts awarded the middle school art department its Artist Residencies in Schools for Art Learning Grant to fund the project.
The In Eyes ‘n’ Ears performance on March 9th was held The Dance Hall in Kittery. The Dance Hall is the recently restored historic Kittery Grange Hall and has been charmingly transformed into the long-dreamed of venue for dance and community building by Drika Overton, the hall’s founder and director. The Dance Hall of Kittery, Maine is a not-for-profit 501C3 and was the perfect venue for IENE’s night of improvisation. It is an intimate, unobstructed open space with a stage, tastefully restored by local craftsman John Boley reusing its original architectural elements.
The night’s performance underscored Overton’s vision of providing a community based performance and cultural venue that is affordable to local musicians so they can offer daring inventive performances of their craft.
A raffle and silent auction was held. The paintings created at the event were for sale by silent auction throughout the performance and was concluded at the end of the evening. One painting was sold by raffle and the proceeds helped cover costs of production, hall rental, and provided a modest stipend for the musicians.
The paintings created at In Ears ‘n Eyes 3/9/2013:
(click image for larger view & description)
What: In Ears ‘n’ Eyes
Where: The Dance Hall, 7 Walker Ave, Kittery, ME
When: Saturday, March 9th, 2013, 7 – 9:30 pm
Who: Roger Goldenberg, visual jazz; Matt Langley, Nick Mainella, Eric Klaxton, saxes; Zach Lange and Chris Klaxton, trumpets; Brandon Newbould, trombone; Mike Effenberger, keys; Jonny Peiffer, dms, keys; Eric Von Oeyen, dms; Taylor O’Donnell, vocals; RobGerry, bass.