in Ears ‘n Eyes spent four days in the art classrooms at Portsmouth Middle School in March 2014 as part of art teacher Anna Nuttall’s NHSCA’s grant funded project, Voice, Vision and Verve: The Harlem Renaissance. Our contribution to the project would get the students collaborating with the IENE ensemble; Chris Klaxton, Taylor O’Donnell, Jonny Peiffer, Scott Keifner, Matt Langley and artist/musician Roger Goldenberg. The goal was to experience and explore the possibilities of collaboration between audio and visual art. (>>checkout the Portsmouth Herald article on IENE<<)
We planned two days of workshops for approximately eighty eighth graders. The goals of the first day included playing/painting for the students. Introductions of each member of in Ears n’ Eyes to give the students some ideas about different approaches to life as an artist. A brief discussion about some possible opposites to explore as they apply to music and visual art. A brief demonstration of ONE of the sets of opposites; loud/soft, as interpreted by the musicians while Roger painted. Then a collaboration of each member of the IENE ensemble with a group of student artists using a single canvas for the group and a single musician communicating with the artists.
The results of the first day were exhilarating to say the least. Students were very interested in the performance of the ensemble and offered a lot of ideas for opposites to explore musically and visually. When they got a chance to paint, the room came to life in a blur of sound and color. Each “line” of artists collaborated directly with their musician. Scott Keifner’s artists produced a work that reflected his use of arco technique on the bass with flowing lines and luxurious curves. Taylor O’Donnell’s artists produced a similarly flowing work which more closely represented the sound of her voice. Jonny Peiffer’s artists responded to his drumming with short, often jagged, bursts of color that gave an incredible feel of rhythm and pulse. Trumpeter Chris Klaxton communicated with his artists using the entire range of his instrument’s pitch and sonic possibilities producing a work that flowed, hopped, bopped and splattered and Chris paused to paint his contribution to work as well.
On day two of the workshop students got a chance to try their hand at joining the band as well as working on their own canvas as an artist. The day started with revisiting the “opposites” to see if any new ideas had cropped up based on day one’s experiences. We then created a “composition” based on a selection of opposites. The class was split into artists and band members. Color pallets were prepared for each artist while the IENE musicians worked with students to prepare them for communicating and collaborating with artists. Listen, listen, listen and when in doubt, stop and listen! Artists took their places, musicians silenced and then, BAM!, notes and colors came to life on a composition that was created by all, on the fly, in REAL TIME!
The results of the IENE workshop were fantastic. Students commented that working with live musicians was totally unique to anything they had experience artistically to this point and that they felt the music and art were definitely linked and a result of the collaboration. Teachers Anna Nuttall and Diedre Shea worked closely with the IENE artists to produce a very thoughtful and tactile experience for their students and this workshop could not have happened without their hard work and dedication.