2nd IENE Workshop with St Patrick School – Collaboration!

IENE & St Patricks - Collaboration!

IENE & St Patricks – Collaboration!

Our second day of the St Patricks at PMAC Workshop was an adventure in collaboration!  We paired all the students, cut the number of paintings in half, while doubling the size of each painting and each pair of students was asked to collaborate on a single painting.

Our guest was Jonny Peiffer; drummer, pianist, dancer, band leader and composer…among other things. Jonny spent a few minutes talking about his background and his connections to in Ears n’ Eyes but the students were most eager to paint. We decided to start the students collaboration with Jonny playing solo on the drum set.

Jonny began and the action on paper was immediate. Some students felt the pulse of the drums and reacted in rhythm, others moved to their own groove while clearly being influenced by the sounds they were hearing. Rog and I moved around the room assisting wherever needed and encouraging collaboration between the artists. Some students took to the idea of collaborating instantly, sharing paints, brushes, space in the artwork, even chairs! Others were clearly NOT into the idea of collaborating and marked off their own space in no uncertain terms. Some eventually gave in and worked with their partners while some needed extra encouragement.

When Jonny ended his piece, some artists kept working, others had finished already and were watching the action or talking to their painting partners. We let the action settle down a bit and, as we prepared to launch into another piece, we paused to talk about the drums. What did they hear? What resonated in the painters’ mind and what was impossible to capture? What sounds elicited the most visual reactions? What sounds were ignored or omitted from the painting? We took some notes and made mental notes to listen and watch for some of the things we discussed.

Matt took a moment to mention that the interaction between Jonny and the painters was quite different than our IENE performances with roger and any number of musicians. In our case, we can all see Roger when we play and the compositions sometimes use Roger’s actions as visual cues for sections of the music or motifs or solos or whatever else the composers have dreamed up. In a class this large, with a group of painters collaborating in twos, the musicians  cannot see much of the student’s work. This day’s workshop is a different approach. As an aside, IENE  could explore this approach in a future IENE performance; deliberately blocking the musicians’ view of Roger to see what transpires in his artwork. Hmmmm.

The next piece was another collaboration between the pairs of painters and Jonny and Matt did a duet improv on the tenor sax and drums. Some students couldn’t wait to paint which was totally fine but we tried to start the process together as an ensemble. Once the ‘conversation’ began, Roger worked with pairs of students to succinctly discuss and encourage their process. Matt and Jonny started rhythmically with bursts of sounds. Matt walked up and down the rows of tables interacting with the painters and tried to see what they were doing. Sometimes he played to prod the painters. Sometimes he interpreted the painting by responding to the painters while trying to develop the conversation. At one point Roger offered the students mat board scrapers to carve away thick accumulations of paints to expose the under layers of color. Simultaneously Matt relayed the action to Jonny who is tied down by the drum set and cannot  move among the painters and their paintings. As with our first class, the second painting is more thoughtful of the in Ears ‘n Eyes concept. One student, awestruck by the colors revealed by scraping, exclaimed to Roger, why to the colors emerge, how are they still there?” Roger explained that some of the initial colors laid down had dried while others had been absorbed into the paper. In that moment, while exploring process, led by his curiosity, the student had discovered and understood a new valuable technique. Students were clearly aware of all the input they received from the musicians and and many realized that the musicians were responding to their actions and artwork they were producing.  How wonderful to be inspired by the possibilities of this type of collaboration!


IENE Residency at PMAC with Saint Patrick School

St Patrick School students get in the IENE groove

St Patrick School students get in the IENE groove in Haas Hall at PMAC

Roger Goldenberg and Matt Langley have started a 6 week in Ears ‘n’ Eyes Visual Jazz residency at PMAC with students from Saint Patrick School in Portsmouth, NH. On Wednesday, September 4th, 30 students arrived in Haas Hall at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center for their first taste of visual jazz. Chris Klaxton joined Roger and Matt for the first session during which he played piano and trumpet and gave many insights to the students on his approach to communicating through music and art.

After an explanation of the Visual Jazz concept and a demonstration by Roger, Chris and Matt, the students were very eager to put some paint in motion. Chris and Matt began an improvisation with Tenor Saxophone and Piano. Starting slowly, they gave each student artist a chance to listen closely to the sound of the instruments and to the sounds and shapes of the lines Chris and Matt were playing back and forth. Matt walked around the room to interact with each artist and to get a direct look at the artwork, responding to the artists as well as Chris’ piano.  While this creative conversation unfolded Roger offered encouragement to any tentative students and offered all the students insights into creating their visual conversation on their paper.  The piece concluded with some of the students completing their work immediately and some still painting and trying to capture what they had just heard.


In Ears ‘n’ Eyes vocabulary of characteristics of Music and Painting generated by the St. Patrick’s Middle School students. They did a great job!

While a few finished their work, Roger, Chris and Matt started a discussion about some characteristics of Music and Painting. There was a lot of interaction with the students and they provided a wealth of ideas. The next step? Try to find shared characteristics between the art forms. This set many minds in motion and also helped add to the lists of characteristics.

Ready and waiting!

Ready and waiting! Rog catches a snack before the students arrive.

With this in mind, students started a new work on a clean sheet of paper. The results of the discussions were immediately apparent as many students chose a particular characteristic or two to explore more deeply. Chris and Matt talked briefly before beginning another improvisation and agreed to provide some starker contrasts between sections of the improv, experimenting with different grooves and styles. Chris also played some trumpet in this improv, drawing the attention of the young artists to the new sounds and causing them to react quickly with new visual ideas.

The second round of paintings were very different in many cases. Students experimented with density of paint a lot more, using their painted hands to print rhythms and shapes, trying out drips to express motion and a myriad of invented shape to express their impressions of the music. Roger traversed the room to encourage the students, offering technical suggestions based on the style of each student’s painting. For students whose work was dense, perhaps overworked, Roger provided improvised tools made of mat board for scraping and drawing into the paint to reveal the colors that were hidden, yet preserved underneath. Many students seemed to mix colors more to try and achieve some of the characteristics that were discussed in between the two paintings. The results were exciting. Roger and Matt are excited to explore more possibilities when the class meets again. Our guest in the second of the six sessions will be Jonny Peiffer and we’re looking forward to digging into the sounds and rhythms of Jonny’s drumming as well as his piano playing.