September 28, 2010

Creating Synesthesia

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Continuing what has become a regular artistic celebration of Cornell’s student productions, the musical collective known as Contrapunkt! will put on what is being billed as “a concert of new compositions inspired by student artwork” this Friday. The group has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, moving from one show per semester just two years ago to a planned six this academic year. Contrapunkt!’s evolution has been overseen by the  guiding hands of its co-presidents Liza Sobel ’12 and Greg Weisbrod ’11. The show is set for 8 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 1st in the Willard Straight Memorial Room.

Rather than present a concert showcasing compositions direct from the maestro’s mind, this edition of Contrapunkt! draws on collaboration with the elusive Art Club, an organization creating and innovating out of Sibley Hall under the wide wings of their mysterious title. This cooperation between two of Cornell’s most exciting creative societies is sure to pop a few synapses in the old cranium when given proper attention. So go. The Sun sat down with a mélange of Contrapunkt!s/Art Clubbers (Sobel, Weisbrod, Fiona Dooley ’11, Miriam Nussbaum ’11, Kimberly Eng ’11, Haley Cohen ’10 and Natasha Gangjee ’12) to discuss the upcoming concert. El Presidente:

Weisbrod: [Contrapunkt!’s success] has come as a result of it being a much more organized, tightly-run ship these days. When we started up, it was very vague as to what we were really after other than an open, collaborative group. These days, however, we have a lot of music majors who find us easily and have a clear way to find a creative outlet.

This concert features several musician/painter pairings, with the three musical compositions each inspired by their respective counterpart. Liza Sobel wrote a piece for vibraphone and bass clarinet after seeing Natasha Gangjee’s “Pangaea,” a bursting cloud-form of flowering doves and shells all weaving around one another in bright cohesive chaos. Now think about that image recreated using a vibraphone and bass clarinet. Now think about what it would sound like if you knew what a vibraphone is. Now clean yourself up and keep reading the article.

Gangjee: Liza and I are roommates, so she had a pretty easy time finding my work. Once she presented this idea to me, she looked through some of my stuff and found what she liked. I thought it was a great idea … I’ve worked with art through music before, and this sort of collaboration seemed natural once we started talking it out.

Sobel: I tried to work in some interesting orchestration to reflect the bright nature of [Gangjee’s] work with pastels, but it was really the painting as a whole that inspired me. My composition has different motives that seem to contrast with each other, but by the end of the piece a structure emerges. I found that the artwork had an underwater feel between the shells and the bubbles — that’s where the vibraphone part really comes through.

­­The show may well be seen as a consummation of Contrapunkt!’s collective artistic vision that was conceived with its inception. These cross-disciplinary collaborations are taking the first steps to unite Cornell’s somewhat scattered artistic community, too often cordoned off and separated by majors despite aesthetic or philosophical similarities.

Eng: Art majors these days aren’t focusing on just one type of media. The present artistic trend has seen artists expand into fields other than their primary interests. As an Art major, music has definitely found its way into my spectrum of interests, and I hope to see the expansion continue with future events similar to this one.

Contrapunkt! has been able to first survive, then flourish thanks to a passionate dedication to the kind of creative freedom afforded to those who participate. For many of the artists, they are refining pieces that may echo their academic coursework, yet in this setting are able to find ways to reinvent previously concocted concepts for new ways of seeing, hearing and understanding their approach to the canvas or composition.

Other featured pieces have Miriam Nussbaum collecting sounds motivated by Haley Cohen’s “P1,” while Fiona Dooley has arranged a seven part chamber ensemble to play off Kimberly Eng’s “In Between.” Destroying any notion of a conventional orchestra, Dooley’s piece features two flutes (Nussbaum making a celebrity appearance there), two clarinets, piano, horn and a bassoon. A BASSOON!

Eng’s “In Between” is currently installed at Hartell Gallery in Sibley Hall, a show exhibiting her work done in Rome last semester. Given the opportunity to show and discuss her work in Roman galleries while abroad, Eng has produced “an extension of pointillism, where simple drips form to compose an entire canvas … the show [at Sibley] is called ‘In Between,’ and I was interested in that liminal state of mind where you’re neither here nor there … zoning out or daydreaming.”

Contrapunkt! will also hold their annual show in the upstairs of Barnes Hall in November in Cornell’s most beautiful venue. For the moment, however, they’ll give us a taste of what’s to come with the show this Friday in Willard Straight. In a wide, central venue, it will be an easy opportunity to drop in on some of the finer collaborations our school has to offer, and a way for good music to grab onto some of the ears they’ve not yet reached. And free food after.

Original Author: Graham Corrigan