After training as a classical violinist and getting a job at a major symphony orchestra, Todd Reynolds realized “I would only be happy working with people who were alive.” So he left and was a founding member of Ethel (what he describes as “the improvising Kronos“), and he played with Bang on a Can All-Stars and Steve Reich, as well as doing solo work. An ongoing theme of PUSH–and Reynolds’ life and work–is the blurring of lines between play and work. He says:
“I was quite a failure at playing when I was young. Turns out I just didn’t have the right toys.”
Indeed. He performed at PUSH with Luke DuBois, a video artist and musician, who “accompanied” Reynold’s violin with a graphical computer visualization system that dynamically represented Reynold’s playing as changing patterns projected on a screen. There’s an “overuse of amplification” in contemporary classical music, DuBois says, so he created “visual strategies to embody and amplify” so that audiences could see the amplification but only hear a more pure sound. (DuBois also showed a few of his art pieces: Billboard, which compresses every #1 hit in the Billboard top 100, with one second representing the number of weeks the song stayed at the top; Academy, which compressed every Oscar winner into a 76-minute video; and Play, which shows every Playboy Playmate over 50 years in 50 seconds–“with their eyes centered”; he calls it “time-lapse pornography.”)
DuBois’ Play; image via MAKE blog
The performance was enveloping (heightened by my third-row seat): Reynolds improvised (I think) while DuBois’ images spiraled and hovered on-screen. While the two artists have collaborated many times, DuBois says one characteristic of their work is that as a composer, DuBois has never considered writing music for Reynolds, and Reynolds has never scored one of DuBois film works. Both seem to believe they produce better art when they’re not imposing their own ideas on the other.
DuBois’ last words seemed to fit the theme of the conference, on both collaboration/connection and risk. He recalled a college professor who, remarking on how the comfortable and unchallenged never sparked revolutions, said, “History is made by the unprotected.”