PRISM, Arturo O’Farrill, and Tony Arnold spent several days together in mid-December running through the music with Jorinde Keesmaat (our fearless director), lighting designer Aaron Copp, and all four composers.
“Running through” doesn’t do justice to what turned out to be a rigorous, challenging, and invigorating process.
Since 1984, PRISM has commissioned and premiered nearly 300 works for saxophone quartet alone and in combination with a range of partners—rhythm section, piano, full orchestra, microtonal Harry Partch instruments, percussion, traditional Chinese instruments, electronics, and Renaissance winds—and collaborated with dancers, filmmakers, visual arts curators, and computer programmers. But we’ve never done anything quite like this.
Under Jorinde’s direction, we experimented with unfamiliar ways of moving, balancing, reciting lines or words from the poems that inspired these works. When Jorinde and Aaron decided that we would become part of the lighting design, we practiced carrying LED RGBW light-batons across the stage and making beautiful incandescent patterns. For the workshops, we experimented with just a couple of batons, but for the actual performances, we’ll be moving racks of them (walls of light) with our bodies as we play.
As a team, we thought about which performance elements served the music and which were extraneous. We had to learn to communicate musical and poetic meaning at once, to explore the whole story that these works tell together—and then to question the idea of narrative entirely.
What’s next? We’ll continue to fine-tune our individual musical parts, reflect on these workshops, and prepare for our next rehearsals and tech week in March. In the meantime, a slideshow of photos from the workshops can be viewed here.