Art and Music

Conni St PierreThis week’s edition of At Water’s Edge features musicians who are also visual artists of one sort or another: painters, photographers, graphic artists and designers.

The connection between art and music goes back to the beginning of our existence as sentient beings, when we clapped, banged on hollow logs and hooted, and painted representations of our achievements on cave walls. The two are irretrievably intertwined, and the artists who do both create a connection between the two in their works.

The late Lucette Bourdin (1954-2011), who is one of the finest examples of this, had a clear understanding of how the forms intertwined in her:

Lucette Bourdin“The closest analogy to how I experience both the act of painting and a finished work of art is music. While I am painting I feel like music is streaming through me on to the paper. It is difficult to say whether I am playing the music or the instrument being played. My experience is the reverse of music however, because the performance is done privately in my studio while the completed score in its entirety is what I show the public. There is another interesting distinction between the two mediums for me as well. Music is played in a line, it is linear, but it creates an atmosphere that continues after it has been played. A painting is a whole piece of music sounding all at once and which the viewer replays by looking at it. As the eye wanders around a painting the colors, forms, textures and their relationships are ‘sounding’ within the viewer creating an experience or mood or atmosphere.”

What better way to begin, therefore, than with a track from the immortal Lucette…


This week’s program is pre-recorded, as your friendly host must be away from the microphone for a few days.

“Flight Through Infinite Stars” – Lucette Bourdin – Drum-atic Atmospheres (2009)

Lucette Bourdin official web site

Gallery A

Gallery B

“The Endless Mind – Chill Mix” – Michael Brückner – Endless Mind Portal (2011)

Michael Brückner: cover art for Under Ground

Michael Brückner was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and is now based near Mainz. He earns his living as a graphic designer, and has been creating ambient and other electronica since 1992. He has accumulated an extensive back catalog (more than 90 albums by the end of 2011, and that number is still growing), though he rarely plays live.

This track is one of the bonus tracks, and in fact a “chill-out” remix of a track called “Inside the Endless Mind” from this release.

You can find Michael’s music on Bandcamp.

His album cover art, which you can find both on his Bandcamp site and on Facebook, has an interesting story: he created most of them in a few weeks in one rush back in 2007. Well done, Michael!

Michael was into painting, drawing and illustration many years before he ever thought of starting with music. He first took interest in visual arts, and it turned quite serious about two years in. He was very much a fan of virtuoso fantasy and science fiction illustrators and comic artists from the late 60s and from the 70s (his interest started around 1984), and included such artists as Tony Roberts, Chriss Foss, Patrick Woodroffe – or Hergé, Moebius; the darker geniuses of Gottfried Helnwein and H.R. Giger, and more “serious” artists like Escher or Max Ernst–even Russian children’s book illustrators! There were many more, and he still admires them even today.

He aspired to achieve something for himself in that vein and made many illustrations for German amateur Science Fiction magazines, most of which were photocopied, so his main technique was ink drawing; later on he got into acrylics and coloured pencil drawings. He also wrote many short stories during those years, his first “artistic career”, from about 1984 to 1990. It was a good time (at least concerning art, or the fun of making it).

However, a severe post-adolescent depression made him give up being active in that scene. Even so, he had an emphasis on art in high school, and was determined to study painting later. Some local painters he admired and met told him that realistic (or surrealistic) painting wouldn’t interest anyone in the art scene and after a while he decided study graphic design instead. He finally did, again with an emphasis on illustration, and on book design, and he worked to become a children’s book illustrator.

In the second year of his studies, he was somewhat unexpectedly blessed with a little family, which in many ways changed the game for him. With the need to sustain a wife and daughter, the time for immersing in creativity considerably diminished. But there was also another element that came into his life only a few years earlier, in 1992, that demanded more space in his life, so that finally his visual ambitions were placed on the back burner in favor of… electronic music!

While in the visual realm, he seemed to be gifted from start, but in the end wasn’t able to make much more than a humble living from it, in music it was the other way around: as a young boy it seemed obvious to him that he had no musical talent at all, and there were somewhat traumatic experiences in elementary school that soon convinced him that didn’t have what it took. Later on, he found that he could indeed play, and toyed around with music, usually in moments where no one was around to witness his “strange doings”.

But one day (cue omnious discordant strings) in early 1992, he found himself in the rare situation of having a considerable amount of money in his pockets (relative to his then-humble standards, anyway) and a broken heart at the same time, so he decided to mend it by going to the local music store and purchasing a big keyboard and some second hand recording gear; he immersed himself in producing electronic music of different kinds (but with an emphasis on ambient and the experimental) ever since, first at home, and then later sharing his work stuff via various social networks.

Interestingly, practicing Yoga (which included the practice of chanting mantras and kirtans) one or two years before that already had encouraged him to develop his musical side a bit, and it all came together.

Lucky us!

“To vo” – Luong Hue Trinh – (unreleased)
“Return” – Luong Hue Trinh – (unreleased)

Luong Hue Trinh at Hanoi SoundStuff Festival 2011
Luong Hue Trinh at Hanoi SoundStuff Festival 2011

From Hanoi, Vietnam, our Stillstream Featured Artist this month is ambient artist Luong Hue Trinh. Hue Trinh is a female musician and composer using traditional acoustic instruments, voices, environmental sounds, and electronics/processing intertwined with ambient principles to create some truly sublime music and abstract soundscapes.

She studied keyboard at the Vietnam National Music Academy, and has been awarded a Yamaha scholarship for her outstanding accomplishments. Since completing her studies and majoring in Jazz Keyboard in 2010, Luong Hue Trinh has been working as a freelance artist for electronic and contemporary music.

Her music borders on the dark and mysterious, while being firmly rooted in traditions of the past, drawing heavily from her native Vietnam.

These works are not album releases, but were created for live festival performances that included visual and multimedia elements.

“Red Yellow Blue” – usr/sbin (Dennis Moser) – The Dying Light of November Days Disc 1 (2007)

Richard Serra's "Vortex" at The Modern (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth). Photography by Dennis Moser.
Richard Serra’s “Vortex” at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Photography by Dennis Moser.

usr/sbin is Dennis Moser, currently at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library as Head of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives. He is a musician (and usr/sbin is only one of several music projects), photographer and librarian/archivist, not always in that order and not always in that priority.

Dennis trained as a classical musician (guitar, trombone, recorder, Renaissance lute). Now working with various permutations of guitars, synthesizer, and computer-based compositions, he performs live improvisational music and uses looping techniques to create richly-layered tapestries of sound.

As avatar “AldoManutio Abruzzo”, he has been a regular live performer in the Second Life online environment. Three of his soundtracks were selected as Finalists in the 2007 European Machinima Competition. He was also voted “Best of Second Life: Performing Artist, 2007” and has pioneered solo improvisational music there.

On his visual arts, Dennis writes:

Ansel Adams was an accomplished pianist and often spoke of his printing process as being one where the negative was the score and the photographer was the musician interpreting it. At the same time, many of us speak of the image-invoking power of music: music for imaginary films, soundscapes, music for the films in our heads … the phenomena is well-known to us all.

As an improvisationally-driven musician, I feel the same impetus when making my visual works. For me, photography is about seeing what is around us, yet knowing that we never actually capture it, that there is just as much of the photography in our mind as it is in the image captured, for it is also about our relationship with passage of time. Music, too, is about the passage of time and so these two are inextricably interwoven for me.

My training in photography started in the days of film, color, black and white, and various Polaroid materials, eventually working in formats from 35mm to 8 x 10. In the early 1980’s, I worked as an assistant for several Houston commercial photographers including Brian Jones and Life Magazine photographer Bob Gomel. I studied lithography with Suzanne Manns, at the Glassell School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where I also worked as the darkroom assistant for the photography classes taught by Casey Williams. I have been fortunate to have had my work exhibited in solo shows and groups shows, throughout the US.

A chance invitation to exhibit my work in an alternative gallery led me to the study of bookbinding and the book arts. After private studies in bookbinding, I secured a position as a rare books conservator at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin. While there, I met several internationally-known fine book binders (Tini Miura, James Brockman) and participated in a paper marbling workshop with Swiss fine binder and teacher, Hugo Peller. This opened a whole new area of visual art for me, as I learned of a Japanese process of paper marbling called suminagashi. It is said that one does not make suminagashi, but that one facilitates in happening. Such is the nature of this art. The inks are floated on water and the patterns that form are extremely sensitive to the motion of the air in the room, so serendipity becomes a major part of how the design evolves. Like music, it is highly improvisational, with no two pieces ever being the same.

You can find samples of Dennis’ photography here.

“Underland” – Nathan YoungbloodAsunder (2007)

Based in Tucson, Arizona, Nathan Youngblood is a genuine protégé of Steve Roach, and is a highly accomplished musician.

ASUNDER was his debut release, and is available on Steve Roach’s web site.

Tucson Arizona native Nathan Youngblood has had a lifelong fascination with sound.

“Whether it’s the grinding of machinery or wind in the palms, there is a never ending musical soundtrack that follows me. From a young age I surrounded myself with music from around the globe and got my hands on as many noisemakers/instruments as I could. I quickly learned that there was no set structure or rules when I was the player.”

In the last decade, Youngblood’s inspiration for creation has been to paint impressionistic sonic pictures of the extremes around him.

“The grandiose and macro visuals here. The extreme hot and cold. The soft and the jagged. There is a unique feeling in the Sonoran desert, and though not always literal, it constantly plays out in my creation.”

Aside from light use of synthesizers, the main source of instrumentation is organic and acoustic. With the use of processed Tibetan bowls, mesquite seeds, cholla wood, guitars, sitar, bones, live rattlesnakes, rocks and water, Youngblood creates mysterious meditative worlds that he loves to live in.

His debut, “Asunder”, was produced and released by Steve in ’06 and has been played on Hearts of Space, among many other programs.

In recent years Youngblood has recorded and performed live with Numina, John Vorus, Soriah, Alcvin Ramos and Steve Roach.

Samples of his photography can be found on Facebook. Check out two albums in particular: Sedona and Desert.

Conni St Pierre“Glacier Winds” and “Orogenesis”- Conni St.Pierre – Mountain Spirits (2009)

Conni St. Pierre is founder of smasheasy and Tourmaline Media, and composer of the critically acclaimed Legends Trilogy and Nature Spirits series.

Her music is a blend of ambient, new age and traditional music using alto flute, keyboard synth and native drums in unique combinations.

My work has been described as symbolist impressionist. Not all are symbolist – I think he was referring to the circles in particular. But I feel like I paint emotion with color and movement. So maybe Emotionist or Emotionalist is a better description. I tend to use a lot of iridescence and add glass seed beads and tubular beads, along with plastic gems, sometimes collage paper elements with words, and gel mediums. Occasionally I paint over these things for more texture. I’ve also taken paintings out into my back yard to wash off some of the paint with a garden hose to get an ethereal look. Nothing is out of bounds here. The visual art is very relative to the music that I play. They are both “in the moment” and from my core. It’s all about vibrations: color, light, music, emotion, connection.

“Magnetic Field” – Jack Hertz7.83 Hz (2013)

Inspired by the mystery of life.
I manipulate sound to create
intangible techno-organic
impressions between
music and noise.

And he makes it pretty, even in writing! Jack Hertz is a man with a most fortunate name, as he is most certainly a talented sound artist.

7.83 Hz was released for Earth Day 2013. The title refers to the resonating frequency at which our planet earth vibrates. He writes,

“The music on this album was inspired by the documentary ‘Resonance – Beings of Frequency,’ where I learned that the planet Earth has a resonant frequency of 7.83 Hz. Originally detected in 1899 by Nikola Tesla, it was Winfried Otto Schumann who formulated the theoretical aspects in the mid-1950s of the global resonances that are now referred to as the ‘Schumann resonances.’

The notion that the Earth is an oscillator onto itself was so inspiring. A flood of ideas for new ambient compositions came to me. Since frequencies under 20 hertz cannot be perceived by the human ear. I incorporated the Earth’s tone in other ways. Using them as a basis for sound modulation, binaural beats, pulses and the frequency intervals of LFOs, filters and oscillators based on the fundamental 7.83 and multiples such as 14.3, 20.8, 27.3 and 33.8 Hz. As it turns out, the use of these frequency intervals worked out such that the finished tracks unintentionally complement each other when played simultaneously in various combinations.”

— Jack Hertz, April 2013

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