Whenever I am doing a big recording project, I realize in retrospect that I simultaneously do a large-scale art project. This has happened so many times. If I realize this soon enough, I hold my art sale in time to support the project, but more often, I am slowly realize that I have have created a roomful of enormous paintings and that I need to do something about it (them).
There are so many parallels between the creation of art and the preparation of whatever music I am about to record, in this case, eight Vivaldi concerti.
I never ever know what I am going to paint when I face a blank canvas. Well, that is a bloody lie. Sometimes, I have a plan, but invariably I end up elsewhere. On one occasion I set out to understand a bit more about old forms of painting and created my own gesso (base coat) out of rabbit skin glue which I made myself, mixed with calcium carbonate and pigment (titanium powder) and then spent several days preparing the panels… and then did a series in oil of invented birds that were living in my imagination before I started, but that was a long time ago and now I am painting my ultimate pleasure, which is elemental abstracts, by which I mean that they seem to have something to do with the weather.
Now I am finishing a series of paintings that all seem to have something to do with the number 4 —- some of them are 8 feet long, others are 4 feet by 3 feet and most of them are 48” x 48”. And predictably, I am preparing eight Vivaldi concerti. This would seem to be such a simple-minded correlation that it had to be premeditated, but alas, it is simply the path I stumbled down.
The current, Vivalid-provoked paintings are both oil and acrylic… in terms of process, I always start with acrylic and if the painting seems to call out for it, I move into oils. Neither is better than the other though oil is astoundingly messy for me. Some of the paintings emerge instantly, others go wandering down a long long path that takes months to complete.
The materials (supports of wood or canvas, paints, brushes, palette knives, sponges, clothes, sticks, sometimes sand, gold leaf, different paint and media within the paints) present themselves along with restrictions in time and weather conditions (I almost always do my large paintings outdoors).
Same with the preparation of the concerti. I know all of them, yet once I begin working on them seriously, the range of soundscapes and special techniques grows enormously in my imagination. I really imagine a mercurial presentation of this music… some of it very fast, but mostly responsive and shimmeringly colourful, sometimes deeply dark yet always moving, always complex. These things seem almost impossible to achieve at times, but I push down any despair and keep pursuing the potential that seems to exist in the material.
Many of the concerti are not happy with one single tempo… they seem to invite caprice and variation in an operatic or sometimes music theatre kind of way. Some of them drive hard, others present endless possibilities, but a decision has to be made at some point.
How to get the technique that is necessary to play this music the way it lives in my mind… quick, feral, responsive, explosive.
And while the bassoon concerti of Vivaldi have been largely ignored until recently and thus mercifully exempt from the strictures of the imagined bassoonic canon, Vivaldi’s writing still requires profound technical and tonal discipline along with a quintessentially wild imagination.