Archive for November, 2012

Neo-Realism in Dashanzi Art District

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 Ave Maria

An intriguing gallery entranceway – derelict and unassuming – caught my eye as we rolled into Beijing’s famed Dashanzi Art District. Or at least I thought it was a gallery. Upon closer inspection it turns out it was somehow even better!

I’m still convinced that this was an elaborate art installation, simulating a functioning storage space, serving as a hub for the work crews shoveling sand into nearby wheelbarrows and the guys wearing hardhats who were clambering in and out of an open manhole just across the street. It even had an interactive element, which I discovered when I offered to help shovel a bit. I thought I might be pushing my luck if I joined them down in the sewers though, so I’ll just have to save urban spelunking for another time.

After recording for a little while in the ‘gallery’ pictured above, I got shooed out just as I was taking this panoramic image, which only confirms for me that this was indeed some leading-edge contemporary art installation. And hey, the acoustics weren’t so bad either!

Cool Reception in Beijing’s Art District

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Improv with Ambient Sound Gallery Sounds

More evocative acoustics from a gallery space in Dashanzi 798 Art District in Beijing…

Typical of the plethora of converted munitions factories cum art exhibit spaces in the north-east part of China’s capital city, the atmosphere and acoustics here were phenomenal!

After hanging out for a while, mesmerized by a video installation in the shadows behind a side partition wall, a video depicting a classical pianist performing on-stage as endless buckets of hot, liquid wax are poured over the soundboard, hammers and felts of his grand piano – the soundtrack for which you can hear in the background here – I decided to discreetly assemble my flute in a corner of the gallery and send aloft some flute sounds…hey, what the hec?

Now, you might question my decision to go ahead and play, uninvited no less, in a public space like this, but over the years I’ve developed a bit of a sixth sense with regards to, uh, red tape, so to speak. It turns out my instincts were spot on: my stealth recording had basically gone undetected, but as I was leaving, I politely asked staff if it were cool for me to play my flute a bit in their wonderful art space, an idea which was summarily shut down.

This cool reception was definitely not typical for the warm welcome that I otherwise received while playing flute while in China – everywhere from Ming Dynasty Temples on Wudang Mountain to airport waiting areas, the reaction was consistently one of cordial, friendly curiosity.

Even in Beijing’s Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, no problem…artist-types, what can I say!

 

 

White Space in Art District 798, Beijing

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Gariboldi, Etudes Mignonnes Opus 131

On my final day in Beijing, I had one last chance to do some amazing exploring.

After a morning of essential discount shopping, a gaggle of us crammed into a taxi and sat through heavy traffic to go check out Art District 798, on the outskirts of the sprawling city; it wasn’t until this last day that I got a new perspective on just how massive Beijing really is, and with so many possible things to do before heading back to Canada, I’m happy to report that it was worth the journey!

We had an incredible afternoon, poking around the quiet side streets and stopping in to behold one reclaimed gallery space after another. Hey, Beijing was really cool – don’t get me wrong – but finally, some honest-to-goodness, gritty culture!

Crammed into one huge labyrinthian city block that was once home to munitions factories, the low-slung deco buildings now house a bumper crop of galleries instead of guns. Video surveillance on every corner, mind you, keeping an eye on the graffiti artistes, souvenir shops, cafes and..uh, us!?

While our taxi driver hung around waiting patiently, I inadvertently found myself totally on my own, my friends having gone ahead somewhere to wander the galleries while I held back, camera in hand.

Close by, the open doors of White Space Gallery drew me in and offered a welcome refuge from the midday heat. My thanks to the gallery staff, who were so friendly and welcoming as they let me record one of my favourite pieces by Guiseppe Gariboldi. The vaulted ceiling made for some truly astonishing, memorable acoustics, as I’m sure you would agree as you listen.. remember, headphones recommended.

Yeah, I finally caught up with my friends, who had stopped in at a cafe down the street – I joined them for a beer to toast this last adventure together, at the end of what was truly an epic two week odyssey in China!

Hmm, I couldn’t find Opus 131 that this study comes from.. but here’s some equally charming etudes by the same composer: http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/1/1a/IMSLP173606-PMLP306573-Gariboldi_-_15_Etudes.pdf ..happy playing, et bon chance!

 

Lost in Copenhagen

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Karg-Elert, Caprice #18, Opus 107

Just getting blogging again after wrestling with some nasty technical issues for the past 18 months.. the good news being that most of my urban flute site content was backed up, although it appears some recent posts were lost, including tales of my urban exploring exploits while in Denmark.

On the outskirts of Copenhagen, I had spotted an amazing, abandoned warehouse just off the busy circle road, and finally found a chance to sneak in. The massive interior was fascinating, if rather scary! As I wandered alone once inside, I became captivated by the incredible graffiti adorning the interior walls.. constantly looking over my shoulder, I kept trying to remember what kind of travel insurance I had, in case some of the tag artists dropped by!!

Included in the music I had on hand, I had a copy of Karg-Elert’s 30 Caprices on me. Sigfrid Karg-Elert is one of my all-time fav composers, and once I was warmed up and settled into the space, I decided to brave the rather daunting-looking Caprice #18, the notes of which look pretty black on the page! Despite all the 64th notes, this Adagio really isn’t so bad if you bring out the sustained melodic notes – like a lot of Karg-Elert’s works for flute, this fantastical piece is very well written for the instrument and actually lies so nicely under the fingers.

I fell in love with the spacious acoustic of this desolate warehouse, and the sustained reverberation allowed the ‘vertical’ harmony of the music to bloom and create a decidedly evocative mood, especially accompanied by the waves of highway traffic sounds washing through the space.

Hey, here’s a free download.. scroll down to #18 and you can follow along!