Jenny Q Chai and Jaroslaw Kapuscinski
Pianist Jenny Q Chai integrates her scientific and artistic curiosity with her new project, “Intimate Streams.” She has partnered with intermedia composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski on an all-Kapuscinski program in which the piano, in collaboration with the artificial intelligence program Antescofo, is used to control multimedia content
Chai integrates her scientific and artistic curiosity with her new project, Intimate Streams. She has partnered with intermedia composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski on an all-Kapuscinski program in which the piano, in collaboration with the artificial intelligence program Antescofo, is used to control multimedia content. With new Artificial Intelligence technologies using the computer as an audiovisual canvas, it is possible to develop new music and musicians to perform with this technology. The composition process involves integrating visual ideas from the start and using music and imagery on a structural, emotive, and semantic levels. With Antescofo score following technology, the computer can be turned into an intelligent and attentive co-performer. As the pianist plays, the computer listens and anticipates her actions. It can then play its own visual and audio parts as a live electronics and visual artist would.
Chai and Kapuscinski use Antescofo to project both electronic sounds and visuals when synced with every note played in real time. Predicting Chai’s playing, Antescofo transmits sounds and visuals in real-time as she plays.
The precision with which Antescofo predicts the notes is almost duet-like. Chai can set up the program with just a laptop, making for a flexible and seamless concert experience for the presenter and audience.
More traditional performances using the artificial intelligence often require a sound engineer and technician.
The newest piece, Intimate Streams, is the first piano/audiovisual piece that is solely written for Antescofo. While preparing the project, Chai and Kapuscinski met in Shanghai a number of times to film the visual components: a calligraphy master’s writing, a Gu Qin (a plucked instrument) playing, and the Gu Qin player teaching Chai how to play the instrument. By using these visuals, Chai will tell the story using the piano and Antescofo.
The program will include four of Kapuscinski’s works that resonate most closely with Chai’s performance aesthetic: Oli’s Dream, Juicy, Where is Chopin and Intimate Streams.
Oli’s Dream (2008) is a collaboration with poet Camille Norton, and an intermedia performance for MIDI piano with real time computer projection.
Oli’s Dream is a playful collaboration between music and writing, between a piano keyboard and a typewriter keyboard, and, above all, between a composer and a poet. An experiment in synesthesia it is an attempt to fuse the temporal modes of music with the spatial and temporal domains of words. In the process, the audience finds itself in the presence of a perceptive, purely aware being, Oli, who creates himself through encounter with words.
Juicy (2009) is a performance/installation for Disklavier piano and computer controlled image and sound.
Fruits and music have a lot in common. Both can be vividly colorful and structurally geometric but even in most formal settings they are never purely abstract. Music is anchored in the body and its emotions, while fruit evokes associations of taste and smell. Their expression is intense yet effortless. Even the simplest melodies or commonest of berries can be intense and sensuous.
Where is Chopin (2010) is a performance/installation that looks for traces of Chopin’s music in the minds and faces of people from around the world.
Where Is Chopin is a search for traces of music in faces of listeners from around the world. The process involved over 150 participants from 12 cities: Beijing, Buenos Aires, Helsinki, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Mexico City, San Francisco, Santiago, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo and Wellington. Private sessions with individual volunteers for whom Kapuscinski performed Chopin’s Preludes Op. 28 were recorded with the help of local photographers. The work brings into focus essences of those experiences by editing, distillation and re-composition of videos capturing rich and fluid world of emotion and of Chopin’s music.
Intimate Streams (流) alludes to many aspects of life: the flow of connection, the flow of water, life, sound, strokes of calligraphy and ink, energy, direction, love, and interaction.
Intimate Streams was developed by Chai and Kapuscinski using an ancient Chinese tale of friendship. According to legend, in the Spring and Autumn Period there lived a lyricist Yu Boya, who was an extremely skilled musician. One day his performance in the open air was overheard by wood chopper Zhong Ziqi. He immediately understood that Yu Boya was depicting lofty mountains and turbulent running water with his performance. Amazed to have found someone with an understanding of his music, Yu Boya developed a close friendship with Zhong Ziqi. When Zhong Ziqi later died, Yu Boya was in such deep grief that he broke the strings of his musical instrument and stopped playing forever. Today, people in China still use the expression “Zhi Yin” (literally, “understanding music”) to refer to close friends, and the phrase “High Mountain and Running River” to mean close friendship or wonderful music. Chai and Kapuscinski have excerpted the “Running River” section for Intimate Streams.
Jenny Q Chai brings science into the concert hall with this striking new project, featuring video representations of climate change data from the research of Dr. Ian Fenty, along with digital paintings by Relja Penezic. The program moves rapidly through musical history, telling a tale of our changing oceans along the way.
Jenny Q Chai‘s “Acqua Alta (High Water)” performance collaboration with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories scientist Dr. Ian Fenty focuses on global warming and its effects on the Earth’s oceans. The music on this program showcases the piano’s full range of expression, from exquisite nuance to bold gesture, as well as a wide range of musical understandings of water dating from both before and after the emergence of global climate change.
The performance also includes sound and video installations based on global warming data curated by Dr. Fenty. The effect of global warming on water has been Fenty’s field of specialization for years, and he offers talks such as “Global Sea Level Rise” and “A Shrinking Polar Ice Cap” alongside the performance centerpiece. In addition, some pieces on the program are paired with the digital paintings of artist Relja Penezic, all of which are related to water. A narrative unfolds over the course of the performance, at first showing the tranquility of water and of humanity living harmoniously with it, then gradually showing a breakdown of that harmony in an increasingly industrialized world, and a troubling of the delicate balance that oceanic life requires.
The first piece of the program, by Victoria Jordanova, is performed alongside the beautiful digital artwork of Relja Penezic. Tangata Manu (or “bird man”) from Marco Stroppa’s Miniature Estrose considers an old custom of the inhabitants of Easter Island, a race to swim across a dangerous stretch of water and retrieve an egg of the migratory sooty tern, thereby winning the coveted title of “tangata manu” for the year to come. La cathédrale engloutie by Debussy and Face of the Deep by Theodore Wiprud meditate further on the power and mystery of water. Wiprud’s piece, written for this project, comes from the point of view of a fisherman who is fascinated by water’s many forms and inhabitants. Orlando Gibbons’s Allemande (Italian Ground) pairs again with Penezic’s painting, this time with a large ship traveling on the ocean. One almost hears in Gibbons’s piece the music emanating from a luxury salon deep within the ship’s hull. The mood grows more precarious with Liszt’s La lugubre gondola and Milica Paranosic’s Bubble (in trouble). One can obviously hear the “trouble” which the ocean faces as the concert’s first half ends.
The second half starts with Kurtág’s Shadow-play, and “Ninnananna,” also from Marco Stroppa’s Miniature Estrose, which foreshadow the terrible changes which the oceans will soon have to undergo. Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata is a dramatic works that syncs with the videos of Fenty’s global warming data. In Musica Ricercata No. 7, the right hand sings a nostalgic and beautiful melody over an insistent, almost mechanical background provided by the left, evoking the division of the half-humanized, half-mechanized 21st century. Musica Ricercata No. 1 is a piece built on rhythm and rising intensity rather than tonal variation, and is performed alongside visual representation of climate data showing the Earth’s oceans overheating in recent years. The program finishes with a three-part audio/visual piece by Cole Ingraham written for the project, utilizing much of Fenty’s data as well as a dramatic half-improvised piano part and electronics.
Works to be performed on the “Acqua Alta (High Water)” program include:
Victoria Jordanova, Loveling
Marco Stroppa, “Tangata Manu” from Miniature Estrose
Claude Debussy, La cathédrale engloutie
Theodore Wiprud, Face of the Deep*
Orlando Gibbons, Allemande (Italian Ground) (1613)
Franz Liszt, La lugubre gondola
Milica Paranosic, Bubble (in trouble)
György Kurtág, Shadow-play
Marco Stroppa, “Ninnananna” from Miniature Estrose
György Ligeti, from Musica Ricercata
Cole Ingraham, Entropy (3 parts)*
*commissioned for this program
Inspired by her radio shows at Shanghai Media Group FM94.7, which is broadcast to over 2 million Chinese listeners, Jenny Q Chai draws a musical map for modern audiences. She traces the history of how contemporary music comes from distinguished predecessors, and how geographical regions and cultural aethetics in music influence and react to each other. The program is a guided listening tour for those who have insatiable musical curiosity about the evolution of music.SCHUMANN – THE INVENTOR OF CHARACTER PIECES:Schumann, Chopin from Carnaval
THE TURN OF THE CENTURY IN FRANCE – FRENCH COMPOSERS’ REACTIONS TO GERMAN-AUSTRIAN MUSIC
Satie, Gymnopedie (called ambient music by John Cage）
La fille aux cheveux de lin
Debussy Etude Pour les huit doigts
THE TURN OF THE CENTURY IN GERMANY AND AUSTRIA – THE 2ND VIENNESE SCHOOL
Schoenberg, Three Piano Pieces Op. 11, No. 3
Webern, Variations for piano, Op. 27 No. 2
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN COMPOSERS’ RESPONSE
Andy Akiho, Response Pieces I Homage a Webern: Transparency played by Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboards)
THE TURN OF THE CENTURY AMERICAN MUSIC – REACTION AGAINST EUROPEAN MUSIC, THE INTEGRATION OF OTHER GENRES OF MUSIC
Ives, Concord Sonata Mvt. 3, “Alcotts”
MID-20TH C. GERMANY – REACTION AGAINST ALL MUSIC BEFORE, ELECTRONIC MUSIC, SOUNDS FROM OTHER PLANETS
Stockhausen, Klavierstuck VIII
FRANCE: NEW SOUNDS AFTER DEBUSSY – RAVEL AND SATIE, MESSIAEN’S BIRDCALLS AND SCALE OF LIMITED TRANSPOSITION
Messiaen, Catalogue D’oiseaux: VIII. L’Alouette Calandrelle
AMERICAN: REACTION AGAIN COMPLEX MUSIC AND 12-TONE TOTAL CONTROLISM – JOHN CAGE, MUSIC OF CHANCE, SILENCE AND PREPARED PIANOS
John Cage, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (singing-speaking piano）
CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN COMPOSERS’ RESPONSE AND CONTINUATION
Andy Akiho, Synesthesia Suite Karekurenai (Crimson) (prepared piano)
Annie Gosfield, Brooklyn, Oct.5, 1941
Richard Sussman, Spirit Guide (jazz and electronics, written for Jenny Q Chai)
(S)yn(e)sth(e)te is an album and concert program which explores the relation between sound and color, the streams of colors from blue to orange. Synesthesia in music has been associated with composers throughout the history of music. Interestingly, many composers and musicians have specific associations with certain pitches and keys – E major, C minor, D major, etc – that can be drastically different from one another, or surprisingly similar. My synesthesia came on gradually, starting with certain notes and colors, but leading to connections with more impressionistic-like watercolors, that is, more of light and shadow, and the blended tones of colors. One thing is certain: synesthesia is an extremely personal experience to synesthetes.In this program, I explore the different synesthetic experiences from a range of composers. For me, it is a stream of colors and moods, with the direction from blue to orange. Wollschleger’s Blue Inscription, Debussy’s slow Étude of fourths and Ligeti’s Second Étude are for me the blossoming of flowers as seen through the lens of time-lapse photography. The swift brushes of Debussy’s eight-finger Étude, the strong colors of Ligeti’s vehement Disordre and the spatial, sometimes-floral-sometimes-dark pieces by Kurtág remind me of Chiaroscuro. Akiho’s Crimsonand Messiaen’s orange-infused music brings a kind of euphoria. For me, each composer has a highly individual synesthesia with each piece, introducing a different kind of association between sound and color. My wish is that the listener to explore this music, and discover their own personal synesthesia.Are you a (s)yn(e)sth(e)te? Can you see?
Visit the (S)yn(e)sth(e)te Amazon page to learn more about the album.
Works on the “(S)yn(e)sth(e)te” program include:
Scott Wollschleger, Blue Inscription
Claude Debussy, Pour les quartes (12 Études pour le piano, III)
Claude Debussy, Pour les huit doigts (12 Études pour le piano, VI)
Andy Akiho, Karakurenai (Crimson) for prepared piano
György Ligeti, Cordes à Vide (Études pour piano, premier livre, II)
György Ligeti, Désórdre (Études pour piano, premier livre, I)
György Kurtág, Bells for Margit Mándy (Játékok, Book V)
György Kurtág, Les Adieux in Janáceks Manier (Játékok, Book VI)
György Kurtág, Shadow-Play: Hommage à Somlyó György (Játékok, Book III)
György Kurtág, Quiet Talk with the Devil (Játékok, Book III)
Olivier Messiaen, Cantéyodjayâ
Empowering women from the East has become a particularly intriguing topic for me, especially because I was born in China. I have also studied, and continue to actively perform, in the West.I designed this program from a storyteller’s perspective. Some pieces describe women and the restrictive solitudes of their lives, including the final work of a beloved teacher of mine—one of China’s most important transcribers of folk tunes to piano music—who has since passed away.There is also the premiere of a work by Jarosław Kapuściński, scored for piano, Gu Qin, visual projections of calligraphy, electronics, and the artificial intelligence program Antescofo. The piece was commissioned by Shanghai Music Conservatory in 2016. An audiovisual narrative by a contemporary virtuoso (“queen of the piano”), it navigates between two kinds of polarities: traditional versus new, and passionate exuberance versus contemplative refinement. The pianist will simultaneously conjure the visual and sound worlds by playing a piano augmented by Antescofo, prompting images to appear on a screen while additional sounds are projected from speakers. The principal material will be recorded in Shanghai and will include calligraphy and guqin two of the most revered artistic traditions in China. The cursive style of writing and the zither’s silk strings will conjure a personal and intimate world. All performers there — including the pianist, the calligraphy master, and the Gu Qin player — are women.
Works to be performed on “Women, Queens, and Empresses of the Orient” include:
Jianzhong Wang, Brief Encounter of the Dream of Red Chambers
John Cage, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
Victoria Jordanova, Moon (Based on Chinese Ancient Poem by Li Bai)
Chen Yi, Duo Ye
Jarosław Kapuściński, New Work, piano with electronics, projection of calligraphy and Gu Qin (world premiere)
Jenny Q Chai‘s adventurous “Piano Steampunk 2.2” is the evolution of her quest to use music as a story-telling device, merging electronics and artificial intelligence to create a rarified world in which science fiction romances are spoken through music. Each piece in the program can be heard as another chapter or scene from a speculative fiction: the anachronistic piano, now merged with singing, shouting, electronics, videos, and even artificial intelligence, becomes a powerful futuristic cyborg.Throughout the program, Chai will share narrative insights into the repertoire and the musical journey with the audience.——-Works to be performed on the “Piano Steampunk 2.2” program include:
Debussy, La cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)
Marco Stroppa, selections from Miniature Estrose
Louis-Claude Daquin, Le coucou
Cole Ingraham, Between Realities
John Cage, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
Cage, Nowth Upon Nacht
Frederic Rzewski, Kreutzer Sonata
Victoria Jordanova, Prayer
Cindy Cox, Études
Jarosław Kapuściński, Juicy
Richard Sussman, Spirit Guide
From Jenny Q Chai:Just as painters and visual artists employ the vast range of colors in the chromatic spectrum in the creation of their art, composers and performers use the truly endless sonic spectrum to create and evoke musical worlds.As a pianist and an amateur painter, I have discovered a personal form of synesthesia – a melding of senses – in regards to how I experience music. And in this all-French program, in repertoire which truly lives at the intersection of color and sound, I explore this meeting of the senses, practicing and preparing each individual piece of music even as I seek to translate my mental imagery into the real world, both through my musical performance, and on the canvas.
In order to fully realize this program, I have applied for a four-month residency at Cité des Arts in Paris, where I’ll be working simultaneously on the musical performance and the paintings of each score here. In the 17/18 season, I will be able to tour the results of this process, offering a simultaneous performance of music and display of my visual art, united for the audience, just as they are in my own personal experience – a visual, sonic intersection.
Fittingly, the repertoire of this program is made up by modern-day French composers paying homage to the most important French composers of the Impressionistic era (the period of musical innovation that is perhaps most strongly tied to a corresponding visual artistic movement). Frédéric Durieux’s Echappée (composed to be played between the last two preludes of Debussy), acts as an elastic band of space and sounds that tie the two Debussy preludes together in an all new context, casting the works in a new, illuminating light. Durieux’s Pour tous ceux qui tombent-Hommage à Ravel ((For all those who fall – Homage to Ravel) relates to the melancholy often found in Ravel’s music, as so beautifully represented by Ravel’s Oiseux tristes (Sad Birds) immediately afterward. The program then shifts to Messiaen’s Prelude cloches d’angoisse et larmes d’adieu which is paired with the Spectralist Tristan Murail’s homage to that work, Cloches d’adieu et un sourire. The entire program finishes on Messiaen’s massive, vivid Cantéyodjayâ, based on Indonesian rhythm.
Works to be performed on the “Sonorous Brushes” program include:
Claude Debussy, Etudes Pour les quartes
Pour les huit doigts
Debussy, Prelude Book 2 No.11, Les tierces alternees
Frédéric Durieux, Echappée, Hommage à Claude Debussy
Debussy, Prelude Book 2 No.11, Feux d’artifice
Frédéric Durieux, Pour tous ceux qui tombent – Hommage à RAVEL
Maurice Ravel, Oiseux tristes
Olivier Messiaen, Prelude cloches d’angoisse et larmes d’adieu
Tristan Murail, Cloches d’adieu, et un sourire… in memoriam Olivier Messiaen
- My very first Talk Show appearance – The Nite Show
- Upcoming Album (S)yn(e)sth(e)te Preview Video
- Showcase solo concert in Paris coming up
- Jenny’s article on her work with AI Antescofo and Ircam, published by Shanghai Concert Hall Magazine
- NYTimes Concert Review: The Pianist Jenny Q Chai, Evoking Chopin Without His Work