Sound, Colour and Community Fuel Collaboration Between Foundation Students and Vancouver New Music Musicians

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By Perrin Grauer

Posted on July 03, 2020 | Updated April 27, 2021, 3:07PM

Modern technologies opened up new possibilities for historical traditions, says faculty member Keith Langergraber.

How does a drawing sound?

Thanks to an extraordinary new collaboration between Emily Carr University students and professional musicians from Vancouver New Music (VNM), we have an answer.

The One-Page Score Project gave students from artist and ECU faculty member Keith Langergraber’s ‘Foundation 165: Core Interdisciplinary Studio’ summer course an opportunity to work with VNM musicians. The result is a series of gorgeous multimedia soundscapes featuring lush instrumentation, provided by VNM’s Vancouver Electronic Ensemble, set against vibrant visual compositions created by Keith’s students.

One-Page Score Project: Dami Jung + Emelie M Lundstrom / Sammy Chien (Chimerik似不像)

With guidance from renowned conductor, composer and artist Giorgio Magnanensi, the class learned about the practice and history of graphic scoring (the representation of music using a visual text other than standard music notes). Giorgio is also the Artistic Director of Vancouver New Music.

“It really opened up the classroom, having Giorgio come in and give a workshop exploring the relationship between sound and visual arts,” Keith says. “Having a composer of his esteem in our virtual classroom really energized the class and also allowed for a group of musicians to work during these trying times, but also to work in a way that maybe they weren't used to, where they had to interpret a visual sound score — a drawing — and turn it into a piece of music.”

VNM Assistant Curator Heather McDermid and ECU’s Dean of Culture + Community Cissie Fu were also key in making the collaboration possible, Keith says. The students whose work is featured in the project are Muskan Arif, Audrey Boy, Tong Fu, Dami Jung, Emelie M. Lundstrom, Jessie Luo, Chelsea Mo, Anna Morozova, Jordan Robertson, Vitoria Yamamoto Silva, Michael O Swanya, Viktor Wu, Maxine Xia and Mino Zhang. Musicians on the project are Adrian Avendaño, Ross Birdwise, Sammy Chien (Chimerik似不像), Brent Cross, Justin Devries, Janine Island, and NJ.

One-Page Score Project: Michael O Swanya, Maxine Xia + Mino Zhang / NJ

Having learned the science and psychology of colour theory earlier in the term, Keith says the collaboration with VNM brought even greater nuance to students’ understanding of how visual arts can influence human experience. Students were also driven to collaborate with one another, Keith notes, since they had to form pairs or small groups to produce the works which VNM musicians then used as cues in creating the sound compositions. And all of these collaborations, Keith emphasizes, happened online.

“The situation allowed us to bond in a way that was definitely accelerated,” he says. “I think this is going to be one of those moments in my teaching career that's special and different and unique, and in hindsight, will not be diminished or reduced in any way because it was online.”

The condensed summer schedule also turned out to be a blessing, Keith adds. Without “a moment to catch our breath,” the class sustained a level of focus that led to “a breadth and gravitas” of work that was remarkable, he says.

One-Page Score Project: Audrey Boy + Tong Fu / Ross Birdwise

“It was really cool! I had students in Nanaimo, I had students in the interior. People had spread out, some people in the city. And that's maybe where it felt a little like some kind of journey. We were heading off into unknown territory. Not to over-romanticize it. But it was something different, and I'd be lying if I didn't say otherwise.”

The distanced learning environment — which Keith says felt something like a “post-future space” — revealed itself to be rooted in tradition, he adds, while taking fullest advantage of contemporary tools and technologies. This temporal span reflects the character of the project itself, which is rooted in a centuries-old art history, yet feels distinctly modern. And to have a group of artists walk away from the experience with an accomplished body of work, he says, demonstrates the very best of both pedagogy and creative practice.

“With new technology and old, these creative partnerships and opportunities, with the right artistic and mental energy, this fostering can happen on any plane,” he says. “We’ve all shared this experience that didn't involve any physicality in three dimensions, but it feels just as real, just as rewarding and just as meaningful. And it's one of those teaching experiences I'm going to treasure.”

You can find all the One-Page Score Project works on Vimeo.