Portals comes home for Midwest premiere

Multimedia performance work explores new ways to frame music


Last month a New York City audience embraced the world premiere of the multimedia concert piece, Portals, and now the work’s come back to its other home, Omaha’s KANEKO, for Oct. 5-6 performances.

As creative director, acclaimed violinist Tim Fain has integrated music by Philip Glass and a host of other noted composers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Aaron Jay Kernis and William Bolcom, with the words of Leonard Cohen, choreography by Benjamin Millepied, visuals by Kate Hackett, and his own virtuosic playing.

KANEKO, whose Open Space for Your Mind mantra invites projects to explore creative boundaries, is a co-producer. The 1111 Jones Street venue’s bow truss event space is where Hackett, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker known for multimedia work, did some principal taping-filming. KANEKO is also where Hackett, Fain and pianist Nicholas Britell presented a preview of Portals last April.

Portals is really a celebration of music that epitomizes what I love and what I think is worth sharing, and the presentation of that music is meant to push what’s possible in a performance and bring it into the digital age in a way that does justice to the music and also to our times,” says Fain.

At its core is a new seven movement partita Glass composed for Fain.

“This piece has as its inspiration one little moment from Philip’s (song-cycle) Book of Longing, where the whole stage went black except for a spotlight that came down on me as I launched into a two-minute really intense piece for unaccompanied violin.”

Fain says he wanted more. He says he also wanted to “recreate that feeling as a performer where you walk into a hall before the performance and nobody else is around. It’s just you and the stage to yourself. The lighting is golden and beautiful. There’s this almost seductive feeling of privacy, intimacy and communing with the music. All leading up to sharing it with the audience…”

Hackett calls Portals a “fluid collaboration between music and film,” adding, “There’s going to be sort of three prongs to this evening, three different feels, all of which come together. All of the pieces are going to be interconnected by spoken-word text. The films accompanying those pieces will have a Webcam feel as they show a day-in-the-life sense of the different collaborators going about their daily business. We’ll get the feeling they’re speaking to each other via Webcam and Skype.”

“The second prong will have a much more produced feel,” she says, “where Tim will be on stage playing and projected behind him will be films of a violinist and a pianist playing. The idea is these players have come together in the Webcam-Skype world and now they’ve created a concert together that only exists in their head space. The third prong is the dance films Benjamin created in New York to accompany the Philip Glass piece. Those films additionally feel like a collaboration that happens through these different portals.”

“The whole idea behind Portals,” says Fain, “is really to…make the multimedia and film element not only something cool and exciting to look at but also a very necessary part of the experience. Musicians and dancers and the audience will all in a sense be signing on to collaborate in an artistic expression through the digital medium.”

At certain intervals, Fain seemingly becomes part of the images projected around him. He hopes this melange creates “something meaningful and beautiful and human.”

This convergence of forms and ideas is just what KANEKO seeks, says executive director Hal France. “This as a collaborative project is perfect for us. It’s cross disciplinary. It has a purpose.” The outside-the-box merging of live and virtual performance creates a new kind of immersion-ensemble experience, he says, sure to provoke dialogue. That’s the point.

For tickets to the 7:30 p.m. shows call 402-341-3800 or visit www.thekaneko.org.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com


Category: Art

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