Ear Supply: The Sight of Music

Music and visual art, intertwined and unveiled together.

Not long ago, composer Laura Kaminsky (former head of the Cornish College music department, currently of New York City) was mulling the details of a new commissioned work for the Seattle Chamber Music Society's summer season at Benaroya Hall just as her partner, visual artist Rebecca Allan, was negotiating a show of her paintings with SAM Gallery, one block away. Collaboration seemed natural: Both have long drawn inspiration from nature and landscape, so they chose to base their new works on six regions of the country which Allan had photographed—including Florida's Manasota Key, on the Gulf Coast, where they worked together at the Hermitage artist retreat; New York City, specifically the view of the Hudson from their apartment; and Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island. Kaminsky and Allan then retreated to their studios to craft responses to the photos, each in their own medium, sharing their works in progress to spur each other on. Their results, both the gallery show and the 25-minute piece for three players, are titled Horizon Lines. (Allan's show opened July 6 and runs through Aug. 5.) In a first for the SCMS, Kaminsky's premiere this Friday will include a visual component by yet another collaborator. As they worked, the two artists sent samples to filmmaker John Feldman, including Allan's sketches for her new paintings and the original photos. The six-part film he fashioned from these will be screened alongside Kaminsky's new piece. As she describes it, it's "a fourth voice to the performance—the oboe, bassoon, piano, and then the film." Feldman's challenge was to create motion out of still images: "We did not want a PowerPoint presentation," says Kaminsky. "[The film] has to have a real dynamism and life of its own." Though instrumentalists play together all the time, composition and painting are usually solitary pursuits; but in this instance, the spirit of chamber music has infused not only the format of Kaminsky's new trio, but her working method. "It's been a wonderful experiment for us as a collaborative couple," she says, "to be able to not just make a life together of quotidian activity, but an artistic life." 

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