This Saturday evening is an encore performance by members of the Houston New Arts Movement, performing works by Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, César Franck and Maurice Ravel; all late 19th and early 20th century French composers. The performance is titled “Images, Dreams & Impressions”, performance time is 7:30 p.m. at Houston Piano Company, 1600 W. 13th St, Houston, TX 77008. Advance tickets are $15 available online www.artsmove.net/enter/events and $20 at the door. Seating is limited, so get tickets early.
The Houston New Arts Movement is an interesting organization whose members are as diverse culturally, as they are musically. Their goal is to create a group of musicians who listen to and discuss music, compose and perform new works, and collaborate with each other and artists in innovative ways.
For example, when I met founder and composer-pianist for the Houston New Arts Movement, Adam Clay, he and his troupe were performing on the street at White Linen Night, with a mobile piano which was moved in a circle and alternating with the other musicians and dancers circling the piano.
Clay received his Bachelor’s degree with distinction in Piano Performance from the University of Oklahoma on music scholarship. Clay is more than a musician, he is a visionary; combining music with visual art in his groups performances, and adding a new element. I had some questions for him.
What inspired you to create such an unusual nonprofit.
“My inspiration to start HNAM came about gradually and started halfway through my college career,” Clay said. “While practicing long hours in the practice rooms they had at OU, I would often need to stand up and walk around, just to vary up the physical activity with all the mental work. Though these were breaks from playing, they were often sessions of thinking about the music and envisioning it: searching for some visual representation for the music I was playing.”
Clay says that while working on a particularly difficult piece he kept imagining words like – jagged and pointy – and while taking one of his long walks in the art museum next door, stumbled across a painting that captured the musical piece in visual form. It was this connection that got him consciously thinking about the connection between art and music, and eventually how to combine the two in a meaningful way for audiences.
To this day it has been his mission to share his renewed perspective on the music with an audience.
There is an education aspect to the performances as well, please explain.
“Another aspect that’s informed HNAM was my experience of the separation of high art and low art in America’s history,” Clay said. “A book called “High-Brow Low-Brow” details much of that story, but essentially we’ve had this class warfare around classical music in our history, and I felt it was time for peace amongst the two. I have structured HNAM concerts to make the music accessible to all, by explaining some of the more challenging pieces for the audiences before performing them and in program notes. In choosing music, it has been an ongoing balancing act between performing pieces that are not often-played and making concerts accessible to everyone.”
Has the visual art at your performances been well received?
“This season we have featured more artists than ever before, and also performed more concerts than any other season,” Clay said. “It was wonderful meeting all the artists and each of them were able to connect their art to the theme of the concerts, while still presenting surprising and unique works. Many of the concert goers have told me how the art really adds another layer to the experience of the concerts, especially this season as we explored various cultures.”
Vena Ashley is the featured visual artist at this Saturday’s performance and will present a series of photographs that she took in Europe and transferred to wood. She calls her technique photographic mixed media.
The images, though recent, have a rustic, timeless quality that is so prevalent in cities of France and Luxembourg where Ashley was visiting. Stepping out of a concert into a visual artist’s reception is certainly a unique experience.
Ashley’s work is complementary to the performance, as Clay envisioned it back in college. Preview Ashley’s work on-line at VenaAshley.com.
The members of Houston New Arts Movement are international, and all participate in some way, if not performing, then maintaining the website or sound editing. Follow this amazingly innovative group on their website ArtsMove.net.
Cohen is the founder and manager of First Saturday Arts Market. Contact him and get more info about the market at ArtValet.com.