Capturing the spirit and essence of a moment beyond the notes played, Schlanger's significant accomplishment is, in his words, "like making a visible map of the music for the listener." He makes a conscious effort to deal in real time with the music as it is being produced, created, and sent at hyperspeed to listeners, whom he credits as being, "the key part of the equation. [Listeners] really make the whole thing into a live conversation." Schlanger transforms sounds into outlines of musicians and instruments filled with and surrounded by textural splotches, lines, and colors that immediately reveal the intensity, spirituality, and most importantly the communicative element of each musical occasion. The angles and tempos and interaction on stage, and between the audience and musicians, are captured from moment to moment and translated onto large sheets of paper. As only one who has a full empathy for what is going on could possibly create, Schlanger himself has simply said of his abstract and certainly complex, though at the root very real end result - "If the music moves me, it's my most responsive way to listen."
With the ninth annual Vision Festival (May 26th- 31st), the mW® project will be at its busiest. Schlanger will be responding to such highly anticipated events as the near three-decade reunion of the Revolutionary Ensemble (violinist Leroy Jenkins, bassist Sirone, and percussionist Jerome Cooper), bassist Henry Grimes' trio with pianist Marilyn Crispell and Andrew Cyrille, and the Peter Kowald/Wilber Morris Memorial Day Tribute featuring a bassist extravaganza that includes Grimes, Barre Phillips, William Parker, and Alan Silva. Connecting the artistic community by gathering some of the world's greatest improvisers of all art forms, "The Vision Festival contains the seeds of bringing all [the arts] together," compliments Schlanger of the appropriately titled Arts for Art organization that presents the festival each year. It's only appropriate that Schlanger's front-row center seat is reserved for the ninth year in a row, his participation and creation at the Vision continuing to be vital.
The Vision Festival represents to Schlanger a continuation of the concept of a music and arts community similar to the '70s Loft Movement, "a community," he says, "that is committed to improvisation" with founder Patricia Nicholson-Parker and her husband bassist William Parker, the primary "community builders". Having witnessed many of the musicians who survived and grew from this period that nurtured and encouraged communal improvisation, Schlanger is certainly one to realize the significance of what the concept of community can achieve. It is closely interlinked with his lofty mission statement of the mW®: "The vision is to take these individual performance pictures and connect them to form one long scroll, which, seen together, will become a single seismographic record of the energies moving through creative music over time, combined with a simultaneous view of hundreds of musicians actively involved in bringing art into life."
This Memorial Day weekend's Vision Festival will offer the opportunity to not only experience the many memorable if not historic live events featuring over 150 musicians/artists, but also to immediately relive the experience only moments after each set has ended. Stroll to the front of the room, have a glance over Jeff Schlanger's shoulder, and see what his latest installment has captured. It's a rare vision as clear as the mW®, and with each new completed picture, it becomes clearer.
Original art from the musicWitness® Project will be on view next season at the Cue Art Foundation in New York Mar. 17th - Apr. 23rd, 2005. For more information on Jeff Schlanger's mW® project, visit www.musicwitness.com .
All paintings: Jeff Schlanger, music Witness®.
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