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Georgianna Krieger: Embracing Music and Art During the Pandemic

Georgianna Krieger: Embracing Music and Art During the Pandemic

Courtesy Georgianna Krieger

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Playing with different musicians is such a joy. I wanted to include as many as possible.
Georgianna Krieger is a teacher, visual artist and performer. She plays baritone, soprano and alto saxophone, and she teaches students ages nine and up at her Oakland, California studio. While studying sculpture at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, she also earned a Bachelor's degree in Jazz and Commercial Music.

Georgianna spent most of her formative years in the college town of Denton, Texas. She has been in the Oakland, California area for about fifteen years. She has a deep passion for both her visual art and her music compositions.

AAJ: How did the pandemic affect you as an artist?

GK: The pandemic had a big effect on me just like others. All of my normal activities had stopped and I had to adopt some new activities, like teaching saxophone online. I found myself not rehearsing and performing music with others. I decided to do writing which is something that I have been doing for some years now but never devoting a lot of time to because I was very busy all the time. So I decided to really focus on writing some music as I was doing it, the imagery was kinda coming to me. All my life people have asked, does music and art go together and can you connect the two? They are separate except in my mind.

AAJ: Were you gigging a lot prior to the pandemic?

GK: I was mostly gigging with an all women jazz ensemble but not a lot. I tried this online application for jamming together, I did that for awhile (laughter).

AAJ: How did that turn out?

GK: It was very frustrating. The technology is not perfect, and you fight a lot with it. There is also a delay, it is a frustrating process (laughter).

AAJ: Were you drawn to the saxophone at the age of nine?

GK: Yeah, for some reason I wanted a saxophone. I asked for one for my birthday and I was not a kid who asked for things (laughter) which is very unusual. You know, it did not go over very well at first but I think after Christmas rolled around and I wanted one, this probably when I was eight. I did not get the saxophone until I was nine. I asked for something twice and I got it.

AAJ: How soon after owning the saxophone did you take private lessons or did you learn on your own?

GK: My dad thought if I was going to have this instrument I am going to learn it. He got me lessons with a man named James Ogilve who was really influential in my life. Someone who is a Buddhist and taught me a lot about music as an art form not just the technicalities of music.

AAJ: When did you begin painting and drawing?

GK: As soon as I could pick up a crayon. Drawing was a favorite activity of mine as fas as I can remember.

AAJ: Who were some of the people that influenced you in that area?

GK: My mom was my first influence. Anna Giannasio Kreiger, she studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Our house was always full of her paintings and art supplies. I was most fascinated by ancient art such as Egyptian and Greek sculpture.

AAJ: Did you study sculpting in college?

GK: I was captivated by the way an object from thousands of years ago could communicate so powerfully about the humanity of the people who created it. That is why I chose to study sculpture in college. I concurrently earned a Bachelor's in Fine Art and a Bachelor's in music.

AAJ: What mediums do you use in your artwork?

GK: I needed to work quickly so I chose watercolor as my medium. Some pieces also have a watercolor pencil or pen. Color has always been a part of my work even when I am sculpting. Presently I am working on a series of busts that are richly colored. The ancient Greeks used vibrant colors in their marble sculptures but it washed away over the centuries. I am using color in a more symbolic way. Color for me is emotive and gives a piece a deeper meaning.

AAJ: What feelings if any, were you going through during the pandemic that compelled you to intertwine both genres or mediums together?

GK: There was a kind of melancholy I think and I was disappointed about some opportunities that were taken away from me by the pandemic.

AAJ: Would you like to share that information?

GK: I lost some gigs including the chance to go to the San Jose Jazz Festival, that would have been my first jazz festival. I had a piece, a sculpture in Healdsburg and they had to turn it into a virtual show. I would have gotten to go to a reception and meet the head of the Center for Arts in Healdsburg but none of that happened (laughter). You know opportunities like that and then everyday opportunities of seeing my students and seeing my fellow musicians, and playing in person with them. And on a more personal level my father was dying in a nursing home, so there was a lot going on.

AAJ: How long have you been teaching?

GK: I have been teaching in Oakland for about twelve to thirteen years. I taught a little off and on throughout my life since I graduated college.

AAJ: What inspired you to create an image for each song on Embrace? Was it your love of album covers?

GK: Yes absolutely, I love album cover art. I always enjoyed like fusion albums, the creative art on them. I wanted to study the album covers, to me it was all improvisation in art form. I went through numerous iterations of each idea. There is a parallel between the way we played the songs together in the recording studio the same way we would play in a live performance. I tried to create the art while thinking of each song. Perhaps my art making informed the way I eventually shaped the songs to some degree.

AAJ: The main thing that connects each song is the melody. Did you use all three, alto, soprano, and baritone saxophones to come up with the melodies? What was your process?

GK: Yeah, I used all three. I feel different when I play the baritone. It is such a different voice, a different melody speaks to me on that instrument. So I used each differently. I write, it is kind of an unusual way to write, to start with the melody. I think a lot of composers are starting with a chord structure first. I come at it the other way, begin with the melody then find a chord structure for it.

AAJ: Tell me about the musicians that you work with on Embrace.

GK: I used a group of completely different musicians. There are a number of musicians that I played with for a number of years. There are a couple that were new to me. It was part of my goal to play with different musicians. It is such a joy and I wanted to include as many as possible.

AAJ: Are they all from the Oakland, California area?

GK: They are all in the Bay area. Oakland is right next door to Berkeley just across the bay from San Francisco. So everyone is right in this little hub.

AAJ: Were all the songs recorded at the famous Opus Studio?

GK: Yes all songs were recorded at Opus Studio.

AAJ: How was the experience of recording during the pandemic?

GK: We tried to create a live recording experience. The piano and the bass were in the same room together, and if there was a guest soloist, the bugle horn or the violin or the bongos, they were all in the same room with the piano and the bass. I was in the control room with the engineer, there is a glass wall between us, so I am separate, on a separate track. So behind me is a booth, the booth is the drummer. The drummer is separated. You get some separation of sound so you can balance the sound. We were playing live and not over dubbing.

AAJ: Did you write, compose and arrange all of the songs on the album?

GK: Yes I did all the arrangements. I tried to pair the saxophones with different instruments to create little duets. I love duets for one thing. The string players I had played with in a previous group. I paired the baritone saxophone with the flute, I like the sound of the two.

AAJ: How long did it take to record all the songs?

GK: It was over a year, perhaps two years.

AAJ: Can you tell me about the image you create for the song "Embrace"?

GK: I tried to create a single brush stroke enveloping like an embrace. Then making it into a negative space, so I wanted to capture the jester of embrace. It was carefully thought out in terms of color.

AAJ: What was your creative process on the song "Social Distancing"?

GK: It is a melody that I came up with, I was online with some other musicians talking about improvisation. I paired it with the cello to create the sense of two voices that were trying to communicate but they are far away from each other. The cello has a very kind of busy counter point line, and the saxophone has a kind of sustained melody line. It did kind of remind me of how were all were on zoom and the connection was not good, and we were trying to say something (laughter).

AAJ: Do you think any of your future projects will consist of combining both music and art forms?

GK: Maybe, I would love to do more along theses lines. I have not reached there yet (laughter)

AAJ: There are many musicians that are also very talented in the visual art form. Do you see both as one genre or do you separate the two?

GK: I do not think there is one single genre that describes the music or the art. That is just the function of the age we live in with access to almost infinite art forms from all periods of history and the present day. It almost feels dishonest if I try to make my work fit into one narrow category because that is not the world we live in today.

AAJ: What would you like others to take away from listening to your music and admiring your art work?

GK: There is some melancholy in it but there is also hopefulness, and some energy. I did not stop creating, if anything I dug my heels in deeper. I would hope that people would find that engaging and inspiring. Sometimes my work is more figurative and representational and sometimes it is more abstract. I think I play music that way too, because I enjoy so many forms of expression, and I like to experiment.

AAJ: Do you have any upcoming engagements with the Embrace Ensemble as well as any art pieces?

GK: Yes, Embrace Ensemble will be at the Back Room in Berkeley, California on Saturday, November 12 at 8pm. I have three new sculptures: California, an allegorical bust depicting the natural beauty of my home state, in cement and paint. Water is Life, an allegorical bust inspired by Autumn Peltier and young women climate activists, cement and paint. Slipping, cast glass with cast stone and pigment, depicting two polar bears supporting the earth and slipping off a melting iceberg. Everyone can visit my slideshow above to see the three archival quality limited edition prints. I wanted to make the art affordable and available to as many people as possible, so it was planned as a series of prints.

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