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Classical 101

Free World Premiere of Multimedia Musical Work Sunday in Columbus

In reflecting on her role in the upcoming world premiere of composer HyeKyung Lee and multimedia artist Christian Faur's chamber work Dreaming in Colors, Columbus pianist Mariko Kaneda likened preparing to perform a new musical work for the first time to exploring in the darkness. "It's a little bit like going into the dark and discovering yourself," Kaneda said. Good thing, then, that when Kaneda and the other members of the Columbus-based Canaletto Ensemble premiere Dreaming in Colors at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12 at the Columbus Museum of Art, they'll be illumined in the metaphorical darkness by a vivid array of original video projections and other visual elements at the heart of the work's conception and meaning. Commissioned by the Sunday at Central concert series and the Johnstone Fund for New MusicDreaming in Colors blends acoustic music for piano quintet and computer-generated music with original visual elements into a multimedia work of novel conception. "I've seen a lot of electronic music working great with visuals, but acoustic music is a little bit hard to (combine with visuals)," Lee said. "This (piece) is very unique. You definitely don't see that often." And in the run-up to the new work's world premiere, the collaborating artists say "conception" - in every figurative sense - is the operative word. Although in months of collaboration Denison faculty members composer HyeKyung Lee and multimedia artist Faur have refined their concept for Dreaming in Colors, and the musicians of the Canaletto Ensemble have rehearsed their parts, the artists - along with their audience - won't experience all of the work's musical and visual elements together until Sunday's world premiere. "I would even say the work hasn't been born yet, " said David Niwa, artistic director of Sunday at Central and violinist with the Canaletto Ensemble. "We're not going to fully know how it's going to be until it's over." The Color of Sound When Lee received the commission from Niwa for a new chamber work, she knew immediately that she wanted to collaborate with Faur. The two have worked together on multiple projects since Lee joined Denison University's faculty in 2006, and Lee thought Faur's "color alphabet" - his translation of each letter of the Roman alphabet into a distinct color - would offer a fertile field of possibilities. "I immediately thought, 'Oh, I could use that spelling as my basis for the notes,'" Lee said. But on further exploration, that possibility went in an unexpected direction, and instead Lee and Faur took color as a conceptual starting point and, each in his or her own way, went from there. "My inspiration was the film The Wizard of Oz and the horse of the many colors, and the idea that The Wizard of Oz was this piece that introduced color back into the world of the Great Depression after having come out of it," Faur said. "The Wizard of Oz kind of ushered in a new era based on the fact that it introduced Technicolor right near the beginning, when Dorothy leaves Kansas. So for me, I’m taking that as my point of departure for the Dreaming in Colors title and the (visual) elements." In formulating her music for Dreaming in Colors, Lee drew on both the general idea of music based on color and on her Korean background. "I started with the image of a bluebird," Lee said. "I had been thinking about this Korean folk song called 'Bluebird' for a long time, and I thought, 'Oh, I could finally use that as a starting point.'" The Sound of Color Faur's and Lee's respective starting points led them to create an eight-movement musical work inspired by the music of Bach, Beethoven, Bartok and minimalist composers, each movement bearing a title inspired by a particular color and comprised of music and visual elements intended to evoke a particular mood. The work opens in the world of reds with "Carmen and Crimson" - which Lee described as "anxious" in mood - and proceeds through "Shadows of Clouds" ("tempermental"), "Bluebird Winter" ("hopeful") and other color- and mood-themed movements to a vivid grand finale. The title movement of Dreaming in Colors is also the work's centerpiece, and consists of computer-generated music combined with an original animated film by Faur. But although the animated piece is at the heart of the work, Faur sees it and all of his visual elements as second fiddle to Lee's music. "The music itself should be the most important thing, as well as the performers," Faur said. "I've worked with dance in the past, and theater, and I find that you do not ever want to overwhelm the performers with too much visualization. It's such a beautiful musical piece. I'm just super happy to be part of it. It's amazing work." The Canaletto Ensemble, composer HyeKyung Lee  and multimedia artist Christian Faur will discuss their collaboration in a talk-back after the world premiere of Dreaming in Colors, 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12 at the Columbus Museum of Art on the Sunday at Central series.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.