Tag Archives: atzi muramatsu

‘Frog’ – poetry, music and painting

‘Wells of Arthur’s Seat, Swimming Toad, Hunter’s Bog’ Mixed media on 16 x 13 inch wood panel. Rose Strang 2018 £250

I found time to edit this two-minute video – ‘Frog’ – featuring poetry and cello music by Alan Spence and Atzi Muramatsu, and my painting – ‘Swimming Frog, Hunter’s Bog’  – (more info below vid) ..

This was part of the launch event of ‘Wells of Arthur’s Seat’, which has been an incredibly rich experience – learning the history of the wells and their significance, collaborating with Alan and Atzi who responded with such artistic sensitivity to the ideas.

And of course the idyllic mid-summer’s night music performance on the summer solstice, at St Anthony’s Chapel on Arthur’s Seat, by the talented and wonderful Dominic Harris and Riley Briggs.

Watch my little vid of the evening here –

It’s a great parting note on which to leave Edinburgh for my up-coming painting trip to the Isle of Iona, where I’ll be painting purely en plein air, as they say, for a month, from a tent. The island is meaningful to me as I’ve been going there since I was 20 (back in the far mists of time!)  so I’ll post on that soon.

Thanks again to everyone involved in this last project, I think it will yield further fruit in future!

Private View – Wells of Arthur’s Seat

Saturday’s Private View of Wells of Arthur’s Seat was a wee oasis of healing, arts and magic!

All paintings in the series can be viewed Here . Background ideas of the project Here

I look forward to sharing the poems and music (I’m editing video tomorrow), which I hope will convey the atmosphere created on Saturday –  the sense of calm – of water, flora and fauna, and my delight at the way Atzi Muramatsu and Alan Spence interpreted this.

Photo – Liza Horan http://mediamoxie.com/

Photo – Donald Ferguson

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the evening, for me, was Alan Spence reciting his poem Frog, with Atzi finding sounds on his cello that captured the very essence of water, or the spring of a frog’s legs as it plops into the water!

Alan introduced this frog poem last of all, describing how the Haiku poets (particularly Basho, and Japanese artists) often referenced the frog.

One of my paintings was titled ‘Swimming Frog, Hunter’s Bog’ – an appealing and amusing rhyme for a poet’s ear! As he explained – “Hunter’s Bog meets Basho’s frog – the last line of one of Basho’s poems is sometimes translated as the sound of the water” …

FROG

there’s this wee frog

in hunter’s bog –

furuike ya…

in hunter’s bog

just this

wee frog

kawazu tobikimu…

just this wee frog

mizu no oto

the sound

                    the water

the sound of the water

(Alan Spence June 2018)

 

That really made me smile! The pleasing simplicity and evocation of happiness in nature – especially after all my walks in Hunter’s Bog on Arthur’s Seat this past year.

In the next two weeks I’ll post a video featuring the music, poetry and paintings. (We will also be developing the project in September this year, to show to a bigger audience).

Lastly, my warm thanks to the following …

Atzi and Alan, for inspiration, and love of the arts. Donald, Sabine, mum and Catherine for helping make the event happen, and their support and enthusiasm. David Finnie, for buying my paintings and being such a welcome presence at these events, as are his wife Fiona and daughter Sarah, for such friendly and responsive presence.

Thanks to Scott Terris for bringing flowers, and Liza Horan (owner of Media Moxie) for these lovely words on Facebook –

As the windy rain transmuted to a vibrant sunset, Rose Strang shared a very special collaboration with Atzi on cello and Alan Spence on verses of haiku. The paintings sang of Arthur’s Seat and St. Anthony’s Well within, while the strings bounded high and sunk low, and the colorful haiku captured the rhythm of the place. Congrats and thanks for sharing your spirit and work.

Thanks to all for coming – you’re always welcome!

Also, someone anonymously left these flowers outside the door during the event. Thank you too! How fitting, when the healing rituals of Arthur’s Seat’s wells were sometimes completed with a gift of flowers …

Interview with Atzi Muramatsu, Cellist/Composer

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It’s just a week away from my upcoming Hebridean trip and collaboration with author and poet Louise Palfreyman and cellist/composer Atzi Muramatsu. I’ll be travelling with Louise, then post-Hebrides we’ll be collaborating with Atzi (hopefully all of us returning to the Hebrides early next year if funds/time allow).

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Lipsync for a Lullaby

I’ve known Atzi for about 10 years, having met him on various occasions at a variety of venues, concerts and arts events where he performed as a composer and cellist in a variety of genres, from contemporary classical, to performances as part of string quartet Lipsync for a Lullaby and on film scores including The Violinist and The Making of Longbird. I’ve been lucky to work with him on several projects since 2013.

As mentioned a few weeks ago I’m featuring an interview with both of these talented, lovely people in my blog, which started with Louise Palfreyman (interview Here) and Atzi Muramatsu today…

Rose: Hi Atzi and thanks for doing this interview. I’ve known you for quite a few years and was always intrigued by your approach as a musician. Your work crosses genres from classical to contemporary but also you work a lot in collaboration with various artists and artforms from dance to film, theatre and art.

Can you tell me a bit about your background, where you were born and grew up, why you decided to study music and move to the UK?

Atzi: I was born in Japan and grew up there mostly. I tagged along with my father who was transferred to London for his work in 2000. I was simply bored of living in conservative Japan where I felt openness and individuality were not appreciated. I spent a couple of years in London before I came to Scotland to study something unrelated to music. I have always played music, mainly fronting bands. But it was not until a later stage that I picked up a cello and started writing music in broader terms. I was lucky that the music professors and post graduate students at Edinburgh University’s music department saw potential and recommended me to study composition.

R: I’ve observed that a strong classical music training can sometimes produce musicians who work only within that tradition; it can be restrictive perhaps to creativity, or appreciation of other genres. Can you talk a bit about the different music forms you work with, and what inspired you to do stray across the usual musical boundaries?

A: I’m not a classically trained musician. As most things I do in life I taught myself to play, 13872730_10153627765561990_659229452562438133_nread and write music. It was a very natural progression as a musician playing in bands getting more interested in contemporary classical music. What many classical musicians suffer is the fear of making the simplest mistake and therefore failing an audition. It’s really a Pavlovian classical conditioning of fear. But I also know a lot of classically trained professional players who are most wonderful improvisers and creative geniuses.

R: Recently you won the Best Composer Award at the BAFTA Scotland New Talent Awards for your work on a short film ‘The Violinist’. I was delighted for you and think it’s very much deserved, because as well as your being talented I know how hard you work. How did it feel to receive the award? Was there a sense of your efforts being recognised at last?!

A: Yes most13882216_10153627759936990_6330063843030683022_n certainly. It’s the accumulation of work you do that leads to things like this. Not just writing for films, but all the playing and collaboration with many artists as that lead to things like an award. Every little thing you’ve done in the past builds your confidence and projection. Having said that, a nomination and a win was a bit of a surprise. I thank the people involved in making the film and putting the £30 entry fee on my behalf. I didn’t even think of submitting the film for the award until prompted.

R: How would you describe the collaborative process? What do you enjoy about it or find inspiring?

10525933_10153036822325555_1424638312654243402_nA: It’s that sheer euphoric moment when something sparkles in your brain and all of a sudden everything gets very exciting, new, and challenging. It’s hard to get the same stimulus when you’re working on your own.

R: One of your pieces that I first became interested in was ‘Five seconds left’, it spoke to me about the feeling of journeys, though that was my subjective response of course. You generously let me attach it to a video I’d made of slow-motion waves from a ferry (link below). Can you talk about that, the inspiration and why you chose that title?

Link: Five Seconds Left

A: The music was an experiment I did long time ago when I was teaching myself some theory. I wrote this piece in 5/8 timing, and the key is constantly shifting so that it makes a full round of circle of fifths. The music is nostalgic, and it seems it goes on repeating forever. But that’s the illusion, thus the title. It does come to an end.

R: In 2013 we began to loosely collaborate when you improvised on cello in response to my paintings as part of an exhibition launch. I’m a strong believer in improvisatory and experimental approaches, it keeps the creative process fresh, but it takes someone experienced to make it work as a successful performance or artwork; a final work in itself. I’ve watched you improvise on many occasions and you always appear very comfortable with improvised performance for the public. Can you tell me more about your approach to that? For example, talk me through your improvised response to one of my paintings – ‘Moonlight on Eigg’ (which I recorded on a small camera at the time, link below). I find it an absolutely beautiful piece and was very moved by it.

A: A couple of weeks ago I saw this Brian Cox interview where he’s asked by a schoolgirl how he manages his time playing music and working out physics. I don’t think anyone in that TV show really understood what he meant, but his response sums up what I do. Music and physics are both simply a human response to the environment. I am simply channeling what I see and feel into my playing. There is no right or wrong. I might play something that sounds horrible, but it doesn’t matter because I’m merely a vessel to transpose the environment into sounds. It’s really up to the people who are hearing the music to decide what’s working and what’s not. In that sense, yes I am very comfortable. I’m not being judged on anything here

R: In September 2015 we visited the Isle of Eigg as part of a year-long project about Eigg. It was a stroke of luck that our trip coincided with a boat tour of a ship called ‘The Leader’ which was cruising around the inner Hebrides  and Eigg, with geologists, writers artists and musicians on board. (The trip re-created the journey made by geologist Hugh Miller who discovered the bones of a Plesiosaurus on the north coast of Eigg in the summer of 1844).

I remember we joined in on a day-trip to the cliffs at the north end of the island with geologist Prof’ John Hudson and poet Norman Bisset among others. We stopped at the foot of the cliffs where you began to write your piece for string quartet ‘Gaia Metempsychosis’ (link below, work in progress) Can you talk me through that – what you were thinking or feeling as you sat beneath the cliffs, and the ideas behind the piece?

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A: Oh yes that was an inspiring trip. I have this fascination with death and decay, like most artists do. It’s a mirror image of life and prosperity. Darker the room, brighter the flame. Anyhow, I saw the ancient rocks finally melting in the sea in front of me. The history died. That was an inspiration. That feeling contrasted being on the island where a lot of people living there are expats who chose a self-sustainable alternative life. So I began writing the sketches of what became the string quartet piece, where there is a lot of death that is also celebratory. I did imagine skeleton bones in an underworld ball room while I sat there.

 

_mg_7671R: On our return to Edinburgh you worked with Jennifer (poet J.L. Williams) on a poetry and music collaboration in response to the paintings and themes of the Eigg project, which was performed live at the Scottish Storytelling Centre against the backdrop of my paintings (The ‘Eigg Trilogy’). I named one painting ‘North –Transmigration’ based on the ideas you’d discussed, which echoed what I wanted to capture in the painting – the passing of time, or the way we distill time through art and the creative process. Jennifer’s poem in response was also very moving, and I was struck by the intensity of the combined works. As you know, this collaboration is a real highlight for me, among many years of working in collaboration with artists. Can you tell me more about how you and Jen worked on that, and the process, particularly for ‘North – Transmigration’?

Link -North Transmigration

A: We sat and recorded the music and poetry live in her living room. It had to be spontaneous, and I wanted to respond to both the paintings and her readings. There are a lot of elements I picked on from both the reading and the painting; tempo, velocity, volume, brightness, associated memory, etc etc. They all morphed into this one thing which I was, again, a vessel to make them into sound.

R: Lastly, I’ve focused mostly here on our collaborations, but would you like to talk about what you’d like to do in future musically? Also, you’ve composed a series of successful pieces for film, can you give an example or two of your favourite film music scores by yourself and by other composers?

A: Currently I am working with a real-time music sampling artist Dave House (a.k.a. The Reverse Engineer). We are an experimental electro-pop duo with a gig coming up. We are both enjoying the process very much as we both venture out from our comfort zones. I’m mainly singing and dancing in this.

I really like what Jonny Greenwood does in PT Anderson films. He’s a serious scholar in contemporary music but following rather traditional composers like Olivier Messiaen. Often film directors are scared of putting on music that have too much emotional drive to it, so working with a director who understands your artistry is a gift. I’m not sure if I actually like any music that I’ve ever written. I rather have other people be the judge, so that I can free myself from that constraint. I am most self-critical of my work and it’s frankly an annoying trait.

R: I think self criticism is true of any artist, I know there’s usually a point when I’m painting where I wail – ‘I can’t paint’! If we’re doing it right it’s probably necessary. There was an interview with David Bowie a few years ago where he laughingly but honestly described the process as quite painful, we get angry and frustrated with ourselves. In your case Atzi, I’d say it’s worth the pain, or at least I know there’s plenty of people who appreciate the results! And I’d like to say – that sparkle you talk of (in answers above) when collaborating, is mutual. Thanks for taking time for this Atzi, and I look forward to working with you again later this year.

More Links…

 

‘Eigg Island’ launch event and performances

Jennifer L Williams perfoming 'West', 'North' and 'East'

Jennifer L Williams and Atzi Muramatsu performing ‘West’, ‘North’ and ‘East’ (Photography Eleni Laparidou)

The exhibition of Eigg Island launched at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Thursday evening last week. It was a great success, with 60 or more people attending and much positive feedback about the performances and artworks. You can view all the artworks Here.

I was as always very moved by the poetry and music performances of JL Williams and Atzi Muramatsu. Atzi Muramatsu also performed his piece for string quartet, Gaia Metempsychosis which took its inspiration from the fossil filled cliffs at the North end of Eigg.

These works were created as part of our on-going collaboration inspired by Eigg Island, and the 6 minute video (below) brings together paintings, music and poetry created for the project

Photos of the launch (below), were taken by Photographer Eleni Laparidou  (EL Photography)

This is a link to the video of the Eigg Island launch event courtesy of Summerhall TV, an arts channel dedicated to promoting the arts in Scotland.

Thanks again, to everyone who took part in the launch event!

 

North; transmigration

'North'. Mixed media on 40x40" redwood panel

‘North’. Mixed media on 40×40″ redwood panel

Happy days. I love it when work and ideas merge together into new forms.

The above painting is North, second in the series of three paintings for the upcoming Eigg Island exhibition. It was inspired by  a day in September on the last visit to Eigg, on the geology trail with geologist Prof’ John Hudson, who showed us fragments of bone from a Pliosaurus (estimated to have lived about 147 million years ago).

We sat underneath the fossil-filled cliffs on the north end of the island and ate lunch whileP1140952 Atzi Muramatsu began (unbeknownst to me!) to write a music piece which became ‘Gaea Metempsychosis’; a piece for string quartet, which will be performed at the exhibition launch.

It occurred to me after a day of painting the final touches of North that it would make perfect sense to add Atzi (the musician I’m collaborating with alongside poet JL Willams for the exhibition) on the cliff. Once painted I gave him a quick call to make sure he didn’t feel a bit ‘Dorian Gray’ or superstitious about it, but he thought it was a great idea as long as it worked for the painting!

P1200137‘Metempsychosis’ is a Greek word meaning transmigration of the soul – or its reincarnation after death, ‘Gaea’ meaning of course – the earth. So the inspiration of fossils, and of being on the island in a particular moment in time, yet feeling the sense of our own infinity – and that, like fossils, we become part of the landscape once more, was the inspiration behind Atzi’s music.

North’s place in the trilogy of paintings, is to represent the idea of the reality of being on a Hebridean island, after imagining what that experience will be like, because to me there’s always a time when you feel not a part of the landscape, you’re not sure of your place in this wildness of sea and cliffs, although of course we are a part of it.

I have a piece of marble that I collected from the Isle of Iona (the beautiful small island off the coast of Mull on the west coast of Scotland). It represents the idea of ‘Gaea Metempsychosis’ exactly to me. Iona was the first place where, in my early twenties I felt a powerful connection to nature – I felt my place in the cycle of everything.

The piece of marble in the photo to the right is formed  by the minerals of  tiny sea creatures P1200138from millions of years ago, their remains crushed by the weight of  rocks and ocean over time into dense, heavy white marble. You can see seams of serpentine – a silicate formed by algae and water that ran into cracks and faults of the marble.

It’s so beautiful, and it’s from a very rare seam of marble on the south side of the island that’s pretty difficult to find for newcomers. Islanders mined it about 100 years ago to form the alter in Iona Abbey, but to me it’s is best experienced on those south cliffs of Iona, looking out over a wild blue sea.

It’s quite difficult to express how rewarding collaboration is; when ideas connect – also the way that nature inspires and makes meaning of our lives. I felt very similarly about the recent Lindisfarne collaboration with poet JL Williams – view video here – When you write to the light..

Performances at Whitespace exhibition preview

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Postcards for the Whitespace exhibition. (don’t forget! – Preview 6-9pm 18th July!)

With just 16 days to finish four large works I’m slightly fretting! But with painting you can only take each day as it comes.

Performances for Whitespace

I’m very happy that two Edinburgh friends will be performing for the Whitespace exhibition preview on the 18th – Atzi Muramatsu and Jennifer Williams

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Jennifer is originally from New Jersey, she’s currently Programme Manager for the Scottish Poetry Library but for many years has been a writer, talented poet, and a performer with beautifully atmospheric vocal expression.

A book of Jennifer’s work Locust and Marlin has recently been published (viewable on title link)

 

Website: http://jlwilliamspoetry.co.uk/

 

222761_10150164579576990_6756518_nAtzi Muramatsu, originally from Japan, is a talented cellist/composer who also wrote the filmscore for BAFTA award-winning film ‘The Making of Longbird’.

For the Whitespace preview, Atzi will be improvising music in response to my paintings  – he improvised at last year’s exhibition, and it was such an imaginative way of perceiving the paintings – which also focused viewers amongst the busyness of a social occasion.

In addition to classical performance, Atzi also plays in the melodious yet moody Lipsync for a Lullaby

Website: http://www.atzi.co.uk/

It’s just great that Jennifer and Atzi will be performing at the private view, it makes this into a really special event!

50 Paintings of Eigg Series: No. 3

Eigg Series. No 3. Acrylic, ink and salt on 5x5 inch wood

Eigg Series. No 3. Acrylic, ink and salt on 5×5 inch wood (Sold)

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Sometimes life seems to move too fast. It’s difficult to be present and I feel inadequate; too distracted and impulsive to be in the moment the way I want to be. It brings the character of Ricky Fitts to mind (or writer, Alan Ball) in the film ‘American Beauty’:

‘It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.’

Sanskrit philosophers wrote about presence thousands of years ago, but I like the immediacy of Alan Ball’s take on it – a plastic bag in the wind, which brings us into the here and now, and our anxiety producing world of rapid change and competition.

Below is a short video I took of waves from the Mallaig-Eigg ferry, accompanied by music from my friend Atzi Muramatsu, who moved from Japan to the UK some years ago. When I first heard this piece I was reminded of the rhythm of boats, waves, and the anticipation of journeys.

 

More music by Atzi here https://soundcloud.com/atzi-1

Website: http://www.atzi.co.uk/