Art & Design Magazine

Luce Unplugged: Improvised Compositions

By Americanart

One of the coolest things to recently come out of the museum's Luce Foundation Center is our ongoing music collaboration with the Washington City Paper. Managing editor, Jonathan L. Fischer helps us select area bands for our Luce Unplugged Community Showcase and the end result is a magical combination of art, local music, brews, and a great group of people. This time we decided to focus our attention on two bands: Janel and Anthony, and Teen Mom. They will be performing this Friday, September 27, beginning at 6 p.m. Janel Leppin and Anthony Pirog, of Janel and Anthony, stopped by the Luce Center recently to wander through our collection. They found a painting by Gene Davis that immediately caught their attention—and we, of course, had to find out why.

Gene Davis

Gene Davis' Hot Beat

Eye Level (EL): You are currently composing a piece inspired by a work in our collection. Where do you normally find your inspiration?

Anthony Pirog (AP): I find inspiration in many places. Places or environments inspire me quite a bit but you can really find inspiration anywhere. A film, a piece of art, a book, another piece of music or even something that a friend says can create a new idea that then can lead to the development of a new work or process.

Janel Leppin (JL): I find inspiration from as many different sources as I can. A crystal of an idea can be sparked when viewing art or film, reading poetry, practicing, or when doing simple activities. I find that any type of movement sends me into creative states particularly when traveling by train or airplane. More often though, I go over my ideas when I am walking. Another place I tend to find a lot of creative inspiration is at the recording studio. I like to work at The Brink which has instruments of all kinds. Having access to diverse instruments helps jog my creativity in songwriting and helps me think of new song forms or create avant sound sculptures. I wrote a lot of the material from my forthcoming solo album Mellow Diamond while at the studio. No matter where it comes from, it's my hope and desire to come up with ideas daily both at and away from an instrument.

EL: Why did you gravitate to Hot Beat by Gene Davis? What was it that inspired you to write a composition?

JL: My first time seeing his work was at the Phillips Collection which was a very memorable day. His piece Jasmine Jumper, filled the space and had an overwhelming affect on me. I was intrigued by how my eyes involuntarily bounced around the canvas. I can't think of another painting that has affected me in this way. This is the ultimate goal of artistic work: to affect the listener in some memorable way. In our collaboration I would like to draw inspiration from genres that will give some context in which the piece was created. I am often influenced by modal jazz for its ambiance but here I am also interested in bebop and free jazz for the active pattern oriented movement present in that music and in the painting. Fluxus too, comes to mind because of the pieces simple vertical lines and yet there is a complex movement which the color creates across the canvass reminding me of this evocative body of work. I love Fluxus and free improvisation because I feel it releases me from a lot of constructs I have built around myself as a musician. Thinking of this movement can evoke new sounds or ideas and can be very freeing. The graphic scores of John Cage and even psychedelic music resonate with me here as well. But who knows how the composition will turn out in the end. Some ideas may get left behind but sometimes the work surprises me and they get whipped up nicely into one succinct piece. We will see in the days ahead!

AP: I've been drawn to Gene Davis' work for a long time now and I was very excited when we came across Hot Beat in the collection. I really like how the composition of his images can change depending on how you choose to look at them or which colors you decide dominate and that he intentionally incorporated improvisation into his creative process. That is how Janel and I perform in live situations. We have a balance between composition and improvisation that gives each performance a unique feel and character. I'm also attracted to the fact that he was a DC area artist.

EL: What should visitors expect at Friday’s Showcase?

JL: We are happy to present material from our release "Where is Home" and from our coming third album as well as our composition for Gene Davis.

AP: They should expect some new material and some of our favorite compositions from of our first 2 releases. As I said before, there will be a healthy balance between works that we've composed and improvised interludes.

Janel and Anthony perform this Friday at 6 p.m. The Showcase also features D.C. band Teen Mom, which recently released a new song, "Kitchen". You can check out an interview with them about their music and recording a new album on D.C. Music Download.

In case you aren't already convinced, Friday's program also features a free beer tasting (to visitors 21+) by Port City Brewing. See you then!

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