Showing posts with label Norman Perryman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norman Perryman. Show all posts

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Seeing is Believing: Norman Perryman paints the music

Last night I was describing the musical work of the painter Norman Perryman to some artistic friends who were young in the 1960s. "That's rock'n'roll!" they declared. It is. And it's also going to rock Symphony Hall Birmingham next Saturday, when Perryman and his projectors join the CBSO and Mirga Gražynitė-Tyla to perform The Sea by the composer and artist Mikolajus Čiurlionis, Lithuania's most celebrated artistic figure, one whose music is hardly ever heard in the UK – though Mirga, herself Lithuanian, is about to change all that. Čiurlionis's combination of musical and visual artistry makes him the perfect outlet for Perryman, who creates "kinetic painting" live in concert. 

Video trailer for Saturday from the CBSO:

As I have adored Norman's work for years, yet never before had the chance to see him in action in a top UK concert hall, I thought we should ask him for a guest blog. He has kindly provided one, so here it is. JD

A guest post by Norman Perryman

“What? Are you crazy? Have you ever done this before?” 

“Yes, for 45 years or so.”

For years, I’ve been trying to verbalize what I do – create a hybrid art-form of flowing colours and light in synch with the music. Unlike a framed static painting, this painting only exists in real time – for as long as the music lasts. Instead of using computer-generated images, I use my hands, as musicians do. My instrument is my paintbrush. I don’t just improvise. I memorize the score, mark it up with my choreography for brushstrokes and colours, then practise for months before the performance.

Rather than synthetic pixelated images, I prefer pure analogue fields of flowing colour that touch our emotions with their organic properties. When these watercolours are magnified with my overhead projectors onto a ten-metre wide screen as I paint, they acquire an other-worldly quality. But words fail me - seeing is believing.

Every day now in my studio, as I practise my lyrical expressionist painting for a performance of the symphonic poem The Sea, by Lithuania's national hero the painter/composer M.K.Čiurlionis (1875-1911), I feel deeply moved. By the end of this 35-minute piece I’m almost in tears, with a sense of having plumbed the depths of his “boundless longing” for a sublime mystical experience with Nature. After months of work, his music is in my blood, in my ears, day and night. I feel we know each other. It’s time now to show this to the world.

Widely regarded as one of the precursors of European modern art, Čiurlionis was steeped in the cultural philosophies of his day, in his case visualized in hundreds of paintings of mystic symbolic landscapes, seascapes and fantastic architecture. It would be totally inappropriate to try to imitate his paintings. Instead, I take my inspiration from his music to show in my own style of painting, how visual and emotional his music is. Had he lived longer, he might have become one of the early film composers, who knew how to underscore the drama of the movies. I myself underline the emotions of the music with my own movies of abstract lyrical images.  

I shall never forget the moment when two years ago the new Lithuanian CBSO Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla flipped through one of my heavily marked-up scores and exclaimed: ”Aha… you paint the music!” Then, after 20 seconds fast-forwarding through a video-trailer of my Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, she looked at me very thoughtfully and said: “We must work together, with Čiurlionis”. The obvious choice for my fluid watercolours was The Sea.  I spent the following summer travelling in Lithuania, to soak myself in its rich culture and nature. I felt I was in the very heart of Europe. That visit and following studies played an essential part in my understanding of The Sea and of the amazing man who wrote it. 

How did it all start? As a Birmingham art-college student in the early 1950s, I couldn’t afford lunch, so my lunch-times were spent at free concerts given by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra just across the road in the Town Hall. I was wrestling with the choice of studying music or art. My compromise was to dedicate my life to finding a way of satisfying two passions, by bringing these art-forms together. Forty years later, it was the visionary Simon Rattle who recognized my ambition. He suggested working together with his CBSO and in 1993 BBC Television filmed the results in the documentary entitled Concerto for Paintbrush and Orchestra. Since then, after 25 years of performances worldwide, it feels like coming home to be back in Symphony Hall, this time via a pathway that led to Lithuania, of all places.

But I was also appalled with the realization of how tragic and complex the history of Lithuania is, despite having been the largest and one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. Many of us are ignorant of the significance of this tiny country and of the many cultural heroes it has produced. Did you know that Jascha Heifetz, Philip Glass, Bob Dylan, Sean Penn, Leonard Cohen and our celebrated author Jessica Duchen, to name just a few, all have Lithuanian roots? [another story, that - JD]

It’s been a long road, so this performance with Mirga and her CBSO in Birmingham Symphony Hall on 16  February, Lithuania’s Independence Day, is a huge milestone for me. I’m proud to play a modest part in the ongoing cultural renaissance of the city where I was born.

Norman Perryman

Norman Perryman is with the CBSO and Mirga Gražynitė-Tyla at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, on Saturday 16 February, 7pm. More info and booking here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

New Perryman portrait for Symphony Hall...

This is Norman Perryman's brand-new watercolour portrait of Bryn Terfel as The Flying Dutchman. It is due to join the substantial gallery of this unique music-focused artist's work at Symphony Hall in his native Birmingham, where it will be unveiled on 7 June.

Norman writes on his blog:
"This painting is inspired by fragments of the Dutchman’s role that Bryn sang to me in our portrait “sitting” (actually standing) in a Milan apartment. He chose parts of the famous monologue “Die Frist ist um” (“The term is up…once more”) when the Dutch captain is pleading with the angel in heaven and wrestling with his fate. The mariner is condemned to roam the seas, allowed to go ashore after every seven years. But if he can find someone who will be faithful to him unto death, he will be released from his curse. Since then, I’ve been playing this opera continuously in my studio (and every other recording Bryn has made!). My paintings are always driven by the music and I delved deep into the intense emotions of the plot, from depression to disappointment, ecstasy and tragedy. It gets quite exhausting!

"Rejecting idiosyncratic images from various opera productions, I put together my own impressions of Bryn as the Dutchman, with a seaman’s hands, tanned complexion, long hair and leather long-coat and with a somewhat ambiguous expression, somewhere between desperation and a glimpse of hope. The background and brushwork suggest not only the stormy atmosphere, but the emotional drama of the surging music. Bryn’s phenomenally expressive voice and his dramatic stage presence made the creation of this painting a very intense experience." ...
Read the rest of his post about the painting here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Three easy ways to get into opera

La Voix Humaine from washmedia on Vimeo.

1. Combine exploring opera with your passion for the piano. If you're heading to the Institut Francais's big three-day keyboardfest, It's All About Piano - starting today and running through Sunday - catch the screening of Poulenc's one-woman opera La Voix Humaine, filmed with the one and only Felicity Lott - with piano accompaniment, in which version it's been recorded for the first time, delivered by the brilliant Graham Johnson. Sneak preview above. The screening is tonight at 8pm - and if you turn up at 6pm you can hear Nick van Bloss play the Goldberg Variations and a four-hands programme from Lidija and Sanja Bizjak at 7pm.

2. Pop over to CultureKicks for my latest post, which is called "How to get into opera in under six minutes". You'll find a quick guide to Rigoletto, a film of its astonishing quartet 'Bella figlia d'amore' and a short explanation of why it shows to perfection what opera can do that just cannot be done nearly so well in any other art form... (Lovely editor there then said "What about Wagner?" to which the response can only be: "Well, what about Wagner...?" Watch that space.)

3. Listen to Andris Nelsons conducting. I've just been in Birmingham doing some pre-concert talks for the CBSO's Beethoven Cycle, which he, their music director, is doing for the first time. Honest to goodness, guv, this guy is amazing. Not sure I've seen anything so purely energetic and with so much warmth since...well, who? Jansons? Solti? The atmosphere in Symphony Hall - which was sold out - really had to be experienced. Nelsons, who hails from Latvia, cut his musical teeth as an orchestral trumpeter and started off, as so many great maestri do, in the opera house, and he's married to the soprano Kristine Opolais, who's currently wowing ROH crowds in Tosca.

He conducted his first Ring Cycle at the age of 26 and is now a favourite at Bayreuth. Hear his Beethoven and you can tell why. The structures are clear, but the emotion is allowed to blaze: there's enough rhythmic strength to build a castle, but enough flexibility to let in the sunshine. The characters and personalities that shine out of each of Beethoven's symphonies are as distinct as those of any opera. Perhaps, in this conductor's hands, music is inherently operatic?

It was an absolute privilege to have introduced this extraordinary concert. Great turnout for the talks, too, especially for yesterday's matinee, where a door-count estimate suggested we had nearly 500. Thanks for your warm reception, dear friends, and I hope you all enjoyed hearing about the slow movement of Beethoven 7 through the narrative of Rosa Parks and the American civil rights movement. 

Last but not least, it was a special treat to run into our old friend Norman Perryman, the musical "kinetic artist", whose beautiful paintings and portraits are part of the Symphony Hall visual brand. Here he is beside his magnificent picture suggested by Elgar, Gerontius, which hangs in the foyer at level 4. Glad to say he was in town to start work on a portrait of Nelsons.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Perryman's paintings blog

One of the great treats the other day in visiting Symphony Hall, Birmingham, was the chance to lap up the sight of some wonderful Norman Perryman musician portraits backstage. The VIP room is full of them - Cecilia Bartoli, Valery Gergiev, Jessye Norman and more: artists captured in action, with the motion of colour around them evoking the particular energies of their music-making. They also have Rostropovich (left), which is one of my favourites.

Now Norman, who is about to undertake a major new "kinetic painting" project with no less a pianist than Pierre-Laurent Aimard in such delectable locations as the Aldeburgh Festival, has started a new project all his own: he is blogging his autobiography A Life Painting Music. 

It's nearly as colourful as his pictures. You can find the latest episode here.