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ABOUT PORTALS

 

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Portals: an evening-length multi-media musical exploration of the human longing for connection in the digital age featuring violinist Tim Fain 


In recent seasons, Tim Fain traveled the world as a solo violinist in Philip Glass's “Book of Longing.” Now Glass is creating a new work for Tim, a seven-movement “Partita” inspired by the solo from “Book of Longing.” The new Partita is the centerpiece of Portals, an evening-length musical exploration of the human longing for connection in the digital age, which Tim will take throughout the country in a world premiere tour. In an onstage “dialogue” between live and multimedia works, Tim guides us through failures and triumphs of new portals of relationship, our electronic present and future. The production interweaves films by Kate Hackett (including performances by pianist Nicholas Britell), dance films choreographed and directed by Benjamin Millepied, and the words of Leonard Cohen spoken by Performance Today host Fred Child, with the music of Pulitzer Prize winners William Bolcom and Aaron Jay Kernis, and composers Nico Muhly, Kevin Puts, and Lev Zhurbin.


FROM TIM FAIN

Combining music with film, dance and spoken word, Portals explores the ways in which we communicate, and, through communication, find meaning in the digital age. In an era when our expressions of love and sorrow, of togetherness and longing—such private emotions—are sometimes displayed so publicly on the web, the potential for artistic communication through digital media is endless. The creative team and I set out to expand the boundaries of possibility in live performance whereby the performers and artists appear onscreen as if signing on (such as via Skype), each from his or her respective private space, interacting with each other as well as with me on stage.

For example, at times one sees the performers readying themselves for performance, warming up, or just relaxing in their own private spaces, as if glimpsed by webcam. By contrast, at other times Nicholas and I meet in an imagined performance space which combines a feeling of an empty concert hall with a sound stage, (the empty chairs and pixilated projections) in which we perform together. Sometimes the two worlds collide and combine, as in Graceful Ghost, where we occasionally switch places, passing through these different worlds, real and imagined. Though we're not always face to face or feeling someone's touch or the warmth of their breath, we are deeply connected.

The creative team: I first got to know Philip Glass when I toured with his Book of Longing, a song cycle based on Leonard Cohen's poetry. There was a moment mid-show when the violin took center-stage for a fast and furious solo, "I Enjoyed the Laughter." I found it passionate and lyrical in a way that I hadn’t heard in Philip's music before, like J.S. Bach played backwards! Incidentally, 'Laughter" was only about 90 seconds long, but night after night, I kept coming off stage thinking, "That was amazing—I want a whole piece!" I think it was after a show in Wellington, NZ that I asked Philip to flesh out that solo, and here it is, a major work: Partita for Solo Violin.

On that Book of Longing tour, Leonard Cohen would join us now and then for performances. Leonard's poetry was an inspiration for me in creating Portals. Whether addressing an estranged wife, God, or Hank Williams, his words go straight to the heart of the matter with pathos and humor.

I first collaborated with Benjamin Millepied a few years back, on a piece for NY City Ballet called Double Aria. More recently, as we worked together on the movie Black Swan, my admiration for his sense of flow and space deepened, and I knew that he would be a great collaborator on Portals. I should say that all of the music on this program was composed for concert performance, but finding Philip's music not only aurally evocative, but visually as well, we were inspired to pair his music with visual movement. When we arrived at Copland House at Merestead to shoot the dance films, we were enchanted by this beautifully light, but slightly haunted, space, a uniquely metaphorical embodiment of the ephemeral nature of the internet and digital communication.


I first met Fred Child in the studios of Performance Today, but I really got to know him rafting on the Colorado River. Fred is in familiar territory as host and MC of Portals, presiding over the evening with his usual aplomb. I am also deeply indebted to Nicholas Britell, whom I have known for years, not only for his poetic and inspired performances in Portals, but also for all of his help and skillful hand in producing the audio tracks for Portals. And finally, the wonderfully talented and imaginatively spontaneous Kate Hackett became an important partner in this project and helped immensely in the realization of my vision.

My heartfelt thanks to them all!
Tim

 

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