According to artist Stephen Talasnik, his piece Sanctuary at Manitoga ”is about process; both in how it is made, and how it is viewed; like a drawing, one deciphers the piece through the examination of line. How something is made is almost as important as what it looks like in the end. The linear nature enables the viewer to participate in the act of making since all line is exposed.” Talasnik is also concerned with a harmonious connection between his art and the natural environment, allowing his works to decay with the impact of the elements.
The musical program to be presented at Manitoga on September 26 reflects Talasnik’s concern with process and the rhythms of the natural world. Terry Riley’s In C is one of the earliest works to define the musical style that came to be known as minimalism. An important feature of minimalist music is that its processes unfold gradually so they are clearly perceptible to the listener. In Riley’s work the players all cycle through the same set of material, but each musician has freedom in terms of their entrances, repetitions and silences. This kind of loose organization could be likened to the structures of sounds in nature, where repetitive patterns overlap and intersect in chaotic ways. John Cage, whose compositional process was strongly related to the natural environment, takes a similar approach in his work Five. In this late piece by Cage the performers are given pitches to play within defined time intervals, but also are allowed freedom to make choices within those constraints. Five will be performed by a group of musicians surrounding the Quarry Pond, incorporating the sounds of Manitoga’s natural environment in its presentation. This harmonious combination of art and nature strongly echoes the ideas of Russel Wright.
The twisting wooden strands that make up Sanctuary evoked strings for me, and along with Talasnik’s creative ideas prompted me to invite our special guest composer/violinist Todd Reynolds to perform at Manitoga. Describing his work as “present music”, Reynolds employs both gradual process and a mix of structure and freedom in his pieces, combining composition and improvisation. He makes use of leading edge computer technology to sculpt and layer his acoustic violin sounds in real time, creating rich sonic tapestries that integrate minimalist, pop, Jazz, Indian, African, Celtic and indigenous folk musics. This approach strongly resonates with Talasnik’s work and the overall spirit of Manitoga. Reynolds will perform a new piece specifically created for this event and the site.