I first met Astron when I saw an announcement about a violinist appearing at a venue unknown to me. I grabbed the landmark and teleported into... the middle of a Second Life strip club. To say that the music was not appropriate to the venue would be a huge understatement, however, Astron's interest in taking his violin performance in new directions confounds classification. Classically trained in violin performance, Astron has branched out to explore new age and popular music on his electric violin, while choosing to play other content on the accoustic violin. Much of the work Astonimus performs are his own compositions that have a new-age inspirational flavour.
Astronimus took a hiatus from Second Life lasting several months. He has been missed by fans of his music. As well as being an interesting musician, Astronimus is a thoughtful and warm person, whose introductions to his music add layers of meaning to the experience.
The seriousness with which he takes Second Life music is evident in his performances but also in the professionalism he exhibits. I remember with fondness an occasion where I was out of the country toting my laptop and expecting to host one of Astronimus' concerts. As fate would have it, just when I was difficult to reach, a rockslide knocked out a major communications satellite in Astronimus' area of the western USA, rendering him incommunicado and likely unable to do the concert, unless communications were restored in time. Rather than shrug and disappoint fans and leave everyone wondering, he drove some distance and managed to contact someone with a Second Life account to get a message to me well in advance of the concert. We had decided on a "drop dead" time when I would send out a cancellation notice and had a "rain date" set to announce. This was truly appreciated by me as a concert organizer and also by the Music Island audience, many of whom plan their week-ends to include their Second Life concert attendance.
I'm sure we'll have a warm welcome for this veteran SL musician's triumphant return.
As someone who has worked as an art and non-profit administrator for some decades, I am well-acquainted with what a very nasty and competitive world it can be. It saps our energy, our joy, our creativity. I have seen it turn idealistic, energetic young people full of ideas into bitter, guarded, pessimists within years of working in an embattled orchestra or other arts organization.
Part of what is so restorative about participation in Second Life arts over the past three years has been the relative rarity of huge egos, competition and other nonsense of one kind or another. Anyone making art or supporting the creation of art in SL has to be mainly doing it for the love of it. Financial rewards are much lower than RL and promotional rewards have been slow in coming. While all of us hope to improve the tangible rewards for SL's fine artists, it would be a shame if the positive spirit of collaboration were to be lost.
A small event that is both ridiculous and dismaying over the past couple of days has given me pause. Although the Music Island series is two years old, and my own participation in Second Life has spanned 3.5 years, I only started this blog a couple of months ago because a) I was too busy actually organizing value-added content in Second Life to spend much time writing about it b) a couple of server crashes that affected the Cedar Island website made the events listing on Music Island unavailable anywhere on the web, c) the visit of Toronto Star music critic, John Terauds to a Music Island concert made me realize that while there were bits of content everywhere about Music Island, there was no one spot on the web to refer anyone to for history, information and ongoing news of Music Island concerts, and d) lastly, I had been occasionally writing about arts in SL and Music Island concerts in the context of my more general arts & social issues blog which was muddying the mission of that blog and not providing a focused account of the activities of the artistic community surrounding Music Island. And so with all these utilitarian reasons rather than any sense of blogging for the sake of blogging, nor aggrandizement of my virtual self as author, I set text to .html to pen these pages.
As it has been my intention to mix news of upcoming and recent events with articles of a more general nature and some reflection on past events, I thought to write a post on a group of concerts presented over a period of about a year that were not possible in real life. In my May 2008 presentation at the Technology in the Arts Conference at the University of Waterloo, I noted that the reasons for presenting concerts in SL included: audience development, musical education, professional development, musician promotion, international musical collaborations, and not-possible-in-real-life multi-media creation. The last is the only purely artistic objective and as such is uniquely important and worthy of comment by all of us who care about arts in virtual worlds, or any world.
Soon after my post appeared I logged on in Second Life to receive a message from an avatar, Bettina Tizzy, whose name was not familiar to me. The content of that message was simply, "What the hell?" followed by the URL of my blog post. It was an odd introduction, and although taken aback, I remembered the simple credo of one of my mentors, Howard Rheingold to "assume good will" and remembered that "What the hell?" with a different tone of voice can mean surprise or puzzlement, so I queried the sender and provided a little background. A little while later I saw that the same individual had commented on my blog post, "Is this an April Fool's Day joke?" and I again tried to 'assume goodwill" and thought, "hmmm, likely is someone who finds the accounts of these concerts to be preposterous" and so I provided a courteous reply expanding on the information. However, clicking on the link of the poster's comment, I saw that she in fact had a blog which she had named after the familiar VW catch-phrase "not possible in real life". While I applauded the effort and intent of the blog, I had a sinking feeling that this individual's recent communications signalled that she felt that she "owned" a common phrase that is in use far beyond her blog, her group and pre-dates her own participation in Second Life.
I did not have to wait long for confirmation of my theory as I dealt with an IM communication that made me sigh and, Gentle Readers, please forgive me, even to muse out-loud that Ms. Tizzy had chosen her last name with an aptness that eludes many of us in Second Life as this little tempest-in-a-teapot had all the ear-marks of a classic tizzy.
In describing the various concerts in series at Music Island over the years, I have employed many phrases in familiar use: classical music, early music, electro-accoustic music, new-age music, ambient music, space music, etc. Yet I have not had, for example, Thom Dowd, the owner of the Early Music group say, "I own the group and you cannot use 'Early Music' to describe your concert!!!!" Why? Because he knows that the concert I have described as "early music", is in fact early music as broadly defined in the world at large. Nor has Tyrol Rimbaud, the grande doyenne of the Classical Music group asserted ownership over the phrase "classical music".
By the same token, "not possible in real life" describes a type of virtual reality experience--not limited to artistic practice--that when applied to artistic practice denotes a school of artistic expression within 3-D virtual reality. It is great that Ms. Tizzy has chosen to seek out and write about her experience and critiques of such events within SL and I honestly hope that her prolific blog has promoted awareness and practice. But to put the cart before the horse and suggest that a blog which titled itself after a familiar phrase and began to report on an artistic school of practice well underway at its inception in fact "owns" the phrase or created the movement is a transcendentally ridiculous position.
In conversation with a couple of artists yesterday (whom I will not name so they not be troubled by our volative blogger's demonstrated vitriol) we amused ourselves as we tried to find a word for a blogger whose ego and sense of entitlement had transcended their subject and all sense of reality. My favorites were "blaggart" (a cross between braggart and blog) and "blogusoity" (a cross between "blog" and "pomposity"). Personally I thought "blogulence" (blog+flatulence) was a little rude although it did capture a certain something of how a good thing.... a blog post celebrating some fine not-possible-in-real-life concerts.... can be stink-bombed by negativity.
I was just going to let this all blow away (as bad smells tend to do) until I was contacted by one of the artists involved in the concerts who had been approached by Ms. Tizzy to ask me to do what...not clear... remove my post... not use the phrase? Now that really got this plain Kate angry. When people start to involve and trouble the artists over their petty agendas, the gloves come off. I HAVE now edited my post to acknowledge the existence of Ms. Tizzy's blog and to make it clear that I am using "not possible in real life" as a descriptor and not a title of a concert series, which I am told by some might have been a reading by someone unfamiliar with the varied Music Island concert series. Frankly, at this point, despite any positive Ms. Tizzy's blog may have done for SL Art, her territorial and uncollaborative attitude of blowing up before engaging in any courteous dialogue or fact-finding, makes any association with any of her enterprises anathema to this SL and RL arts presenter.
So please a disclaimer: When there is a "not possible in real life" concert at Music Island--and I am sure we will host many more-- it is not to be confused with the SL group of the same name, or to signify endorsement by the blog of that title.
Ah, there, breathes easily again. And now back to our regularly scheduled program--putting the focus on artistic creation, on art, on celebrating and sharing the opening of our spirits through art.
This afternoon Izabela Jawoworer played to a capacity crowd on Music Island and brought avatars surging to their feet in a standing ovation as applause rung out and text messages of brava's and whoops scrolled up the screen as this screenshot demonstrates.
The bravura return to Music Island showed that Izabela has won a place in the hearts of SL audiences. A few latecomers to the program were devasted to have missed part or all of the concert. In all cases, this was due to not being a member of the Music Island group as group members receive advance notice, 24 hour notice and last minute reminders of concerts.
At 12 pm SLT (Pacific Time), the lovely Izabela will perform a live piano recital program in the beautiful amphitheatre at Music Island on Sea Turtle Island. Slurl for Music Island.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Violinist Izabela Spiewak (Izabela Jawororer in SL) started her international musical career as a winner of the Wieniawski/Lipinski International Young Violinists' Competition at the age of 17, in Lublin, Poland. Born in Eastern Poland, she is a graduate of the State Music School for gifted children which she joined at the age of 8 and was a part of for 12 years ona full scholarship. Subequently she completed the Performing Artists' Degree and graduated with honors from the acclaimed Warsaw Music Conservatory, Poland.
She studied with the leading Eastern European pedagogues, including Mr. Oskar Ruppel, a pupil of a legendary virtuoso Eugene Ysaye. Still as a student, Ms. Spiewak recorded classical and popular music for the Polish Radio and TV and was a part of the Polish Radio and TV Orchestra. Under the auspices of the Polish Performing Artists' Management, Ms. Spiewak relocated to Central America and toured all over the world with the Mexico City Philharmonic.
Upon arrrival to the United States, Ms. Spiewak was offered a full scholarship to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute under the direction of Leonard Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas. She studied chamber music and performed under the guidance of such distinguished masters as Menahem Pressler, Martha Argerich, Lynn Harel, and Pinchas Zuckerman. She recorded albums with celebrities such as Leonard Bernstein, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, YoYo Ma and Yehudi Menuhin, and pop stars, such as Michael Jackson, Lisa Minelli, Michael Crawford, Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias, Sarah Brighton. In addition, she was priviledged to play for Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and the Pope John Paul The 2nd.
She is an active recitalist, a recipient of the North Carolina Regional Artist Grant and a Touring Artist for the State of North Carolina, a leader of the Arcangelo Piano Quartet (since 1997) and a violinist of the DUO APPASSIONATO. She toured the US, Europe, South America and China. In addition to her busy performing career, she keeps a prominent teaching studio where she shares her expertise with talented young violinists.
One of the most compellingly important uses of Second Life has been for the execution of art that is not possible in real life. I have recently been introduced to a wonderful blog by SL resident Bettina Tizzy, who has made it a mission to celebrate all the art that is not possible in real life. And sources on the web that define SL, such as Wikipedia, ABC news, and numerous university virtual orientation presentations all cite the ability to create that which is not possible in real life as one of the truly intriguing features of virtual worlds such as Second Life.
Before Kate Miranda's first rez day in February 2006, I had been hearing about the potential for unique content-creation through participation in Howard Rheingold's "Brainstorms" community. Rheingold, the inventor of the term "SmartMobs" in his 1980's book of the same name has long been ahead of the curve. Last year he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation award for his educational work in Second Life. Howard was the first person for whom LindenLabs created an avatar with his own name and appearance for a 2006 interview in Second Life. His enthusiasm for the creative and educational potential of Second Life, first drew me to explore virtual reality and to see for myself what could be accomplished that which was impossible or elusive in real life.
At Music Island, which customarily presents a mixture of classical music, early music and new music, we have occasionally presented multimedia events that could not have happened in quite the same way outside of the virtual world.
Notable among these events was a series of collaborations between Second Life sculptor Gwen Carillon and Composer/Pianist Enniv Zarf (Paul Kwo). The three concerts were increasingly challenging to both artists. In the first concert, June 28, 2008, Enniv improvised on pre-composed themes inspired by a series of works by the artist. The finale of the concert involved the audience who were invited to have their avatars enter and become part of the concluding sculpture. The interactive work "Re-birth" won a "best in Second Life" award later in the same year. Enniv later released a CD of the concert recorded on that day.
In October 2008, the duo upped the ante in their collaboration entitled "Drawing Down", named after one of the works in the sculpture series, but also was a fitting description of their process. Enniv had not seen any of the works before beginning his improvisational music. Sculptor Gwen Carillon installed the sculptures floating above the island out of sight lines and drew down one at a time as seemed appropriate to her as part of the stream of collaborative creation.
In the final concert of the tryptych, Gwen Carillon live-sculpted a work inspired by Enniv's music. This was a first time for the sculptor to sculpt in live-time before an audience.
One of the most amazing "not possible in real life" concerts was a collaboration between composer, Paul Kwo and particle artist, Kala Pixie. The audience was elevated more than 700 meters into the air on revolving seats on a slowly turning platform. A grand piano appeared to circle them like a small planet. Meanwhile the particle artist live scripted the behaviour of particles in response to the music. A steady stream of computer coding scrolled up the page as the particle artist wrote and tweaked code to colour and change the nature of the virtual light show.
Truly amazing to experience music from deep within a responsive fireworks show.
A festival of music from outer space will celebrate Yuri's Night on the weekend of April 11 & 12 2009 with leading Second Life musicians Cypress Rosewood on April 11 and Spiral Sands & Friends on April 12. These concerts seem to be evolving a life of their own and there is no telling what madness and spin-offs may materialize.
Discussions have been underway with a group of Reggae musicians about the possibility of streaming a series of concerts from live reggae clubs from around the RL islands. The original plan is for only 3-4 concerts in the coming year. This would be a distinct series from the existing classical series, although could be a part of a new "world music" series.
At Thom Dowd (Thom Coard's) April 4 th concert on Music Island we were introduced to the new sound of the bass recorder as Thom and his student Gorse Ferrari presented an all-live concert for two recorders in various combinations, including Gorse's new bass. A large picture of the bass instrument was floating behind the stage enabling audience members to familiarize themselves with the appearance of the recorder which requires the use of keys to achieve some of it's notes, an innovation which took the instrument towards the development of modern woodwinds.