Qasim Naqvi’s musical response to the art of Pippo Lionni
I received my copy of Chronology several months back. Composer Qasim Naqvi had asked me to review his forthcoming album before the experimental/electronic music label, New Amsterdam Records, picked it up for release on November 4.
The first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. All of the sounds were definitely electronic, but what circuitry? The album as a whole reminded me of my favorite Steve Roach piece, “Structures from Silence,” by the way that tones would rise and fall over the void. The tone of Qasim’s synthesizer is different from the 1980’s digital soft synth that Roach employed. It is darker, grainier, and opaque for fleeting moments. Definitely, I could hear analog synth and effects.
Last week, I got the remastered copy with an exclusive first look at press materials. Now I have the backstory: I hear broad and sharp brushstrokes interchanging against a blank canvas. I hear shapes, some geometric but frayed and jagged, while others are fluid and morphing.
It all makes sense when you look at photos of the spring 2016 exhibit at P! Gallery (NYC) entitled, Chronology. P! had commissioned contemporary visual artist Pippo Lionni to paint new work while engaging in a call and response, from visual to auditory, with Qasim.
Pippo used a wide straight edge to blot black paint onto a gallery-size canvas. Qasim used an early Moog, Model D (aka the MiniMoog), to sketch out isolated harmonies. Qasim invented a language, or possibly, he allowed the Moog to speak to him. The score in itself is a work of art, as it does not follow the guidelines of any school of composition, so the graphical notation for Chronology is tied forever to the painting of Pippo.
Pippo’s art and Qasim’s record imply motion and discord, fragmentation, and emptiness. But they are also easy to absorb as the experiencer. It is a delicacy of tension and release.
The Model D in use here is not to be confused with the reissue produced from 2002 on. He’s got the oldie. The vintage electronics didn’t come without idiosyncrasies. He allowed it to provide unique character for the recording. Who knows if he’ll reuse that language or repair that Moog at a future date. I’m guessing yes on both counts, but only he will answer that question over time.
The final painting and score were displayed side by side in the gallery, with the music played on a sound system. Whoever attended that physical space got a unique, irreplaceable experience, receiving it all at once, in an environment specially produced for the few people who could get there and be in it. You and I just don’t get to have that. I guess you’ll have to wait for art galleries to catch up with virtual reality.
But because the music is still exclusive and I have agreed not to leak anything but the video, I would suggest going to look at the art now. When the stream goes live, when there is a release date, we’ll be first to post it.