Creative Music Intensive | Session by Michael Harrison

In February, musicians and artists came together to participate in the first ever Creative Music Intensive at Arts Letters & Numbers, part of our new Sessions series. The Session was directed by composer/pianist and Indian classical vocalist Michael Harrison, who was joined by guest artist faculty pianist Sophia Subbayya Vastek and electronic composer/saxophonist Sam Torres.

Michael led daily workshops on composition, raga singing, just intonation, and group discussions about the purpose of music and the “why” behind each person’s creative practice.  Sophia workshopped and performed new compositions written by each of the participants and Sam led workshops about improvisation and using electronics in music.

In addition, composer, percussionist, vocalist, and ultra-distance mountain biker Payton MacDonald visited the intensive to give workshops on Indian classical music and rhythms, to present his film “Sonic Divide,” and to perform in concert with Michael and Sophia. ALN Founder David Gersten, with Associate Director Frida Foberg and Fellow Troels Steenholdt Heiredal, led a listening critique where the group shared and experienced each other’s work in a variety of contexts. 

In the span of a few days, each participant wrote a new work, which was workshopped and performed by session participants in the final concert. These fabulous works ranged from acoustic chamber music incorporating traditional instruments along with found percussion such as kitchen bowls and utensils, to a chance-based improvisatory piece and electro-acoustic chamber music. The group also sang and performed a new raga-based piece in the final concert, led by Michael.

Time between the workshops and rehearsals was often spent communally, cooking and sharing meals together with the other ALN resident artists and local community members, learning about their projects and work.  Michael shared his love of “tradizionale” balsamic vinegars with a tasting, there was a community ping pong/potluck event, and the Session culminated with a sold out concert for the community and all-night dance party!

Photos by Zelé Angelides