‘Minimus 3D Arkestra’ Showcases Collaborative Performance of Music and Film

Thanks to new technologies, artists can now make 3D films and play them like melodic, texture-based visual instruments in real time, performing in duets with acoustic musicians. A new genre of collaborative performance is in the making, as demonstrated in “Minimus 3D Arkestra,” a visual-sonic concert by Ikuo Nakamura (film) and Hayes Greenfield (sax/voice/effects rig).

This pioneering fusion of disciplines will be revealed in a five-week run, June 30 to July 30, at the intimate 13th Street Repertory Theatre, 50 West 13th Street. That venue, under the new leadership of Susan Merson, has been renovated and expanded into an arts center for all disciplines with music, poetry, photography and painting as well as traditional plays.

Audiences will receive stereoscopic viewing glasses and watch a live duet between the two artists as they blend dazzling 3D films with live music.

3D Film Narratives

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Hayes Greenfield and Ikuo Nakamura. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The performance weaves three-dimensional film narratives, from the celestial to the terrestial-shot by Nakamura in stunning, remote and dramatic locations – into the fiercely innovative live acoustic and electronic music by Greenfield.

Visuals include the Aurora Borealis (shot in the Canadian Northwest Territories), subways of NYC, canyons in Utah, villages in the Andes and scenes of Easter Island in the Pacific.

Nakamura’s films are shot with two identical cameras in stereo 3-D and none of them are computer-generated. Similarly, none of Greenfield’s music is sampled or pre-recorded; it is entirely acoustic and performed live, in real time.

The music, however, is primary: it is the infrastructure upon which Nakamura hangs his images. The piece is built on an eight-movement suite that Greenfield has composed. He uses a looper to record each musical layer, one by one, adding each part in real time, building and orchestrating a rich and lavish sonic backdrop. Upon this, Nakamura’s 3D visual essays and poems unfold in real time.

Freedom For Image And Sound

With modern multimedia software, Nakamura and Greenfield are no longer restricted to predetermined lengths of either image or music. This new freedom creates a fluid dance between image and sound, which, much like jazz, draws from form as a springboard for their improvisations.

Nakamura mixes, dissolves, repeats, lengthens and/or shortens his 3D film sequences and engages in a call-and-response with Greenfield, who alternately sets the pace. He responds to the cinematic composition in surprising and dynamic ways with alto saxophone, kalimba, and voice, all of which he augments with his stereo pedal EFX Rig and looper.

Before discovering holography in the early 1980s, Nakamura was a career-track Alto Sax player. Now he “plays” film, hands-on, in the performance. These real-time filmic narratives stand in contrast to traditional silent films, where predetermined, static, fixed-length images can be accompanied by a known and predictable musical score.

Proof Of Concept Concerts

There have been two “proof of concept” concerts preceding this five-week run. The first was presented March 26, 2015 at the 13th Street Repertory Theater to an audience of about 45 film people, music people and friends. That experiment was so well received that the theater booked Nakamura and Greenfield for 15 performances in July. On Earth Day, April 22, the project was again revealed to about 60 people at the Soapbox Gallery in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Once more, the response was overwhelming.

Multimedia technologies allow a film maker to “play” his visuals like a musical instrument, varying their tempo and texture and orchestrating them in tandem with a musician. The music is not free form and is built upon individual pieces or tunes that can stand alone. Their form and construction vary; some are played to a specific pulse and others float more freely. Some layers are improvised, others are melodic fragments. Each is constructed with layers that Greenfield records on his looper. Some layers are about the melodic line; others are concerned with the texture of the sound. All are performed in relation to Nakamura’s visual images – “visual essays and poems” – that he is laying down. There are “hit points” that the duo want to make in each piece. No two performances are ever the same.

New Collaboration

Their collaboration began in November, 2014 when they were introduced through Tomoji Hirakata, a Senior Technical Specialist for Yamaha Artist Services, in response to Nakamura’s search for a composer for his film, “Aurora Borealis.”

Wanting to experiment with working collaboratively in a live setting, Nakamura and Greenfield began working on an almost a daily basis, developing their collaborative techniques, much as theater people do. Taping and watching their rehearsals, their new language began to develop as they saw the shape of this show evolve. The process took five or six weeks.

Hayes Greenfield (www.hayesgreenfield.com) is a saxophonist, composer, educator, producer and filmmaker who has worked and lived in NYC since the late 70’s, earning numerous awards in all of his endeavors. He has released ten critically acclaimed CD’s and performed throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. As sideman, he has worked with Jaki Byard, Rashied Ali, Paul Bley, Dave Liebman, Barry Altschul, Tony Scott, Richie Havens, and Joe Lee Wilson among others. He has scored over 70 films, documentaries, commercials and TV specials. One of his projects, “George Marshall and the American Century,” received an Emmy and Telly Award and “The Nature of Modernism: E. Stewart Williams; and William Krisel, Architect” received a Telly Award. He has scored films on artists Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Grace Hartigan, James Rosenquist and Milton Glaser; architects Philip Johnson and Donald Wexler and poet Billy Collins.

In 1998, Greenfield created “Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz,” an interactive, educational performance/workshop/professional development program, and received the prestigious New York University SCPS/GSP 2005 Marc Crawford Jazz Educator Award in 2005. In 2006, he developed the Greenfield Method, a music-based teaching program for enhancing executive functioning in pre-K and first grade kids.

Greenfield is one of two Artists-in-Residence at the 13th Street Repertory Theater and plays on the first Wednesday of each month in its continuing series, “Music on 13.” He is proud to endorse Yamaha saxophones, Vandoren reeds & mouthpieces and Eventide effects pedals.

Ikuo Nakamura (www.hololab.com), an award-winning Japanese filmmaker, is probably the first artist to shoot the Aurora Borealis in stereoscopic 3D format. He is a holography artist, 3D film director, photographer, and sculptor of light. He learned cutting edge holography techniques at the New York Holographic Laboratory after studying physics at Tokyo University of Science and moving to New York in the early 1980s. His experimental multimedia installations include a holographic pattern animation series and a brain wave interactive hologram, “Neuro Hologram.” He was awarded an Artist in Residence at the Museum of Holography (1990), Fellowship at Academy of Media Arts (KHM) in Cologne, Germany (1998-1999), Scholarship for 7th International Symposium of Holographic Arts, Wales, UK (2006), and many more. He is also former co-director at The Center for Holographic Art (2001-2006). His holography works have been exhibited at The Jewish Museum, New York; The Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles; MIT Museum, Cambridge, and many museums worldwide.

His 3D films “Easter Island” and “The View in America” received Best Native 3D Short Film and Director to Watch awards at International 3D Film Festival, Los Angeles (2012). His third film, “Atmosphere,” has been screened worldwide and received multiple awards.

“Aurora Borealis 3D,” Nakamura’s most recent film, was shot during his visits to Yellowknife, NWT, Canada. He captured the aurora in 3D using two synchronized cameras five miles apart. A special preview version of the film, including an environmental landscape, was screened during NASA Sun/Earth Day at American Museum of Natural History in 2014. The completed official version, featuring music by Hayes Greenfield, was shown at the 61st International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen, Germany on May 2 and also during “3D in the 21st Century” at BAM Rose Theater on May 3, 2015.

The concert’s name, “Minimus 3D Arkestra,” is an homage to Sun-Ra, who called his ensemble an Arkestra.

13th Street Repertory Theater, the venue for this month-long event, is the tiny landmark theater on W. 13th Street known as the home of the longest-running OOB show, “Line” by Israel Horowitz. The theater has presented traditional plays for 42 years under its founder and artistic director, Edith O’Hara, and is now bursting with new creative energy since the arrival last fall of its new Artistic Director, Susan Merson, who has renovated the place and is refashioning it into a community-based center for artists of diverse disciplines, presenting music, poetry, photography, painting and new plays.

13th Street Repertory Theater in association with Hayes Greenfield and Ikuo Nakamura will present “Minimus 3D Arkestra” June 30 to July 30, 2015 at 13th Street Repertory Theater, 50 West 13th Street, NYC. Pefromances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 PM. Tickets will be $18 general admission, seniors/students $13. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office number 866-811-4111 or online at www.13thstreetrep.org. The show’s website: www.minimus3Darkestra.com

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.