March 20, 2012

The Charlotte Symphony announced today that it will feature the world premiere of a digitally animated work of art by Matthew Weinstein at the KnightSounds performance of "Bolero Comes Alive" on May 4. Weinstein's commissioned piece is a 16 minute original animated video to be displayed on a screen suspended above the orchestra. The audience will experience brilliant animation in sync with the hypnotic music of Ravel's Bolero. This is the first commissioned work under the leadership of Music Director Christopher Warren Green. It will be performed during the Symphony's new multi sensory KnightSounds series, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is becoming part of a new national model for the modern concert going experience.

"The application of digital animation to the frequently performed and well known Bolero exposes aspects of the work in a way that an aural performance alone cannot," said Charlotte Symphony President and Executive Director Jonathan Martin. "Today's audiences have high expectations and increasingly want to become more deeply engaged in artistic performances," said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. "With this performance, and the entire KnightSounds series, we hope to spark new interest in our leading cultural organizations, and remind people of the power of the arts in their lives."

Weinstein has achieved notoriety in the art world as the first artist to focus exclusively on 3D animation. He is represented by the Sonnabend Gallery and was the first American artist givena major exhibition at the new Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Throughout his career, Weinstein has built up an index of characters, sets, and environments that he continues to explore in this specially commissioned work. His process usually involves song writing and scripted narratives but for this work his characters have to tell the story of Bolero without words. "When I first sat down with Christopher Warren?Green he spoke with me about Ravel's fascination with machinery," said Weinstein. "After listening to the piece, I realized that Bolero itself is like a machine, but the machine has these undercurrents of dysfunction that finally take over and explode it. Additionally, I felt a connection with the composer; the process of computer animation, like composing a piece of music, is rigorously technical but leads to results that can be both empathic and mesmerizing."

"Bolero is a perfect fit for Matthew's work which deconstructs the expectations that have been built around the music through movies, television and pop culture," said Martin. "There's a sensual element and vibrancy to Matthew's art that translates well to our KnightSounds concert format. We wanted something unusual and we knew the art would need to marry well and ultimately serve to exponentially amplify the final experience for the audience." "I approached the abstract narrative with Fantasia in mind," said Weinstein. "Fantasia told a compelling story through classical music and animation, meanwhile introducing the music tom those who wouldn't otherwise have experienced it. Pop culture can be used in a way so that it doesn't degrade something old but instead enhances it."

Music Director Christopher Warren? Green will lead the Charlotte Symphony in this exciting, venture that represents a marriage of classical music, digital art, and modern dance. In order to make his non human characters live on screen and appeal to a human audience, Weinstein works with actors, dancers and choreographers to capture human movement which he then applies to his animations. For this piece, he worked closely with a choreographer to translate his ideas into a modern dance. Commissioning a piece of multimedia artwork is representative of the forward?thinking vision of the orchestra. As the commissioning agency, the Charlotte Symphony aims to give the work a continued existence in the orchestra world beyond the premiere. The Charlotte Symphony will license the work to other orchestras to help offset the cost of the commission. Events around the premiere are indicative of the artistic synergy the Charlotte Symphony strives to foster within the community. The Mint Museum will present a spotlight exhibition of Weinstein's work, on view at Mint Museum Uptown from May through August of 2012.



May 10, 2012
Throughout the 20th Century, painters and sculptors had a curiously sidereal relationship to the newly invented animated cartoon. As an invention, it was almost too profound to take seriously. It sequenced drawing in an entirely new way, conveying time, music, and story as never before. It might transmit almost anything, but chiefly concerned itself with mischievous bunnies, skeletons converting themselves into marimbas, or antic mice squeezing musical notes from the udders of the barnyard cow. It quickly became relegated to a "low" art—actually, it was a visual art that visual art didn't know what to do with.

This changed first via Pop Art then through the first wave of graffitists. Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Meyer Vaisman, Christian Schumann, each were haunted by 'toons. I remember the late Frank Moore discoursing at length on the dynamic properties of a sequence in a Looney Tune—Daffy Duck falling sans parachute from an astronomical height through a desperate series of dysfunctional props to the final splat. Moore may as well have been explicating Giotto.

Matthew Weinstein, subject of a current "spotlight" exhibit at the Mint Uptown and the animator/auteur of a 3D cartoon version of Ravel's Bolero with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra on May 4th, is presently the most significant proponent of this re-hybridization process between painting and animation. Unlike Scharf or Haring, he is not only influenced by cartoons; he makes them. They are not like the cheerfully rickety creations of underground film, like Joseph Cornell or Harry Smith, but almost balefully slick. Actually, they are as beautiful as an advertisement.

This is an observation, not an insult. His detail has the graphic finesse of a jewelry ad with every pearlescent sheen or diamond glint glittering back at you; his backgrounds are the deep but clear ultramarines of an Absolut ad; his gilded skeletons are the skeletal equivalents of Rolexes, and the presiding muse of his creations—a Koi with Man Ray lips and the kohl-rimmed eyes of Kim Novak or Elizabeth Taylor—is disturbingly seductive. The imagery is kitsch distilled into visual opium.

Viewing Chariots of the Gods – up at the Mint – or The Childhood of Bertold Brecht or the CSO's Bolero, one feels something of the anxiety induced by Michael Powell's Tales of Hoffman, or the films of Douglas Sirk, or the French homo-pop photographic team Pierre et Gilles, or—indeed—in Ingres. They are reports from an underworld that can replicate everything in this world but natural light, and this is why they can also be recognized as a trap. This is why the beauty is scary. It is why Weinstein's work is by no means as genial as it first appears to be.

The choice of Ravel's Bolero as the musical source of the collaboration between Weinstein and the Charlotte Symphony proved to be a bold but well-aimed stroke. The Bolero, it must be noted, is number one on a survey list of compositions that orchestral musicians hate to play, for it requires a relentless mechanical precision in the service of an insane amount of repeated notes. These must build into the most famous orgasm in the history of music. It is said to have been inspired by the syphilitic paresis that gradually reduced Ravel to a state of near-idiocy, the hallucinatory audition of a repeated redundant note being a symptom of the condition. This casts a strange light on the relationship between love and death when it is remembered that the Bolero is considered an erotic work. 

Weinstein's Bolero uses as a central metaphor a golden spiral winding languidly around clockwork machinery. Ascending on this spiral are what appear to be floral arrangements or artfully arranged haute cuisine or elaborate cocktails, one of which contains the Alluring Koi. She wends her way past the machinery, and through the slowly revolving bones of two gilded skeletons, one of which applies new lipstick to her lips, as well as mascara and blush. She floats thereafter to a tentative rendezvous with a gigantic soldier in a helmet and aviator glasses. And after this sad-because-impossible tryst, she floats to the last stage. This is a meticulous reconstruction of a room based on Ernie's, the restaurant in which James Stewart first glimpsed Kim-Novak-as-Madeline-Elster in Hitchcock's Vertigo. It feels like deja vu all over again as this room burst into flame. Finis.

The highlight of the program that preceded the Bolero was the Ravel G Major Concerto, which Louis Schwizgebel, the pianist, played with tendresse. The orchestra was not as en pointe, and needs to practice their blues in French. Warren-Greene also conducted the Roman Carnival Overture with proper Berliozian fire, but with some ragged playing in the brass section, and Faure's Pavane with the transparency vital to this work. Incidentally, there were also some timing problems toward the conclusion of the Bolero. Despite these small reservations, it was by far the most interesting program that the Charlotte Symphony has ever done, and a high-water mark to aspire to again. The Weinstein/CSO Bolero is also exactly the kind of work that might be successfully marketed to anime freaks, cyber-geeks, punks, tattooists, and NASCAR enthusiasts—in short, all the people currently not in the audience. We might then be able to afford another such bold experiment.