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August 22, 2007
THE KIMMEL HARDING NELSON CENTER FOR THE ARTS
I just returned from a two week residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The Center is set up to be an artist retreat center: they invite artists of all mediums (while I was there, there were two poets, a photographer, and a number of painters) to come and essentially remove themselves from everyday life and immerse themselves in art. The Center, which also houses a very nice gallery of work from past residents, supplied me with a beautiful apartment in which to live, a huge studio in which to work, and a great amount of time.
The result of the residency was the completion of a new piano piece. The work, a fifteen minute piece for piano and electronics, is my largest composition for solo piano, and also longest single movement piece I have ever written. I'm quite proud of the piece as it is a departure from my usual style. I hope to premier it later this year, so check back for more details.
While I was in Nebraska City, I had the great fortune to meet Suheil Baddor, who was also in residency at KNH, and is widely considered to be one of the Arab world's greatest living painters. While I don't know too many other Arab painters with which to compare him, I can say that he is easily one of the greatest painters I have ever seen. His work is highly abstract, and he tends to paint and focus on faces: faces on the outside (people, mostly women) and faces on the inside (the soul). He is currently doing an exhibition until the end of September at the University of Omaha, and if anyone has the chance to look at it, I strongly encourage you to do so. He's also a gifted poet and writer, and you can learn all about him at http://www.baddor.com.
My experience at KHN was actually the highlight of the summer, and some of the most productive time I have ever spent composing. Furthermore, it gave me an opportunity to meet artists from other mediums I otherwise never would have encountered. It is very easy for musicians, especially performing musicians, to get thoroughly wrapped up in our own worlds, locking ourselves away in practice rooms and never venturing outside. I find that in general, our knowledge of the other arts is at a minimum, and that we not only focus on just music, but on our own music; rarely even familiarizing ourselves with the great masterpieces in other repertoires, be it opera, cello, or clarinet. And it leaves us all the poorer, for all of the arts influence each other so thoroughly! At any point in history, one can find the poets influencing the playwrights, who influenced the painters, who influenced the sculptors, who influenced the composers, who influenced the poets. But in modern arts society, we so rarely know who our colleagues are in other mediums. If asked, I know I could hardly name any great painters of my generation. I could name plenty of young composers, but not too many painters.
It is places like KHN that change that for the young artist. I met and worked side-by-side with young (and not-so-young), successful artists in other fields. I was able to break myself from the mundane ritual of daily life, and go to a place where I could do nothing but compose, and, for breaks, chat with one of the world's greatest living painters: pick his brain, study his work. It's amazing what I not only accomplished, but learned as well.
I say all this mainly to encourage all of my colleagues to investigate not only KHN, but other residencies as well. If you haven't ever participated in a residency such as that, you will be amazed what you will accomplish.
For more about the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, visit: http://www.khncenterforthearts.org/