Arts Feature

First Thursday Presents Art Inspired by USC Composer

Trenholm Artists Guild Teams with Guggenheim Fellow Jesse Jones

By Jude Fox
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Jesse Jones
University of South Carolina composer Jesse Jones

The First Thursday series officially runs from the 1200 to the 1700 block of Main Street, but those who attend it regularly know the action tends to be concentrated on the 1500 and 1600 blocks, home to such First Thursday mainstays as Frame of Mind, Anastasia & Friends Gallery and the Tapp’s Arts Center.

This summer, though, Certus Bank at 1241 Main St. has burst onto the scene, first with the Sunset Series of concerts by the South Carolina Philharmonic, and this Thursday, Sept. 4, with a collaborative project between University of South Carolina composer Jesse Jones and the Trenholm Artists Guild.

The project, Onomatopoetic Art Inspiring Art: Music Made Visible, dates to 2013 when Jones, a Guggenheim Fellow and the newest member of the composition faculty at USC’s School of Music, was commissioned by fellow USC music professors Rebecca Hunter (violin) and Lynn Kompass (piano) to write a new work. (Full disclosure: This writer studied composition under Jones.) The piece, In dulcet tones, premiered in Thailand earlier this year. Now, it is coming to the United States — accompanied by more than 50 pieces of new visual art inspired by the music.

“The piece is incredibly well crafted — hauntingly beautiful at times, but also mixed with intense rhythmic vitality,” Kompass says.

Even before In dulcet tones had its premiere, Hunter saw great artistic potential in the music.

“I’ve always seen a parallel between art and music, and I wanted to do something different for In dulcet tones’ North American premiere,” Hunter says.

She contacted a friend at the Trenholm Artists Guild, Sara Winstead, to see whether there might be interest among members in collaborating.

More than a few responded — altogether, there are 46 artists involved, some guild members and some not. Each artist was given a recording of the music, and they created their works of art in the privacy of their own studios while listening to the piece. Their new works will be revealed for the first time at Certus Bank as part of the First Thursdays on Main event, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Viewers will be able to hear the same recording artists listened to as they worked; the official U.S. premiere of the piece is on Sept. 28 at the USC School of Music.

“Everyone that has taken part in this collaboration, both musicians and artists alike, has a strong passion for both forms of art and has been greatly moved by this experience,” says Winstead, coordinator of the Onomatopoetic project. “I dare to say that after taking part in this unique collaboration, we all have gained a better understanding of how closely both worlds are interlaced.”

Some of the artists have also chosen to share their experiences of being inspired by In dulcet tones, which will be displayed along with the works.

“All of their stories are amazing,” Winstead says. “The stories range from memories of lost loved ones to struggles on the sea, and perhaps a discovery of one’s self.”

Jones is thrilled to have had his music interpreted by visual artists.

“A lot of composers have been inspired by great works of visual art,” he points out, “but not often the other way around. I feel that this project is a great reversal of that process.”

He adds: “My style of composition is a lot like the process of painting in that I have a palette of musical colors that I use, and specific gestures I employ to create a musical picture. My ultimate wish is for my music to touch people in an intellectual, spiritual or emotional way, and this project is the perfect realization of that.”

Adds Kompass: “This event is a wonderful opportunity to bring together the many gifted artists who live in our town and to encourage dialogue between the arts.” 

The Certus Bank installment will remain up until Sept. 24 and will be moved to the USC School of Music Library until Oct. 24. The official U.S. premiere of In dulcet tones is Sept. 28 at the School of Music.

Jude Fox is the host and producer of SCETV Radio’s Classical Music with Jude Fox, which airs weekdays at 11 a.m., and Voices in Harmony, which airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m.

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