At 11 minutes past 11 o’clock on 11:11:11 Busnoys and I were setting up in the Demonstration space of the exhibition. The date may or may not have been auspicious but it was certainly a special day.
The audience were few but appreciative and absorbed in the immersive atmosphere generated by the event. Busnoys consists of Martin Pyne (vibraphone and electronics), Jeff Spencer (bass guitar) and Trevor Davies (drums). Martin’s compositions allow space for each of the musicians to improvise and it is apparent how much they listen and respond to each other as they play. The experience of drawing these consummate and intelligent musicians was inspiring, involving and focused.
I have worked with Martin in many ways over the years in our collaborations but this was the first time I focused on performing observational drawings of the musicians. I usually draw the sound.
This time, working within the digital projection system I focused entirely on observing their movements as they played. Musicians move more than they probably imagine. Especially Martin. The music literally moves him.
Music resonates in the body and generates energetic responses in terms of movement – it makes us want to dance. The body hears, responds to and is impelled to movement by the music. It has always been this way for me, and I was aware of moving in ways that were dance-like as I drew.
Perhaps music is created in our bodies in terms of energy even before we hear or make it? The physical production of sound or the movements involved in playing an instrument are only a small part of the making of music. Music arises in us, bubbles up, until it is expressed. You can literally see this in musicians as they play. I attempted to observe and draw the being moved to make music as much as the physical playing of the instruments through movement. In order to draw this I tune in and listen with all my senses. It is a heightened multi-sensory method of drawing.
Due to the restrictions on space there were gaps where the projection couldn’t reach and I had to work between eyesight and lens looking. I found it tricky but began to learn how to do it without getting too disorientated or distracted from the task in hand. Keeping my attention and eyes focused firmly on the musicians and not on the drawing was important.
Then I began to notice an interesting phenomenon. It was as if the volume was slightly turned up on the playing of whoever I was looking at and drawing. At first I thought it was actually happening and that it was just a coincidence when I experienced this, so I tested it out a few times. It happened again. I wonder if there is any scientific basis for this? Does looking at a musician playing within an ensemble enable you to hear them better? How and why might this occur?
Trevor later sent me an email saying “Anyway just wanted to say what a lovely day I had Maria – your work is fantastic and that Selkie connection with June Tabor blew my mind….It was such a lovely ambiance to play in and I think you took us to new places we have never been before – hope we can do some more together soon. Thank you so much for the picture…”
Busnoys took me to places I had never been before either. The act of drawing deepens in those moments. Being immersed, connected and in conversation – exchanging energies – are the times we make sense of living and the moments that bring us to life.
Other artists from the School of Art came in, taking the opportunity to draw. They were mostly drawing the music. The noises we made as we worked on metal and paper with various materials and tools added another subtle layer to the rich sounds being given by Busnoys. This Energy Gift Exchange was a transformative experience for me. I hope it was something like that for those who witnessed and participated in it.