Magdolna Szabó
No title, water colour
31 x 23 cm, 2015

Vernissage – abstract improvisation
This performance project emanated out of a contact from the artist Magdolna Szabó, who was interested in cooperating with musicians from Malmö Academy of Music. The idea was to improvise music to her paintings during a vernissage at Staffanstorps Konsthall in February 2015.

Together with soprano Tiina Markkanen, violinist Fritiof Palm and pianist and composer Jonatan Sersam, I decided to pursue this project, and we met for some rehearsal sessions during January and February 2015.

Musical concept

Magdolna Szabó’s work has an abstract, geometrical character, and we early agreed with the artist on improvising without using words or creating stories or drama. This brought some new and interesting challenges into the work. How could we create interactional strategies that were open, but not text based?  Together we developed a set of strategies, based on a more musico-structural perspective. We listed parameters and qualities regarding aspects of music as sound, our sounding interactions, the paintings and relations to the audience and the physical space. The musical qualities of sound regarded dynamics, phrasing, musical form, and degree of stability, set in contrast to noice. Our sounding interactions focused the musical role taking, such as solos, imitation, or shadowing (an accompanying instrument relates to a solo instrument by making similar musical movements, reflecting rather than imitating them) and setting of instruments in the improvisations. We outlined possibilities of relating to the qualities of the paintings in terms of colors, shapes and forms, what we associated with these visual artistic expressions and how we could ’translate’ this into musical shape in terms of form, sound and interaction. Even though it was decided that we shouldn’t use text, the communicative aspect of how to approach the audience needed to be regarded. Since the goal of the performance was to focus the artworks, we decided to direct our visual attention to the painting at hand during each improvisation.

Together with Szabó we decided to improvise to five of her paintings in the hall. We set a structure for the instrumental setting, to achieve variation in the performance. Between the improvisations we moved versus the next painting at hand in the physical space.

Magdolna Szabó
No title, water colour
145 x 100 cm, 2013

Large yellow painting

Small painting 1
violin and soprano

Small painting 2

Small painting 3:
soprano and mezzosoprano

Small painting 4
violin, then tutti

Large colour painting