It was fitting to perform Syrinx at the exhibition “A Sense of Place: Modern Japanese Print” at Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania. Among the artworks displayed were works by Hiroshige and Hokusai, artists who inspired Claude Debussy.
This concert, on May 14, 2015, was one of Dolce Suono Ensemble’s series at Arthur Ross Gallery, offered in conjunction with its exhibitions.
Today’s Syrinx took place while artist Mary Thumma took photos of my hands on the flute, for a drawing she will be doing. Her daughter Lillia was a harp student at the Curtis Institute of Music Summerfest’s Young Artist Summer Program, at which I taught for the past three weeks. Mary is developing a project to benefit her daughter’s orchestra at the Virginia Governor’s School of the Arts designed to help students afford a tour to Japan. She plans to make drawings of musicians’ hands, and I was honored when she asked me to be her first subject. It is lovely Mary is putting her talent at the service of a worthy cause, and I am happy to be part of it.
Rikinosuke Kato is a Japanese artist whom my family met in Spain when I was a child and we became friendly with him and his family. Today I played Syrinx gazing at a painting of his that he presented to us. I remembered spending time in Madrid, playing in the Retiro park with my brother and the artist’s son Daisuke. Not only was this a memory experience, but the Debussy made me think of the painting in a new way. While I played, I saw the figures as classical forms representing mythological archetypes experiencing the same passions as Syrinx and Pan in the story which inspired Debussy.
In honor of Debussy – the father of impressionism in music – I played “Syrinx” bathed in the special bronze glow of a late afternoon in autumn. I thought about how Monet captured the light in his series of paintings of haystacks and Rouen cathedral, its unique quality depending on the season and time of day.