As a jazz pianist, Dana Reason has plenty of experience with improvisation — making up music on her own or taking audio cues from other musicians.
But what about improvising to a different kind of stimulus altogether? What about immediately responding to, say, animations created on the fly by another artist — in this case, Shelley Jordon of the Oregon State University Department of Art?
And then what about adding yet another wild card — in this case, a computer program created by another artist, Kevin Patton of the OSU Department of Music? Patton has created a program called Animato, which can link sound and image to create a digital accompaniment to both the music and the paintings.
And, finally, how about doing it all live — in an intimate setting where audience reaction could play a role in shaping the entire work?
That’s what the three artists have in mind for “Perceptual Interiorities,” a live performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at The Arts Center in Corvallis. And part of the rush is the simple fact that not one of them knows exactly what to expect.
“I think it’s going to be really cool,” said Jordon. “Well, it should be interesting.“
Saturday’s performance is the latest entry in Reason’s “Between the Cracks” series, a cross-disciplinary initiative that aims to foster contemporary and creative music performance and development.
Reason, who also teaches in OSU’s Department of Music and directs its Popular Music Studies program, said that she and Jordon had planned to do a concert together — call it, for lack of a better term, a multimedia improvisation — and Patton’s computer program added another dimension.
Essentially, what will happen during the performance is this: Reason will play the piano, using a variety of compositions and improvisations. Jordon will turn her easel so the audience can see what she’s creating. A web camera will be trained on Jordon’s work. Patton’s program (and Patton himself) will tweak the sounds Reason creates and also will process and interact with the images Jordon creates, and the resulting visual images will be displayed on a separate screen.
Jordon says that the programming might, for example, call for the color red to drop out of the images when Reason plays a certain note or chord. Other times, images placed underneath other images might be pulled to the front by other musical cues.
Jordon, who has created animations in the past, figures she might end up with three seconds or so of animation by the end of the performance.
But it’s the X factor — the idea that none of the three is quite certain what will transpire — that adds a certain thrill to the three-headed improvisation.
“We have no idea what’s going to happen,” Jordon said.
Added Reason: “We’re all making these instant decisions.“
Eventually, Reason said, the idea is to take the trio’s live performances into other art galleries that are interested in this sort of avant-garde work.
And for Jordon, her time on stage Saturday will be, in some ways, a throwback to her adolescence: “I haven’t been on stage since I was doing ’Fiddler on the Roof’ in my eighth-grade play in the Catskills.“
After Saturday night, there’s one more date on the calendar for this year’s “Between the Cracks” series: Reason and her collaborators are planning a performance of Steve Reich’s seminal “Music for 18 Musicians” on Saturday, May 5, at OSU.