The Project Jumpstart team wanted to showcase how members of our musical community at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music have turned the unique circumstances of the pandemic into opportunities for creativity and inspiration. Parts, Together exemplifies this innovative spirit in so many ways. The deeply collaborative nature of the project (commissioning a new composition, working with an animator, and, of course, bringing so many guitarists together from all around the world), combined with the beautiful imagery in the video, delivers such an inspiring and uplifting message about how we can still unite in music-making even while physically apart. It’s an invaluable reminder in these unusual times!
NF: The 2020 World Ensemble performing Parts, Together started as a community building project with 100 classical guitarists whose collective recordings are synchronized to animation. The music composition is by the Australian composer Azariah Felton, animation by Chia-Hsin Lee from Taiwan, audio mixing and post-production by Jamie Tagg, and the project was directed and produced by Nathan Fischer. The team is comprised of artists and musicians representing 26 countries.
Rising out of the 2020 pandemic, the World Ensemble project created a new music performance and collaboration model for artists in quarantine. The animation for Parts, Together includes visuals that allow anyone to feel invited and included in a classical guitar performance, and underscores that we are a global community, uniquely diverse, and #AloneTogether.
PJ: What was your inspiration for this project?
NF: The idea took shape right after the lockdown in March 2020. As with many people, I felt the need to connect with other musicians, and so I imagined a project that would give people stuck at home the opportunity to direct their energy to performing. I wanted to give people around the world the opportunity to participate in a common project, something that before the pandemic might have been impossible because we were all too busy with our own lives. I could see other musicians, orchestras, college students, engaging and creating split-screen videos by the masses. However, these virtual performances usually had two things in common: they involved people who already knew each other, and, although most of them were very engaging, I felt the final product was not as satisfying as a live performance. For this reason, I stepped away from the split-screen video performance and decided to use animation for the project.
The World Ensemble happened under the umbrella of the Twisted Spruce Music Foundation, an organization that focuses on the production of new music with meaningful collaborations between composers and performers. With this in mind, I thought the premiere of a new composition, that was then set to animation, and involved people from all five continents, was the right kind of project. I wanted to create an inclusive project where people from all around the world, who are in different career stages, and whose only thing in common was playing guitar, could participate. So, I did.
PJ: How have you stayed innovative and inspired during this pandemic?
NF: Staying busy during the pandemic was a combination of holding true to my values as a traditional music practitioner, while imagining a new way to reach out and make music in a modern world—with the use of technology. During the pandemic I worked outside in my garden, I fixed my deck, I took time to reflect on what music is and what music could be. I worked with an outstanding board of directors to co-design an online symposium that pairs classical guitarists with composers from around the world. Our pilot program drew 18 very diverse students with geographic locations representing the United States, England, Canada, and Thailand. The pairing of composers and guitarists who worked collaboratively to create a new work was an astounding success. We will build on this momentum for 2021 and add guitar and chamber music to our competition and education curriculum. Ultimately, during the pandemic, I worked to build the Twisted Spruce Music Foundation and the World Ensemble—a first-of-its-kind organization and ensemble that have a unique and powerful mission to build a new future, new audience, and new repertoire for the classical guitar.
The audio for Parts, Together was released by Frameworks Records, and the score will be available soon through Azahar Press.
Visit the Twisted Spruce website: TwistedSpruce.org
TheTwisted Spruce Music Foundation, and World Ensemble ask that you consider contributing to their 2020 campaign so that they can strengthen the impact they are pursuing—to make music as a global community and advance guitar education in a new and innovative ways: https://charity.gofundme.com/twistedsprucemusicfoundationinc
To learn more about the author visit Elizabeth Yao at https://elizabethyao.com/ and hear her performances at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxOk-olYX1J5QGkRN-3xmwQ