Is That All?

Andrew Czink: piano performance; Goldcorp SFU Woodwards;  2017, May 15th

I always had a problem with minimalism in art: with all that reductionism, alleged synthesis or generalization within esthetic experience – while world, life (and that is what art is about) is a wealth and diversity, also chaos, yet complex and meaningful. An artist has at a disposal unlimited resource of sounds, hues, concepts – to establish his unique, individual experience and a relevant comment. If artist willingly gives up on that, the wealth and diversity (and chaos), in favor of the limited or restricted – usually labeled as a pursuit of purity and significance – I always wonder whether he actually reaches the essence, or in essence disables himself.

Which was the case when I witnessed recently a short piano performance by Andrew Czink, preceded by artist’s introduction into his insight in music – that immediately established that audience was about to embrace something beyond traditional experience in major and minor. According to it, if I got the introduction correctly, Mr. Czink’s focus, both as composer and performer, was on sounds’ relations in tonality, chromatic and tempo, as well as in a sensual experience, both for the audience and the musician, while music be performed. Following, the artist executed a solo piece, ca 20 min., constituted mainly of rubato of not distant chords in variable tempo, focusing on rhythmic, chromatic and harmonic in sounds progression, as promised – with no melodic aspect to it whatsoever. While I deeply admire artists’ urge to explore ideas they identify with, and usually I do try to follow and understand their efforts, from my point of view (or hearing point, actually) this particular experience seemed isolated and insulating, monotonous and not quite interesting. If music, and Mr. Czink emphasized at the beginning that he considered his proceedings as music, not barely quest in the sounds domain, so if music is, as someone observed justly, a liquid architecture, then Mr. Czink constructed a modest shack merely, it seemed, or even a shack’s fence only: limiting but lacking, beyond the limitation, any wider function, role, content or meaning. What’s the point?, I kept guessing, listening to that emotionally charged, undoubtedly, but otherwise going nowhere, I felt, performance. What is the reason to limit such a magnificent, melodic instrument that a grand piano is, to a barely rhythmic, almost percussion function? Somehow like hammering a nail with a baroque candlestick: can be done but is that the best use for candlestick, and the nail?

Restriction, limitation or exclusion may be creatively fruitful: take black and white photography, which falsifies reality, but how aesthetically revealing and significant the results happen, at times, to be? In Mr. Czink’s performance a significance was substantial, perhaps, in his own emotional expression and fulfillment, at a given time and place – which obviously is a reason and fine purpose for art, too. Not necessarily for sharing.

Adam

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