The Tablet PC-wielding piano-playing super-awesome Hugh Sung is celebrating one year as a blogger. He has a podcast here introducing his cool gear to musicians. Get with the program, folks, and give Hugh a click.

Busy here chasing pentatonic collections in Debussy.  I think there goes one right now… 


2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Hugh!”
  1. Hi Herb – thanks for the honest assessments – true, i’m not a professional visual artist, just a pianist trying to integrate available technologies as best as i can. Every artistic journey needs a first step – in my case, demonstrating this particular method of tight yet simple synchronization between dynamic visuals and musical content. Hopefully this will attract new audiences, and at the same time attract other musicians and visual artists to take a look at the possibilities and collaborate (this is already happening – i’m in discussions with two organizations, one to present concerts with the Visual Recital technology/format, the other to actually train their own musicians to integrate these types of visualizations into their performances). I’m already discussing a possible collaboration with a very talented illustrator, and some very talented programmers in Brazil are also excited about the idea. Is it a finished product? Certainly not – much, much more development needs to be given to making the visuals on par with the composers’ materials (and hopefully the performer’s chops), but i’m trying to point more towards the potential and the feasibility of these technologies to the everyday musician who doesn’t have gobs of money to throw into such productions. Yes, hopefully within 5 or 10 years, enough attention will be given to my Visual Recital production that i won’t have to do everything all by myself – nothing would make me happier than to have the resources to hire the best visual artists around to produce content in collaboration with today’s composers and performers and to design shows (yes, “shows” – a word that needs to be applied to the experience we as art musicians present to the lay audiences) of the highest quality.

    I posted a new video on from a recent performance utilizing a 9×7 rear projection screen. The materials are admittedly cheap (pvc pipes and muslin sheets) and the audio quality is kinda crappy (no time to mike properly, had to extract the audio from the camcorder), but i was delighted to hear the exclamations from the children “ooh”-ing and “ahhh”-ing at the visuals, giggling in delight at certain passages – i dunno, it ain’t Lucasfilm, but sometimes even simple visualizations can elicit powerful responses! I’ll take those reactions from a live audience any day!

  2. Seeing this reminded me that I’d responded to an earlier post about Hugh Sung’s visual additions to his performances. Looking back & reading Sung’s response for the first time, He seems to be somewhat confused about the argument I was making.

    I was not complaining about Sung’s attempt to bring new audiences to new music by adding other artistic elements. This is something that’s been done successfully for many many years (opera and dance, anyone?).

    My complaint about the performance video I’ve seen is that the non-musical elements weren’t nearly as compelling as the music. Sung’s intermedia performances could be far more successful, in terms of increased attendance AND in terms of aesthetics, if he didn’t feel the need to do it all himself.

    Sung seems to be a good pianist with some interesting choices of repertoire, and he is clearly very interested in some of the new technological possibilities of combining various art forms into a single event, but none of this means that his own graphic elements add much to a performance. Without going into his CV in depth, I probably don’t want to read any poetry he’s written, or see any choreography he’s done either.

    He may be having fun with whatever graphics programs and gear he’s using, but the learning curve for what makes good/interesting visual art is no less steep than the one for what makes a good musical performance. How many second-year piano students are ready to perform for paying audiences who aren’t family, friends and fellow students?

    If Sung really wants to “engage the visual-centric prime demographics of new audiences”, the non-musical components must be as creative as the musical components. He writes that he isn’t able to “afford a hot shot team of CGI programmers from ILM”, but it’s not the tech that’s the problem with his presentations, it’s the visual content itself. Sung doesn’t need technicians to realize his vision better, he needs to collaborate with visual artists who are at least as talented, skilled and experienced as he is and as the composers whose works he performs are.

    I don’t deny that there are SOME wonderful intermedia works that have been created by individuals, but these are comparatively rare and have virtually always been made by people with a lot of experience in all of the genres being used. It’s far more common for successful and interesting intermedia works to be created by collaborations of artists working as equals.

    Consider (just to name a few DVDs within reach of my desk) such intermedia works as Robert Ashley’s video operas with costumes, sets, video design, etc all created by other artists; Decasia by film maker Bill Morrison and composer Michael Gordon; Steve Reich’s collaborations with videographer Beryl Korot; the Living Cinema of composer/performer Bob Ostertag and animator Pierre Hébert; Drift by Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer. In all of these works, experienced professional artists have created both the visual and the musical components.

    So, yeah, congratulations on the first birthday of Hugh Sung’s blog. May his next year of blogging document his willingness to work with experienced visual artists to help reach his goal of engaging “he visual-centric prime demographics of new audiences”.

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