Nashville Composer Adds Soundscape To Swirling Film Installation At The Frist

Ana Maria Tavares, Brian Siskind, and Chief Curator of the Frist Mark Scala inside "Airshaft (to Piranesi)". Credit: Beth Conklin

Ana Maria Tavares, Brian Siskind, and Chief Curator of the Frist Mark Scala inside “Airshaft (to Piranesi)”. Credit: Beth Conklin

The current exhibit in the Frist Center’s Gordon Contemporary gallery is an exercise in cross-continental collaboration.

The museum’s curators discovered the work of Brazilian artist Ana Maria Tavares through an exchange program between Vanderbilt University and the University of Sao Paulo, where Tavares teaches. Then, after making arrangements to have her work exhibited in Nashville, Tavares decided her silent video installation Airshaft ought to have sound added for its time in Music City. Nashville ambient composer Brian Siskind was brought on board to create an atmospheric companion piece to the vertigo-inducing, labyrinthine images.

Tavares’ work draws from mid-century modernist architecture, so Siskind began his composition with audio from recordings of the same period, layered and arranged into a 25 minute piece of music. Beyond matching the audio to the ideas behind the images, Siskind says he kept a practical consideration in mind. Knowing that a docent would be posted within earshot, he tried to make sure he wrote something Frist employees wouldn’t mind hearing for eight hours straight.

Here’s a short video of the piece shot at Thursday’s opening:

Brian Siskind isn’t new to combining sound with visual art. In 2011, he performed Mark Rothko-inspired compositions live at the Rothko Chapel in Houston. Here’s an interview Siskind did about the project with our colleages at Houston Public Radio.

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