Playing piano since the age of 4, Composer/pianist Pamela Weng is coming to the Mercury Cafe this Friday, 11/26/10, with her show Gratitude: A Celebration of Soul, Song and Poetry. The show starts at 7:30PM and admission is $10 for adults; children under 12 are free. Reservations can be made by calling 303-294-9258.
There will be a combination of seasonal instrumentals, vocals and poetry featuring Pamela Weng on piano and vocals, Daria Joanna on cello, Eugene Ebner - vocals, Bear Limvere - Native American flute, Michael Reynolds- guitar, Michael Stanwood- digereedoo/auto-harp and vocals, and SETH - poetry. Pamela Weng holds a Masters degree in Humanities from the University of Colorado at Denver (1997), where she teaches piano, music history and literature, music appreciation, and social and political implications of American music. She also operates Nuance Piano Studio, a private studio in Evergreen, Colorado since 1986, where she has shared her talents with many pianists over the years.
In creating her masters thesis, she combined a love for art with her love for music by recording and producing a CD of "sound paintings" entitled Earthtones. The recording also features the talents of acclaimed Colorado musicians Drew Morell, Ted Reece, Calvin Standing Bear and Larry Thompson.
Pamela's latest CD, Earthtones II, was released in the Spring of 2008. This is a rare CD of eclectic world music, featuring acclaimed poet Dee Galloway, Calvin Standing Bear on Native American flute, Larry Thompson on percussion, Daria Joanna on cello, Alex Komodore on guitar, Evan Orman on bandoneon, Ian Hutchison on bass, Michael Stanwood on vocals and digereedoo, Manuel Araujo on trumpet, Michael Reynolds on guitar, and Rick Chinisci on mandolin.
I recently asked Pamela a few questions about her project...
Q: Would you explain “sound paintings” a little further?
Pamela: I pursued my masters degree under the umbrella of the Humanities department at the University of Colorado at Denver. This enabled me to pull together several different disciplines and produce a unique thesis rather than the traditional academic document. My studies included music technology, art history and music production, and those subjects led me to create the recording of original music, Earthtones which I describe as "sound paintings".
Each song on the album represents a specific color and place which I explore through the language of music. The pictures the music portrays range from the exquisite sparkling sky of a Colorado night to the driving snow storm of a mountain blizzard. Other destinations on the journey include a stroll through a beautiful flower garden, a trip to the sand dunes, a cruise through the azure waters of a glacier field and the panoramic vision of the Colorado sky at sunset.
Q: When did you first start working with poets & why?
Pamela: In April of 2002 I was out hiking in my Conifer neighborhood and found myself on an unfamiliar road. I had cut through the forest and didn't know how to get back to my house. I flagged down a passing vehicle whose occupant, Dr. Bob Boyle was delivering flowers in the area. He offered to drive me back to my house and during the ride he mentioned that he was a poet and that a musician in Australia had gotten a hold of one of his poems and wanted to write music to it. I exclaimed "I'm a pianist....perhaps I could write music to your poetry!"
When we arrived back at my house I ran in to get him my Earthtones album. He then produced a laminated card he had just made which proclaimed SERENDIPITOUS ENCOUNTERS....and said that I wasn't lost....I just needed to meet him! Needless to say I walked into my house after that with my mouth hanging open. A couple of weeks later I was evacuated from my house because of a fire only 3 miles away. It was the spring of the Hayman fire.
I had forgotten all about my serendipitous encounter because of those extraordinary events. The day I returned to the house there was an envelope from Dr. Boyle in my mailbox which included the poem he had written to "Mountain Midnight". I was reduced to tears as I read the poem because it portrayed the same emotions I was feeling when I wrote the composition several years earlier. Bob introduced me to another talented poet, Dee Galloway and the three of us have worked together since that time. We have produced two albums of poetry and music, "Spirit Rising" and "Solace...a journey on the pathway of Grief"."
Q: What would you describe as your driving force or inspiration?
Pamela: I like to say that my native language is music rather than English. Since I began playing at such an early age I have always thought in this wonderful universal language. I am a melodist and feel I have a unique power to touch the human soul through my music. Of course, I am gratified when others enjoy and respond to my compositions but I have found that the driving force behind my inspiration is an internal need to express in this way.
I create for the sake of creating and it is something I am driven to do regardless of the outcome. Having said that, I also feel a desire to do my part in this world by sharing love, bringing people together, bridging differences and creating a space for unity. Music is one of the most powerful forces in this world and I feel very grateful to have the talent to make this contribution.
Q: Would you be able to describe your song writing process (if you have one)?
Pamela: If I am writing an instrumental piece I find it helpful to visualize a scene and then create the sounds that describe it. For example, one of the songs on Earthtones II is called "Dolphin's Dance". It was inspired by an experience I had swimming with dolphins off the island of Maui. When I returned home after this trip I sat down at the piano, closed my eyes and re-experienced the magic of this encounter. I illustrated the energy of these creatures with driving rhythm, a melodic line that dives and ascends, and decorations of splashing water as they jumped and spun around me.
Another song off of this album, "Outback Ochre" was created in the studio in a completely improvisatory way with Michael Stanwood and Larry Thompson. I had researched and read about aboriginal song lines and understood they were actually sound maps which guide people to gathering places. Other than that background information we had no plan and simply sat down and started playing. When I write music to go along with poetry I create harmonies and melodies which evoke the emotions associated with specific words. One of the compositions I wrote with Dr. Bob Boyle is called "Loving Listening". The music provides a background texture similar to question and answer in a conversation.
Q: What would you like an audience to take away from your performance?
Pamela: I always endeavor to provide an unusual concert experience for my audiences. I love to co-create with others in traditional and unique ways and believe variety is the spice of life. I also like to include some aspect of audience participation so as to provide an inter-active experience. I want my audience to come away feeling touched, inspired and just plain happy~
Q: Any advice for other local artists?
Pamela: The best advice I can give another artist is to be true to themselves in the expression of their art. One of my good friends who is also a pianist suggested that the only important thing in creating music, art, poetry etc. is that you as the artist like the work. If you truly love it....there will always be others who will feel the same as we are truly connected to each other in a mystical way.
Although commercial success is often dictated by an attempt to appeal to the masses, I personally have not been motivated by that. I don't believe in competition in the arts. There can never be too many good artists or too many great works of art. I really feel that everyone has creative talent and it is an essential part of the human experience to let that talent manifest.
I also would advise another artist to persevere and never give up! The conventional wisdom of some might say that if you haven't "made it" (what ever that means) by the time you are in your 20's or 30's or 40's you might as well accept it. That's ridiculous in my opinion. I don't think age has anything to do with success, and I also believe in a more inclusive definition of success. OK....I admit I'll take the millions of dollars when they come my way and I also believe that in creating one work of art ...even if no one else ever hears it or sees it....I am a success!