Stravinsky, Parsifal, Beethoven, Rodney Graham & Robert SilvermanWednesday, April 19, 2006
Photographic assignments involving musicians are always a challenge. How can one be original if it has all been done before? And most difficult of all is a pianist. This is particularly true if one has memory of Arnold Newman's difinitive portrait. When the Globe & Mail asked me to photograph Canadian conceptual artist, Rodney Graham's show Recital at the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery at UBC I was momentarily stymied. A pre-programmed grand piano was part of the show. By converting Wagner's score for Parsifal into mathematical formulas Graham had conceeived a piece of music that began in 1882- the premiere of the Wagner opera - and which will come to an end in 39 billion years. The programed piano would play one note every ten or twenty minutes (the pattern of notes can be seen in the wall behind Graham and piano (above, left). Since Rodney Graham and I have shared the same floor, where we have separate studios for some 12 years, I know that he is not as scary and serious as he looks. His Parsifal project had something of a tongue in cheek in it. I decided to rip off Arnold Newman. The folks at the Globe & Mail respected my request to keep my crop so as to make the photo look more like Newman's. In October 2000 I had to photograph for the Georgia Straight solo pianist Robert Silverman who had just recorded all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. When I arrived at Silverman's UBC office I knew what I was going to do.