My first reaction was: “Yes! Hell yes! Let’s do it and let’s kick ass at it!” My second reaction was: “Matt, there is no goddamned way on Earth you could do something as complicated and high-stakes as starting a brand new music conference.” Enter my good friends Anxiety and Doubt. They set up shop and didn’t leave until after this whole thing was finished.
It began, as so many things do, with a moment of discourse on social media, a Facebook thread that got—as these things tend to do—heated on a topic I cannot recall. I messaged Matt Marks privately—the modern equivalent of repairing to the hotel bar for the sanity of a quiet drink—and said, simply, that we needed an actual space where these things could be talked about
The visual arts and the sonic arts arrive to us from a distance, via electromagnetic radiation or fluctuations in air pressure, but taste and smell require direct contact. Philosophers have long debated whether the fundamentally different nature of these chemical senses precludes the elaboration of an art of ideas based on them, something that goes beyond the ancient and sophisticated traditions of perfumery or cuisine.
It’s easy to recognize several time scales to a meal, from the succession of courses (even simply saving dessert for last) to the entropy that occurs as a hot dish cools or a frozen dish melts to the succession of individual bites. Recognizing these time scales is straightforward, but synchronizing music to them is a much trickier proposition.
A distinction needs to be made between music that uses a work of visual art as a source of inspiration and music that has been envisioned expressly for the purpose of illuminating, commenting upon, and conversing with visual art—music where viewing the art while listening to the music is, in some sense, essential to the full realization of the composer’s vision.