Thursday, January 3, 2013
Violinist Tim Fain is one of those young classical music stars who connects genres and mediums and generations, like a sort-of conduit, an emulsifier, a portal. Fittingly, Portals is the name of his new multimedia live/digitally recorded performance that he’s been touring for the last couple of years and will boot up at Sunset Center on Friday, Jan. 11. It’s a hybrid of rigorously achieved solo violin playing and new digital technology that the 35-year-old Santa Monica native created as a zeitgeist of the times.
“I did set out to create something that’s an expression of my generation,” he says while on vacation with his family in Montana. “It’s just sort of who I am. It’s a very natural progression.”
“It” began in Kaneko, a performance and art space in Oklahoma, where Fain and director Kate Hackett digitally filmed his performances, which were synched to performances by collaborators in New York and Los Angeles, including choreographer Benjamin Millepied and dancers Craig Black, Julia Eichten and Haylee Nichele; pianist Nicholas Britell; and spoken word actor and classical radio host Fred Child.
On film, Black throws himself violently but gracefully throughout his apartment, Child reads poetry by Leonard Cohen, Britell warms up and plays in his home. In a studio in Kaneko, Fain plays music by his oft-collaborator Philip Glass, who wrote a violin concerto, Partita, for Fain; other pieces come from composers Aaron Jay Kernis, Nico Muhly, Kevin Puts, William Bolcom, Lev Zhurbin, Jacob Rubin. Director Hackett edited the collaborations and, since its debut in October 2011, it’s been touring (with Fain the only live body), projected with various effects on digital screens as if the others were there on the stage.
Conjuring the interactive light backdrops of U2 and Radiohead, it’s more communal, like Google + Hangout. Fain, who is in demand and travels and plays everywhere, likens it to Skype.
“It’s a very interesting time to be living and creating,” he says of technology. “This feeling that we are all connected and also not. There’s something wonderful and eerie at the same time about Skyping with your children, friends, loved ones, and not actually being there in the same room with them. It’s amazing. As long as you approach it [like] it’s not a replacement for the real thing.”
And though Fain says the digital technology makes the show portable – “We can stick the whole world in our pockets” – he comes from the real world of training and tutelage and tradition.
“As a kid, I remember my parents watching on TV the making of [Glass’] Einstein on the Beach, summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, working intensely with pianist Richard Goode.”
He began advanced musical training at age 11 when he attended London’s Royal Conservatory of Music. His skill gained momentum under Robert Mann at Juilliard and Russian master instructor Eduard Schmieder. Awards started ticking off until his debut at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival under the baton of Marin Alsop of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. His career’s taken him everywhere since.
He’s performed in Monterey County about four times, most recently last year during Philip Glass’ Days and Nights Festival, and says playing here, on the invite of the 56-year-old Chamber Music Monterey Bay, is like a homecoming.
Fain is earning about as much critical and popular acclaim as any violinist can hope. He played on and appeared in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan; he’s been written up in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; he’s collaborated with artists from the Mark Morris Dance Group to the Rossetti String Quartet to rapper/beatboxer Rahzel. This past June he accompanied Glass and Joanne Newsom in a show at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre for a Henry Miller Library fundraiser – “That was a very, very fun show,” he says.
And he hasn’t breached his 40s yet. Maybe one reason why his influences and repertoire spans Beethoven to Bjork.
“Beyond the fact that I really vibe with their styles, they both have unpredictable quality to them,” he says. “The tunes Beethoven writes are some of the most beautiful things around.”
Fain says audiences can expect a savvy presentation, but one which doesn’t forgo meaning: making connections to one another: “The style oscillates between very beautiful, polished films [to] much more informal clips, like talking to a friend on Skype.”
His 3-year-old daughter then makes a happy racket in the background of the phone conversation – a reminder of that connection that technology can simulate, but can’t replace.
“It’s never going to be a fully complete representation of the physical or live experience,” Fain says. “You can get pretty darn close.”
PORTALS: MULTIMEDIA EXPLORATION OF LONGING IN A DIGITAL AGE will be performed 8pm Friday, Jan. 11, at Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel. $36-$51. 625-2212, www.ChamberMusicMontereyBay.org