Sunday, June 2, 2019

Love is Like Oxygen

Words I never expected to hear from an artist's mouth: "I like to use data to make art."

That artist Sara Bouchard was saying it as we stood on the top floor of the Pump House - the very same one that used to host dances to which people came by boat back in the day - only made it more unlikely.

In this case, she'd created a sound installation based on water quality data from the James collected over all four seasons in 2017. She explained that the data showing dissolved oxygen levels in the river in two-hour increments was then entered into a software program that converted it to notes, which is almost more than I could comprehend.

Let's just say that this Luddite had no clue that such a thing was possible.

Once she had a score, she tapped tenor saxophonist Jason Scott to record it, while she played piano based on the pH levels of the river, which, like the oxygen levels, rise and fall on a daily basis and with the seasons.

Are you beginning to see why my head almost exploded as she explained it all?

Like my one and only tour of the Pump House previously, a hard hat was required to enter and only 20 people at a time were allowed inside the Pump House's cool, dim interior. Speakers were placed all around so that no matter which level you were on, the 30-minute composition was playing as the late afternoon sun slanted through the windows.

And beautiful as the music was anywhere in the late-19th century stone building, it was most dazzling when heard while on the Southern Gothic-looking uppermost dance floor with its lush views overlooking the canal.

I could only imagine what a wonderful place it must have been for dancing.

Chatting with the artist, I asked how she'd chosen Jason to record the piece. Seems he went to school with her husband, so he seemed like an easy choice. She was curious how I knew Jason and I explained that it was as simple as having seen him play in countless bands - RVA Big Band, the Hi-Steps, the Blue Tips, the Scott Clark 4-tet, the Jason Scott Quintet, to name but a few - over the years.

Well, that and running into him at all kinds of events around Richmond during the past decade.

If wandering around the vintage Pump House to a soundtrack created by the river's oxygen saturation levels isn't my most Richmond experience yet, it's got to be pretty damn close. So while the music only lasted half an hour, some of us spent a full hour taking in the completely unique vibe.

Now if only the Friends of the Pump House could raise enough money to restore the old place so that it could be enjoyed without hard hats, we'd be getting somewhere.

Then it was on to Secco's patio for a little Spanish immersion as the sun slowly set behind the trees. Okay, a lot of immersion.

There were pink Spanish bubbles as a belated birthday nod, Spanish white to accompany a killer kale salad with bottarga and breadcrumbs and meze (the spinach falafel among the best I've ever had), Spanish red to stand up to the spiciness of octopus Bolognese and even an after dinner Moscatel to make my warm carrot cake with dried fruit compote shine even brighter.

I have to say that the only thing that could have made the meal any more perfect would have been if we'd had a Saturday night dance at the Pump House to go to afterwards.

Dancing (slightly loopy) in the moonlight? Yes, please.

No comments:

Post a Comment