Co-creators in musicpaintingLIVE

Una Meistere


A conversation with pianist Reinis Zariņš and painter Maryleen Schiltkamp

On the evening of June 17, pianist Reinis Zariņš, together with Dutch painter Maryleen Schiltkamp, will execute an art synergy project – the live music/painting performance Awakening – at Hanzas Perons in Riga. The essence of the project is a fusion of painting and music: while Zariņš plays Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Schiltkamp simultaneously visualises the music on canvas – the shared energy of both artists and the overlapping of sonic and visual elements creates a magical field where music and art become one. The result is a unique experience of sound, colour, form and movement; a transcendental moment in which the distinction between hearing and seeing disappears between the stroke of a brush and the pressing of the keys of a grand piano. 

Reinis Zariņš and Maryleen Schiltkamp met ten years ago, and during that time have realised five different projects together – including a full evening programme of works by Bach, Ravel and Messiaen at Cēsis Arts Festival (2017), as well as their panorama of Russian piano masterpieces in Amsterdam Hermitage Winter festival (2018).

Zariņš’ initial challenge was to find an artist who could paint the music itself rather than the emotions it evokes. “Music has in itself enough objective structure – not just a subjective feeling – that it can be visually painted for people to see, and maybe even help them in understanding it. We all know that after a performance, when asked about it, many concertgoers cannot say anything other than just: Oh, I liked it. That’s because they simply don’t know what to do with the music. It really is complicated, especially classical music.

“So, I was looking for someone who could paint the objective content of the music as it was being played. As soon as I saw Maryleen’s paintings online, I contacted her via Facebook – and that’s how it all began.”

Schiltkamp admits that agreeing to work with Zariņš was quite daring on her part, as before this she had mostly painted musical reflections. “I had taken piano lessons as a child, so I can play the piano a bit and I can also read music, but strictly on an amateur level... But I always knew I was going to be an artist.

“What makes the collaboration with Reinis special is that, as a musician, he also has talent in a visual sense. And since I’m a painter but I also understand music, it’s totally mutually reinforcing. I think we’re really co-creators. Sometimes when we make a change [in our visual plan for a music piece] we can’t really tell who was behind it because the whole process is so collaborative. It’s exciting for me – it’s a real passion to paint music.”

Stravinsky's RITE - musicpaintingLIVE teaser; studio rehearsal 2023 from Maryleen Schiltkamp on Vimeo.

The following conversation with both artists took place during the rehearsal process in January 2023, at Schiltkamp’s studio in Amsterdam.

Why did you specifically choose Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring for this performance?

Reinis Zariņš: In a sense, it’s greater than anything else we’ve done before – it’s like a big step up. Because of how earthy and fundamental it is – the deep “human” thing that is common to all of us. It’s the dark side of it that is revealed in this piece.

Maryleen Schiltkamp: It really has to do with all of life. For a long time, I was drawn to this theme of sacrifice. There is a very mystic element in sacrifice. In Part One, spring is coming back and it always goes through nature; in Greek legends, we learn that something must be sacrificed for that to happen. The goddess of Spring comes out from the underworld because in winter she’s absent. As we see in Part Two, there’s a mystical combination of life and death, one in which a girl has to dance herself to death. She is the Chosen One, so there’s a holiness about her as well, but sadly, this only leads to her death. Yet what she guarantees is that spring will continue, as will this cycle of nature that will go on as long as the earth revolves around the Sun. The element of soil is like the earth awakening, and the Dance of the Earth is like an explosion of colours. Then we put black soil over it as a mix of the life that comes out of the earth as well as the earth that will eventually cover this life. In the end the girl jumps and, at the same time, is also buried. And the jumps are also like the will of the spirit to survive, to transcend the material.

Actually, the fact that there is death gives our life meaning. As does the fact that we feel that we want to pass something on to the next generations – we want to have a witness of our lives. My artworks are my legacy; if I’m not there anymore, then they will go on into the future.

With Reinis, we have been talking a lot about the “door moments” in the music. Because in these episodes, you can sometimes hear what is the closure of one episode and the start of the next. And in our lives, we also have “door moments” as we move from one phase into another. Working on the The Rite of Spring was, for me, a way of letting go of something and moving on. Perhaps, also a liberation in which I had to show pain or devastation. And then, with that, it is also objectified and you can grow to another moment in your life.

The fact that there is death gives our life meaning. As does the fact that we feel that we want to pass something on to the next generations – we want to have a witness of our lives.

How would you characterise your collaboration? As I understood from our earlier short conversation, the key word here is synchronicity.

M.S.: Indeed, and what interlinks everything is movement. Movement is the carrier of this synchronicity. For instance, just like the two rails of a set of train tracks: they are parallel, but on the horizon they reach the vanishing point where they visually appear to come together – an optical illusion. Similarly, there’s a point where the music and the painting become one language. This is not our ultimate goal – I know that music is music and painting is painting, but there are moments of synchronicity. I also feel that my hands become one with the brush and there’s nothing in between me and the music – I am totally with Reinis in the moment. Performance art is about being in the moment together, and at the same time, this also becomes a shared experience with the audience.

R.Z. Synchronicity is fundamental for this kind of art to make sense, I think. If there is no synchronicity, there is no immediate sense of a link connecting what you are hearing and what you are seeing being painted. This is why a lot of effort has to be put in to really make it work.

M.S. We really do it together... During our rehearsal sessions, it’s like we enter this kind of flow zone and the outside world is far away. We could almost go on like that for 24 hours – the adrenaline is there and it’s really wonderful. Together with Reinis, we are in the act of creation itself, and it is so fascinating. I’m really thankful to Reinis for bringing this out of me because I used to be the shy one on stage. Now I enjoy it very much and we also work on how to capture the audience – how to really communicate what is going on in the music.

We really do it together... During our rehearsal sessions, it’s like we enter this kind of flow zone and the outside world is far away.

Reinis, I remember when we first spoke about this performance, you told me that when music was performed in the Classical period, people had the ability to visually see its narrative in their minds. Nowadays, most of us have lost this ability. Is musicpaintingLIVE the way to bring back this phenomenon?

R.Z.: Yes. For me, that is another benefit – another gift – that it can give. What I meant was that back then (at least this was the case in Europe), when Mozart and Haydn and so on wrote their sonatas and their concerti, we all knew the rules of the game. And we all could follow the story because it had a form that everyone knew. Back then, not only musicians but society as well was educated in music, at least in some basic sense. Music actually “worked” because the audience was expected to know the rules of the game, and when the composer would deviate from those rules, people were like, Okay, let’s see where he’s going now... They could follow the story just by hearing it. They could follow as the music “returns back home”, sense the nuances in the way it was presented, and anticipate the very end. Maybe the composer would put in a surprise or a joke and people would laugh. Nowadays, we hear music and we just think, What’s there? What’s funny about that? We are not used to it. As a musician, of course, I am sorry that most of society cannot follow along with the music in this way. Also, composers don’t compose like that anymore. We live in an age where everyone can do everything, so there are no rules.

I hope that if our musicpaintingLIVE works the way we want it to, people will listen to the music, see it, and then understand it better. Everyone can “feel” music in some sense, and I feel this music is like that as well, but to understand its objective content, as I already said, is important precisely because it is in there. It’s just that people don’t hear it – they don’t recognise it anymore. You don’t have to be a musician to be able to follow along on that level, I think. We are kind of trying to help – as much as we can, that is. We can’t do everything, but we can be like a stepping stone for some people.

Perhaps it works both ways, and through musicpaintingLIVE, some people may come to better understand the visual arts.

M.S. I think it is a field in itself. In general, this is, again, about the element of time. In the visual arts, the time element is not as important as it is in music. For instance, when you look at sketches – let’s say, those of Rembrandt in the Rijksmuseum – you see the finished paintings, but there are also sketches and drawings done in pencil. And when you look at these, maybe the artist was outside when he drew them; perhaps there was a storm going on and you can see from the lines how his pencil went along with the rhythm of the swaying trees. And then when he went back to his studio, he makes a painting from his sketches – really works it out to be very detailed and very nice. Perhaps that element of the storm is still in there, but not in this really very present way. It could be that the elements of movement are best captured in a live painting.

R.Z. Maybe you can talk a bit about the calligraphy aspect, which is also part of what you do. I think it explains elements of your work quite well because it’s different.

M.S. I had my first encounter with Japanese culture here in Amsterdam, and then I was lucky enough to go to Tokyo with my work. When you work with calligraphy, you start with the paper, which is totally white, but the philosophy is that the paper already has all. For instance, if you want to paint a bird, the whole of the bird is already in the white paper. It’s a very zen-like way of thinking. Then you take a pencil and you draw/pull the bird out of the paper – you identify with it, you go there in your mind, to this feeling. You can feel this bird flying, you feel the sound. You feel the bird inside of you and then you draw it with one stroke – and then stop. The bristles of the brush have made this velocity movement; you don’t go back and try to correct anything because every spot, drop or line of ink is part of it. It starts out like a concept in your mind and then through your arm, in one movement and with your whole being, you are connected with this line.

For the Japanese, it is more than a philosophy – it is about life. It is like a celebration of life, a respect for it. I felt it was so beautiful, and when I began working on the musicpaintingLIVE project, I saw the opportunity to incorporate movement with these signal-like brushstrokes. And when Reinis plays a certain sequence – for instance, a very fast movement or a very slow one – you can just be in the music in this way. I pick the colours that I think are necessary, and those are very quick decisions. I have trays of paint at the ready and I plan some things beforehand, but I also make decisions during the movement itself. This is also the reason why there are some white “breathing spaces” on the canvas. It lets you better see the movement of the brush and the calligraphy.

It starts out like a concept in your mind and then through your arm, in one movement and with your whole being, you are connected with this line.

Is there always just a brush and nothing else?

M.S. No, for this piece we have a new development – scrapers. They’re almost like a plastic knife but very sharp. They are used for painting house walls and are good for making angles and sharp edges. We now include the scrapers in our work a lot. You can also combine layers using a scraper – you lay down one layer of paint and then another one next to it, and then with the scraper you can combine both colours.

R.Z. We use it for certain music because of the edginess it brings to the narrative.

For The Rite of Spring, you’ve added the element of earth. How did you come up with this idea?

R.Z. We’ve watched so many different ways of how people approach this piece of music. It is mainly a piece for dance, but there are many distinctive choreographies that have been created. One has the whole floor covered with soil, black earth. And it’s so powerful – these bodies come and there’s dirt everywhere and that’s part of the story. It’s not something they pulled out of the blue, as in, Let’s just make something conceptual. No, it makes total sense. It’s like coming out of the earth and then returning to it. Symbolically, life comes from the black earth, the same earth that also buries it in the end.

We wouldn’t do this with Bach or Chopin, but this particular piece – Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring – is precisely just about that. I may be a bit too harsh, but I believe that the things we do must make sense as a whole. I don’t say, let’s just follow our feelings for now and we’ll eventually figure out why. There must be a reason behind everything.

There must be a reason behind everything.

Could it be said that music, and visual art as well, is a form of spirituality? Perhaps all art forms are spiritual.

M.S. Yes, I think that art and music both belong to the spiritual domain. It materialises in a certain way – in painting, you have an object; in music, there are sounds that stay in your memory – or you remember how the music made you feel. There is a reality which belongs to the world of our senses. We can see, we can hear, we can touch.... But the direction it takes, the soul of it, is from the spiritual realm. What would we be without culture? It is a witness of our humanity.

R.Z. I’m thinking: What is not spiritual? Can you point at what in our experience is not spiritual?

M.S.: There is a tendency in the western world to be very material. The sense of community has disappeared; the sense that you serve a goal that is beyond you and which somehow connects people or connects us to a higher goal – is very much lacking in our culture. In other cultures – for example, in Asian cultures – it is still there. In a capitalistic world, as an artist you are also a product. When people speak with artists, they talk about marketing because we have deviated from the heart, from the core. If there is no spiritual aspect, there is no meaning. Where are we going, then?

What would we be without culture? It is a witness of our humanity.

In a way, an artwork is also a very straightforward concentration of energy. As an artist, you are a kind of medium and you’re putting all of your creative physical energy, as well as the energy of your subconscious mind, into the painting (or whatever it is that you are creating as an artist). And you have to go into a certain zone in order to do this.

M.S.: That was indeed also one of our thoughts – that music is fleeting, it is ephemeral, but after the music has gone, the painting is still there as an object to look at and to remind you about the music. Nevertheless, I think that of all the arts, music has the most direct impact on the soul. Perhaps poetry does as well, but there is always a word in between.

With painting, you have the language of colour, but there is not such a direct impact. Yes, colours are carriers of energy that can influence you. However, colour is relative. It is light of a certain wavelength, diffracted in the spectral range. Humans perceive this diffraction as certain colours – red, blue, yellow, etc. – whereas other animals and creatures can perceive colours that we cannot. Colours are interactive phenomena conditional of the viewer. But when you really allow yourself to go into music, it can reach very deep layers. As in Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes – we’ve been carrying these collective symbols of mankind for centuries, and music can reach them.

Why do we love music? What is this place where music takes us, especially when we allow ourselves to go really deep within it?

M.S. We love music because instinctively, music is connected to our earliest experiences – the mother’s heartbeat, pulses and oceanic sounds are heard by the foetus in the womb. Subconsciously, we long for the sublime. As if we were once an undivided part of the cosmos but have now been cut off and live on as fragments reflecting something of the initial wholeness.

In physics, sound is not a space in itself but a vibration that travels as an acoustic wave through space. In culture, music is the art of arranging sound to create some form of harmony or otherwise expressive content. In human physiology and psychology, music is the reception of such expressive waves and their perception by the brain. In the perception of music, we experience a resonance with our emotions, both consciously and subconsciously. Musical interaction reaches deep archetypal material that we can only sometimes reach. Music can induce transformation in the sense of healing of the psyche, as well as restore a feeling of connectedness and being part of a greater realm.

Music can induce transformation in the sense of healing of the psyche, as well as restore a feeling of connectedness and being part of a greater realm.

Reinis, what is music to you?

R.Z.: Because I, as a musician, am in it, I cannot observe it from the outside. I cannot necessarily see in it the things that you are talking about because I’m doing them myself, and I cannot know the impact that they are making on the people who are hearing them. I’m not in the audience when it happens.

But what is this space or field that you are in when you are playing music?

R.Z. I am there, but I do let the music speak to me, as a performer, as well. I don’t have to reach some state to be able to play and perform. For me, life is mostly divided between work, preparation, and then, the performance. Then I go home and start preparing for the next performance. I don’t sit and play just for fun. I prepare for the performance, and that is “the fun”. And when I perform, that is also “the fun”. 

Again, just to be precise, I don’t have to reach some kind of state to sit down and start playing. Even on stage, I let the music tell me her story – it’s not just me telling the music’s story to everyone else. I let the music impact me as well. In some sense, I know I’m contradicting myself – I can be part creator and also a member of the audience.

As we know, music activates the areas of the brain responsible for memory, emotion, and movement; the visual arts partly do the same. What happens when they are combined, as in musicpaintingLIVE?

M.S. With musicpaintingLIVE, the musical movement is indeed interlinked with visual movement: the rhythm and direction of brushstrokes are representing the music in an almost calligraphic way. Movement is precisely the connecting feature. It appears that in the brain there are shared areas between music and movement – they are represented the same way in the brain and use a shared neural code. Connecting visual elements to this musical movement creates a coinciding of art and music.

What we hear from audiences is that it is really exciting to see and hear music at the same time. It challenges the brain to process and analyse information entering different sensory fields. We believe live painting adds a worthwhile value to the experience of the music through its downreaching layers and development over time.

R.Z. Music is, I think, one form of communication between humans. We have different forms, and words are the easiest for us, yet at the same time, we stumble most – as well as misunderstand one another – when using words, right? So, the easiest mode is also the worst mode. But for humans, art seems to provide other channels through which we can communicate with one another – kind of skipping the words altogether. And it doesn’t have to be a narrative, like a story. I don’t even know exactly what it is, but I think there is a very fundamental thing in humans that is touched by art, including music.

For humans, art seems to provide other channels through which we can communicate with one another – kind of skipping the words altogether.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a renowned Austrian art gallerist some time ago – when I asked him what he loves most in art, and why has he devoted all his life to it, including supporting artists, he said: Because there is a truth in art.

R.Z.: He’s clearly not a postmodern guy, which I really appreciate. Nowadays, it’s kind of out of fashion to say that there is any truth at all. But I believe there is. And, in fact, I would say that I kind of agree with the idea that everything came from the word. “In the beginning was the Word” – Logos. It’s a biblical idea, you know; I don’t think you can find it said quite this way anywhere else. And we know that, for example, even human DNA has been called a word. Perhaps a super-complicated word, but nevertheless a word. So, each one of us is built from such a word, and we have this one common word that makes us human, yet when we speak our words, we sometimes mess up and misunderstand and start conflict and wars... But another, better expression of the word that we have in common, is our music and arts in general. Clearly, if the Word made the world, then logically the truth is with this Word. And so I believe that deep down, since we are all made of the same word, we know the truth, but I think we can grasp the full truth more consciously through music and other arts, rather than through our mixed up languages.

The word is also a sound, otherwise no one will hear our words. Maybe before the word, there was sound – like the primordial “Aum”.

R.Z.: Or, perhaps the world was not spoken into being, but was sung into being.

What is the sound of colour? Does it have a sound?

M.S. In 1914 Wassily Kandinsky wrote the pioneering work “Über das Geistige in der Kunst” (Concerning the Spiritual in Art). In the section about painting, Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colours as well as the language of form and colour, also in relation to music. Kandinsky had a rare trait called synaesthesia; he literally saw colours when he heard music, and he heard music when he painted.

Synaesthesia is a connection between experiences coming from different sensory systems. Music/colour synaesthesia, for instance, is the hearing of musical sounds when perceiving colours and vice versa. I don’t have synaesthesia in the sense that I am involuntarily seeing colours with certain music or sound. If I may say so, my experience is that I can deliberately induce an infusion of colour and music through concentration/identification.

It is very subjective. For example, both Olivier Messiaen and Alexander Scriabin had synaesthesia, but the same music evoked different colours for each. There is not a theory behind this. Kandinsky tried to come up with a theory, but it was still very subjective: for example, for him, red signified the violin, yellow was the sound of a trumpet, and blue was an organ. He had his own strictly individual list of matching colours and sounds.

Of course, we now know more about the brain than in Kandinsky’s time. As I understand, it has to do with brainwaves: alpha-, beta- or gamma brainwaves. Alpha waves are high frequency waves; they are active in the brain when, for instance, you’re at the airport, running for the gate and scanning the surroundings for gate numbers. Beta waves are in the middle zone: routine activity, including repetition and the consolidating of information. Gamma waves are very low in frequency and are active when asleep, during deep thinking, or when in a meditative state. But new ideas and creation also take place at this frequency. Gamma waves are active when there is a fusion of the sensory fields. For me, the connecting element to induce this is movement, which I experience in a spatial way. I also hear tones in their tonal environment and associate a colour environment – the timbre of colour as next to another colour; I pitch them in my head. So, actually, I am “reading my mind”. For me, the movement is the linking point, and this is how musicpaintingLIVE happens for me.

So many things do not have a rational explanation, including ideas – that is, where they come from. There is a hypothesis that consciousness informs itself through its creation – be it art, music, movies or books. That’s why certain movies, artworks and books appear at the exact time and place where we find ourselves as humans. Do you agree with this?

M.S. Yes, I do believe in these energy fields that, as gravity, attract certain manifestations of the spirit – what in the 19th century was called the “Zeitgeist”. The question of consciousness is a complex area of studies. In one way, we are limited in our perception by our physical brain which is wired in a certain way – differently than, for instance, the brains of my cats; so, I don’t even know what I’m missing! But from our consciousness, and perhaps through outgrowing it, comes our increasing awareness. Including the awareness of metaphysical realms beyond the material world, the synchronicity of events occurring, “coincidences”... I think we must be careful when projecting ideas of a cosmic scheme behind all this, but I do agree that there is some signal in these gravitational attractions of energies.

I think a very interesting part of the whole process is the beginning and the end. The first stroke of the brush on the white canvas, and the last one – which stops exactly when Reinis finishes playing. 

M.S. Yes, and not a second later; this is what we rehearse. I can understand that maybe people experience these deliberate or rehearsed elements as a lack of spontaneity. I could then show them that pure spontaneity would be quite messy, and it wouldn’t have much to do with the music, either.

We are very careful with the word “improvisation” in this type of performance. Improvisation is the very last thing; it can come only after one has comprehensively studied the music, the score and the sheet notes – and then, done a thorough analysis.

R.Z.: I absolutely agree. From my perspective, I’m an interpreter – I’m not a composer, I only work with what’s already on the page. But of course, at some point you can say that I’m improvising my interpretation of it. Everyone does it. We prepare, prepare, prepare...and then we go on stage and we play around with it. As in, I usually do it this way, but this time I’ll do it another, slightly different, way. We avoid the word “improvisation” simply because it is misleading. It’s not really improvising – rather, it’s a certain amount of freedom in the way we approach previously agreed things.

M.S.: Exactly. Although there is a plan, it is never mechanically executed. Because we are in the moment, it is always slightly different – but not entirely different.

When the performance ends, do you always feel that the painting is complete?

M.S. You know, what belongs to our concept is that I really do stop. It’s not as if, after Reinis stops playing, I think, Oh, I’m just going to add some more colour here because it doesn’t look good. That is not allowed; otherwise it would not be a live painting. The strong point of musicpaintingLIVE is being in the moment and sharing the moment. The completeness of the image, the completeness of the feeling of having executed it, is secondary.

R.Z. This is one of the reasons why we do not really like sharing what the final image looks like – because that’s not the point of the whole thing. The point is how it looks while it is being made. Of course, the finished painting also must make sense. It must appear not like a mess but like a structure – since the music was structured, the painting must therefore mirror that structure. But the finished look is not our main goal of making it.

The strong point of musicpaintingLIVE is being in the moment and sharing the moment.

How did you decide to work simultaneously [this time] on two canvases – one white and one black?

R.Z.: This is because the music piece, The Rite of Spring, consists of two almost equal parts. We follow the music score. The titles of the various sections in the piece reveal a lot — that there’s a story actually going on, and how it should be enacted. Both of these parts have similar elements in them, but the first one is kind of an explosion towards the light, while the other one is its reverse. It’s like a destruction. It’s actually a very fitting piece to visualise because there is a similarity but also a contrast between the two that can be shared. When we first decided to do The Rite of Spring, we didn’t realise this. We hadn’t analysed anything yet. We just felt that there’s something in the music that is so earthy and mystic. But now we see that there actually is this beautiful visual symmetry in the music.

M.S.: Our idea was not to illustrate the ballet but to go to even deeper levels of what all these episodes are about. That’s when we came to the theme of awakening, and then, to death; it is quite devastating. I do feel it. You have to feel it when you are in a state of throwing paint – this is a very emotional thing to do. And then in terms of the fears, it’s not just la-di-da – it’s really something that includes pain and the wish to survive. I think that we all, as humans, have this archive of memories of things that have happened. And as an actor, you enter a role you identify with, but at the same time, you stay a little bit outside of it. Because if you go all the way into it, you will drown. And then there will be no painting.

Reinis, has this collaboration changed the way you look at the visual arts in general?

R.Z.: Well, in an indirect way, probably yes. Because now I’ve touched the canvas and I’ve touched the paint; I’ve also gotten myself a bit dirty as we work here. So, I’ve had some very basic hands-on experience in terms of getting to know what it feels like to actually put paint on a canvas.

I’d say that our collaboration is also partly an expression of how I see music visually. And this aspect is very fulfilling for me as well. You know, I also have some synesthesia – when I play music, I can see colours, and I could imagine them taking shape, yet I could never make it work in the sense of making this visible for others to see. And now I suddenly can! So, it’s also been a personal gift – to know that this is possible.

Of course, when I see oil paintings in an exhibition, I don’t see a connection – this is a completely different world. I have never seen the process of how a studio painting is done over several months. I have never visited any artist who shows this; I’ve always only seen the final product. So, there are all these worlds that I still have no idea of how they really work or what really happens in them.

We’ve been working together like this for almost ten years now. If you were to count the exact number of performances, there haven’t been that many because it takes so much work to get this done. But the time we’ve spent together talking, everything that Maryleen has told me, and what I’ve been able to share with her.  I’ve learned so much already. I don’t plan on starting to paint, but I do feel like I know some things now.

In these ten years of collaborating, you’ve also polished your own senses. Perhaps this is the aim of the project: to help people develop their senses while being present, being in the moment, while an act of art is taking place. It really could be a kind of awakening – seeing and sensing things you never noticed before.

R.Z.: Even if people gain just one little bit of insight from seeing our performance, this is already a good thing.

M.S.: I do recall moments of being in the audience and being deeply moved to the point that I felt that I had gone outside of myself. I’ve also had the feeling, even if just for a few seconds, of being part of a greater being or state, one where nothing else matters. If this experience of a combination of music and painting increases people’s awareness, perhaps, in some as-yet-unknown way, they can undergo a bit of a transformation. If that’s something we could help bring about, we’d be very honoured. But that is not the point from which we start. We start with the music and the wish to express it. We are also on this same path; we are co-travellers with the audience.

Art has a healing capacity – you only need make time for it, time for yourself to be surrounded by art. From that viewpoint, this project is not just simple coincidence.

M.S. I think that since the industrial revolution, human beings have estranged themselves from their natural environment by this sudden necessity of creating a surplus of resources to sell for profit. In contrast with progress in science and technology, ethical development did not evolve at the same rate. Instead, the most primitive drives in humans – ego and power – remain dominant in politics and the global economy. We are facing an exploited Earth who is trying to reset herself with droughts and floods, extreme winters and heatwaves, and as a result, millions of people are migrating from the poorest countries. Now that things have gotten so wrong, compared to all this, the arts and music seem to have a humble role in contributing to the healing of mankind. But maybe there are changes that can be made, perhaps on a smaller scale. I believe in units of good energy – each individual is a centre in itself where the spirit can thrive. And then, many of these units together can be sources of light against the darkness of opposing forces. Music can induce transformation in the sense of healing the psyche, as well as restore a feeling of connectedness and being part of a greater realm.

I find this theory of energy fields very interesting – why certain books or movies come out at the same time, why many people develop certain interests at the same time, why and how these particular manifestations appear… the so-called Zeitgeist. I do believe in these energy fields that cause us to gravitate in certain ways, and although we don’t know much, science is making headway; for instance, Einstein’s theories have revealed that time can curve and be experienced differently. I think that we are part of an increasing awareness of what we don’t know, and we are more open than ever to new discoveries. If the arts and music can contribute to this growing awareness, then my life as an artist will be fulfilled.

R.Z. I don’t believe in coincidences in general. Nothing, probably, that we put our hand to, is a coincidence, even though we might not see its value for a long time to come. God, the Word behind everything, has a plan for this world as well as an ending for it. And a defined ending, not just – whatever happens will be fine. So, for this ending to take place, certain things have to happen. Nothing can be a coincidence, only a Godincidence.

M.S.: I hadn’t heard you use that term before. It’s a good one!

R.Z.: We don’t know why we’re doing this right now, but perhaps there is a reason. We simply desired to do it. It’s a powerful thing. For me, I just want to play it. For a pianist, The Rite is a piece you just don’t do – it’s much too crazy — that is, in its solo version. But I like challenging things. I always look for the next craziest thing I could do. Also for Maryleen, this particular piece could be the most challenging thing so far. Hopefully, our performance will raise the roof for those who come to experience it.

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