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Jesse Stewart talks about the link between art and sound

Ottawa musical improviser, and Carleton University music professor Jesse Stewart is known for creating and making music from non-traditional instruments, although he is also an accomplished percussionist. Paper, balloons, ice, and precisely-tuned cut marble stones are but a few of the objects which he has creatively used to make musical sounds, and he has encouraged his students to do the same.

This month (January, 2011), Stewart is curating musical performances every Saturday which interact with a new art installation by David Rokeby: Very Nervous System (VNS), at the Carleton University Art Gallery. VNS is a computer vision system that translates human movement within the exhibit space and in its camera's view into sound.

Stewart talked to OttawaJazzScene.ca's Brett Delmage about the history and behaviour of Very Nervous System, his upcoming performance with it on Saturday, January 22, and the following week's unique performance by renowned Canadian saxophonist David Mott.

Listen to the interview [mp3, 15 MB].

Photos: Jesse Stewart interacts with the Very Nervous System while exploring and creating complementary sounds of his own. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Jesse Stewart interacts with the Very Nervous System while exploring and creating complementary sounds of his own ©Brett Delmage, 2011

A few excerpts from the interview

I'm interested in the spaces between artistic disciplines, and in blurring and combining my interest in both the sonic and visual arts.

[An interest of mine is] taking something familiar and to see and hear it in a different way, and hopefully by extension, look and listen to the world in a different way... to try to create some new relationship between myself and that new material, whatever it happens to be. Sound is a way to do that...

After you walk out of the gallery, you are going to listen to sound in a different way.

Sound is tactile. Our whole bodies can be resonating chambers.

The gestural vocabulary involved in playing percussion is something that is of interest to me and I will explore in my performance on Saturday.

Part of my intention has always been to hopefully encourage other people to do the same thing: to go out and explore the world around them and look at things and listen to things in a new way... to deepen their relationship with sound in whatever way.

If we accept that idea that no sound is inherently better than any other, than we have some work to do to start exploring the world around us.

Jesse Stewart with Very Nervous System at Carleton University Art Gallery, Jan 2011 ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Read more about Jesse Stewart's music and upcoming performances at JesseStewart.ca .

Very Nervous System will continue on display at the Carleton University Art Gallery until January 30. The public is invited to try to make their own musical soundscape with it. Stewart has one hint, however: the current incarnation of VNS is tuned to react better to small gestures, rather than large ones.