Five Questions: photographer Wynn White

Wynn White is an American fine art black and white photographer and printer living in Chiba, Japan. A selection of his beautiful images are projected alongside the historic Hiroshige woodblock prints in Tokaido Road. A particularly ‘hands on’ photographer,  Wynn does all of his own gelatin-silver processing and printing, getting involved in every step of the process. He also uses various historic techniques of printing, including salt, cyanotype, Vandyke, argyrotype and platinum/palladium.

 

Pier, New Year’s Morning (Wynn White)

Pier, New Year’s Morning (Wynn White)

 

See his work at: wynn@wynnwhitephoto.com

Forthcoming exhibitions: ART Photography ASIA, exhibition in Izu-Kogen May 1 to May 18 2014 https://www.facebook.com/artphotoasia.

A selection of Wynn’s Japanese photographs will form an exhibition at the Parabola Theatre in Cheltenham to coincide with the Tokaido Road premiere on 6th July 2014. As with all his work, the prints displayed are all handmade by Wynn in his darkroom.

 

Nihonbashi (Wynn White)

Nihonbashi (Wynn White)

 

What first attracted you to the idea of the Tokaido Road project?

 I first learned of the Tokaido Road project through Nancy Gaffield. We share a common love of Japan and both have been influenced greatly by the Japanese culture. After reading Nancy’s book I became excited at the prospect of my imagery being incorporated in the project.

Tell us about your involvement in Tokaido Road.

 My involvement in Tokaido Road has been solely on the visual side. I love it when images and music are effectively brought together and I’m doing my best to help make that happen in this project.

 What excites you about contemporary arts?

 To me all forms of art are an expression of life. Never before have artists had so many means of expressing their passion. Personally, it has been a chance to connect the line between the oldest photographic technologies with the most modern.

Purification Water at Shinshoji (Wynn White)

Purification Water at Shinshoji (Wynn White)

What has the project taught you / shown you / made you aware of?

 This project has brought me back to Japan. Although I have lived in Japan for over thirty years, much of my recent work has been done outside of this country. It has brought me back home, so to speak. In thinking about the time that Ando Hiroshige’s wonderful ukyoe prints of Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi were made I looked back to photography at that time in the 1830’s. Ironically, Fox Talbot had just made his first photographic prints in that era. This inspired me to use the same techniques of old to produce my photographic prints for the accompanying exhibition. Since salt is the basis in Talbot’s printing technique I decided why not use the water of Tokyo Bay as the salting solution for my prints and I am pleased with the results.

What relevance, for you, does the project have to today’s cultural environment?

This Tokaido Road project is a cross cultural celebration of the arts. It combines all of the arts with few language barriers. It can be enjoyed by young and old from all countries of the world. For me personally, Tokaido Road gives me the opportunity to share some of the cultural gains that I have made here in Japan with the rest of the world.

 

Sand Mound - Ginkakuji, Kyoto (Wynn White)

Sand Mound – Ginkakuji, Kyoto (Wynn White)

Tokaido Road: a commisioner’s perspective

Boy, am I proud of this. Here’s the score and instrumental parts for Tokaido Road.

The Road starts here...

The Road starts here…

Tokaido Road is Nancy’s words, Nicola’s music, but I have a strong bond with this work. I like to think that I gave it some space to grow and goals to aspire to. I’m like a surrogate mother or doting aunt – there’s a duty of care in commissioning a new work. You have to nurture it. You want to see it flourish, contribute to a culture, speak to an audience, to be representative of its time. And like all new things, you want it to develop, grow, mature.

Tokaido Road was born of an artistic idea, a deep curiosity and an ambitious desire to change things. The relationship between Hiroshige’s prints and Nancy’s poems was already rich enough in artistic possibilities. The opera quickly became a framework for a set of questions: what is the ‘complex and murky relationship’ that exists between the arts? Tokaido Road is a study in extended ekphrasis, a term that describes the use of one art form to ‘comment on’ or ‘illustrate’ another. How does this translate across a second culture? I wanted to present this powerful cross-cultural, cross-arts synergy as a rich and highly accessible source of pleasure, entertainment and education rather than a misunderstood and sometimes marginalized form of art. I wanted to make casual media labeling (such as ‘fusion’, ‘experimental’, ‘fringe’), often used as a result of uncertainty surrounding music that juxtaposes different cultures, redundant. I wanted to create a project that would appeal to as many people in as many ways as possible.

Anyone who had raised funds for new music will empathise with the immense hard work and perseverance needed to enable a project to happen. But the journey has fascinated me – there are challenges and opportunities to be creative at every level, even from a project-management perspective. Today marked the end of the beginning: now the journey takes a new path and I can’t wait to see where it will take us.

Cultural reflections: Okeanos and Dai Fujikura

Founder member of Okeanos and Creative Director of Tokaido Road, Kate Romano reflects on 10 years exploring Western and Japanese cultures.

Part 1: Okeanos and Dai Fujikura

In February 2013, Okeanos gave their 14th performance of movements from Dai Fujikura’s Okeanos Cycle on the Barbican stage as part of the BBC’s Total Immersion Japan weekend. It was a celebratory milestone in a 10 year relationship between the ensemble and the composer, a collaboration which resulted in a work which remains Fujikura’s most-performed to date, both by Okeanos and other ensembles worldwide. The concert prompted Fujikura to tweet: ‘Okeanos, the piece truly becomes yours, away from the composer’.

Kate_Romano_with_clarinet

Kate Romano

How rarely that happens with music of our own time; an opportunity to create, explore and enjoy new music as true chamber music rather than a hastily forgotten – and often frantically prepared – premiere. The journey has been a slow and steady one. Fujikura was in his early twenties and studying with Edwin Roxburgh at the Royal College of Music when the Textural Space textile exhibition (part of Japan 2001) toured the UK. Visiting an art gallery in Manchester, oboist Jinny Shaw (founder of Okeanos) was struck by the breathtaking display of the art work. Okeanos commissioned Fujikura and four further young Japanese composers to write a ‘musical response’ to the exhibition using the original oboe, clarinet, viola line-up but with the addition of a sho and replacing the harp with a koto.

Dai Fujikura

Dai Fujikura

At this stage, Fujikura cheerfully admitted that he had absolutely no working or musical knowledge of the Japanese instruments proposed. His treatment of the sounds and textures and their integration into the oboe-clarinet-viola ensemble was learnt through trial and error, combining different sonorities and textures as the cycle progressed. It’s an approach which suited Okeanos well. There is very little that is intentionally ‘Japanese’ about what we, Okeanos, set out to do. We had simply stumbled upon an attractive sound world that is bass-lite and treble-heavy and allows for interesting textural games, relationships and harmonics to exist within a myriad of colours. Fujikura responds to these possibilities very well. He describes his approach to the Okeanos instrumentation as a ‘single imaginary solo instrument’ – that is, a mythical creature sporting 17 reeds, 17 strings and 19 pipes. Not so much a chimaera, I think, as a rather appealing ensemble challenge to performers and composers.

Fujikura’s lack of familiarity with the instruments of his home country is not atypical of a composer of his generation. Born in Osaka in the 1970s, his cultural upbringing was one with heavy Western influences. He touchingly tells of his youthful ambition to live in Germany, having concluded that ‘all great composers came from Germany’. Fujikura’s music remains unapologetically Western. He first came across Takemitsu as a teenager via an LP given to him by his English landlady. And if this recording of November Steps had any ‘Eastern’-type influence on his development, it was already a selective version of the real thing, Takemitsu having stripped away the chanting of the biwa player and introduced non-traditional plectrum techniques whilst occupying himself with compositional concerns related to the problem of creating a unified work from Western and non-Western elements. In Fujikura’s music there is no identification of the Japanese concept ‘ma’ – that cultural space and emptiness which characterises Japanese Noh theatre. There is no musical void for the listener to fill, such as one might find in the subtle and spatial music of Jo Kondo. Like Westerners, Fujikura’s music keeps on chattering, interrupting, barely pausing for breath whilst the unique and extraordinary sound-world emerges from the melee with singular clarity. Fujikura’s composition is at its absolute finest when this exciting synergy of timbre and material occurs. At the Barbican, with the luxury of 13 previous performances to draw upon, we were indeed ‘totally immersed’ in a sonority which – thanks to Dai and the others composers who had written for us – had now uniquely become our own.

Okeanos: recorded by Okeanos (NMC D172)

Sakana: recorded by Kate Romano as movement 3 of Okeanos Cycle (NMC D172) also on HCMF Sampler CD.

Halcyon: (clarinet and string trio) recorded by Kate Romano and Goldfield Ensemble (Minabel 2013)

Rubicon: recorded Kate Romano (NMC D172)