The installation is a search for traces of Chopin’s music in minds and faces of listeners from around the world. Essences extracted from Preludes Op. 28 were recomposed into a new composition and permeat the sound-space. Keys of a player piano move in absence of the composer while a three-screen projection shows peoples' expressions as they slowly float through musical time.
To collect the images, Jaroslaw Kapuscinski travelled to 12 cities around the world holding listening sessions with individual volunteers. In each country he collaborated with a local photographer or cinematographer. Here they are listed in alphabetical order: Lorena Alcaraz & Bernardo Arcos, Alon Bernstein, Marina Bonavento, Zhong Chen, John Edmark, Sabrina Hyde, John McRae, Bruce Osborn, Kyu-Cheol Shin, Heikki Tuuli , Constanza Garcia Ulibarri, Isil Ünal & Mehmet Erol. The editing and assistant direction credits go to David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg.
The premiere took place in parallel at the Warsaw Autumn Festival (September 20-56, 2010), at Dilston Grove in London (September 24-October 10, 2010) and CCRMA at Stanford University (October 2-6, 2010). The program in London and Warsaw was curated by Piotr Krajewski and included two other installations: "Mapping Chopin" by Pawel Janicki and "Attention light! 2.0" by Jozef Robakowski (assisted by Pawel Janicki). The project was made possible by many people and institutions listed here.
The following is Jarek's own description of the project:
Undertaking a project about Frederic Chopin seemed not only logical but almost inevitable for an artist with my artistic background and interests. The work of Chopin has been of primary importance to me since early youth. For anyone growing up in Warsaw it was easy to encounter his music anywhere but even more so for a young pianist. I have passionately attended endless stages of the renowned Chopin competitions. I had the privilege to study the instrument with professors from the most celebrated lineages of his scholars. His music was often the vehicle to transmit what ultimate art and beauty was. Chopin is clearly the most treasured composer in Poland but his significance is not only cultural but profoundly political and historic. This is where under Nazi
occupation the penalty for playing his music could be death. My professor participated in underground Chopin recitals. These facts and experiences shaped me as a person and as an artist.
Paradoxically perhaps, what interested me was to go beyond the claim of ownership that I have of Chopin as a composer, as a pianist and as a Pole. Where is Chopin? is an attempt to not only re-interpret his work but to learn what his music carries in personal and cultural memory of others. Even more general, the project studies the psychological, perceptual, and cognitive processes of music. It shows how emotions emerge from music, how musical structures are interpreted and what they mean to different people.
Where is Chopin? is a work for Disklavier piano, 3 channel visual projection and stereo sound. The musical material is based on personal memories of the 24 Preludes Op.28 intermixed with excerpts from the original scores. This material was presented live to people of different ages and genders, from different countries around the world, during personal interviews. After listening, as a way to share what they remember they were encouraged to talk about their emotions or other associations. These reactions were video taped, facial expressions extracted as photographic frames and ultimately presented as sequences synchronized with matching moments of music. Up to three different faces are shown on separate portrait-like projections creating contrapuntal relationships. The work lasting ~31 minutes is programmed using Max/MSP/Jitter. This allows it to be presented both as a looped installation and as a live performance. In live performance version all timings and other musical and structural elements are re-composed by the pianist. Ultimately, finding Chopin is left to the public.