For more than a century composers have conceived of the idea of a total work of art. One that combines, sound with light, colors, movement and images; what musicians sometimes refer to as  gesamtkunstwerk.

This Thursday, November 17th at 7:30pm at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg’s Groundswell will be putting on a concert that really does embrace the idea of the total work of art. They will be welcoming to the stage pianist and Full Professor at Brandon University Megumi Masaki in a concert called “Transformation.”

The concert will consist of four interactive multimedia works that re-imagine the piano and pianist’s artistic expression through new technologies, which transform the listener’s concert to an immersive, emotional and cinematic experience. 

Curated by Masaki herself, the concert consists of music by T. Patrick Carrabre, Keith Hamel, Bob Pritchard, and Gordon Fitzell that was written with and for her.

The title “Transformation” refers to the fact that the piano for this concert is going to be transformed into a mechanism that controls, not only the instrument itself, but also images and other sounds produced by electronics situated throughout the room.

The title also refers to the idea of transforming our own thought processes and ideologies. All four of the pieces that Masaki will be playing deal with social justice issues that we live with in our society. Masaki hopes that through the art it will open our

 minds to conversation. As Masaki explains, “I really believe in the power of sound…the power of image…the power of movement…the power of literature and text, and how those individual media…when you combine them…the combined expressive potential is way larger than the sum of the individual parts.”

Masaki is Japanese-Canadian, and one of the topics that she wanted to deal with, was the 80th anniversary of the internment of Japanese-Canadians that happened during World War II. Masaki teamed up with West Coast based composer Bob Pritchard to create a piece that would deal with this subject and get audience members to think about it and ask questions.

Pritchard’s piece  Dōshite, makes use of not only the piano, but also visual archival footage, texts and oral histories of Japanese-Canadians who lived through the interment. All of these elements combine to make a statement and inform audiences.

The award winning composer and academic T. Patrick Carrabre, is from Winnipeg, but is now based out of Vancouver. He and Masaki have worked together to create a work called “Orpheus.” Set to text by Margaret Atwood, the piece challenges the Orpheus myth. “Atwood’s poem and the piece tell the tale of the Orpheus myth through Eurydice’s perspective. It challenges and asks ‘How is the Orpheus myth a love story? And why does Orpheus get to choose the fate of Eurydice,” says Masaki. The piece not only makes use of the piano, but also synthesizers and Atwood’s text to paint the picture…and perhaps propose another interpretation of the tale.

In the third piece on the program, Masaki will also be performing a work that is the first interactive video game that is controlled by the piano. Vancouver based composer Keith Hamel has designed software so that Masaki can play a video while she is at the piano. As Masaki explains, ”Keith has created a whole new technology, and built a grid around the piano. With webcams, and hardware and software that he has developed…he’s tracking my gestures as I’m moving along the piano keyboard, and above the keyboard.” This is a piece that will be different every time, and really be something that needs to be seen! Masaki is hoping that the audience will end up cheering for her, as she is making the music and playing the game at the same time. This is work that is completely interactive.

The last piece on Thursday night’s program is Winnipeg composer Gordon Fitzell’s piece “Ai Weiwei: On Poetry.” This is a piece that takes its inspiration from Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. “I speak Ai Weiwei’s text into a walkie-talkie that is resonating the piano strings like voices from within this instrument. You hear his text, you hear his challenges that he and his father faced from the Chinese government…repressing the voices, and seeking social justice,” states Masaki.

GroundSwell 3: Transformation with Megumi Masaki this Thursday, November 17th, at 7:30pm at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, is really going to be an event not to be missed. The combination of piano and all of the other software and hardware that will be used to create this truly immersive and thought provoking event is going to be really something special and memorable.

The cost is pay-what-you-can how-you-can and tickets are available at the door or through GroundSwell’s website.