Communicating through "Portals" with violinist Tim Fain
One thing that violinist Tim Fain has come to accept is the large role that technology plays in the modern world. “It’s not going anywhere," says Fain. "It’s here to stay. It’s the way I reach out to my friends. It’s such a part of my life.”
In his new work, “Portals,” Fain engages in an exploration of the ways that we connect in the modern digital landscape, and their effect not only on our personal interactions, but how we create and perceive art.
Fain, who grew up in Santa Monica before receiving degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Julliard School in New York, is chiefly known for his numerous solo and symphonic performances, and more recently for his work in the 2010 film “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman.
In “Portals,” he fulfills not only the role of performer, but that of a creative mastermind.
“It’s all about how we connect in the digital age,” says Fain. “The ways we reach out to each other, and how we can really embrace them. Not only to text friends, but to use them to create something beautiful.”
The multi-media production consists of Fain, pianist Nicholas Britell, and spoken-word performer Fred Child (host of Performance Today) performing live alongside pre-recorded pieces of film directed by Kate Hackett and dance pieces choreographed by Benjamin Millepied.
One project that Fain is hoping to do is an exploration of the juxtaposition of real-life and on-screen performances.
“These days, it’s so easy to dial up Youtube and watch a video that even I forget that in a live performance, there is something really magical that can happen that you can’t get on Youtube,” says Fain. “But I also think Youtube is really great and defines who we are and the world we live in. So I wanted to bring in the best of both.”
Fain says that the title of the piece is derived from the way that he thinks of our modern communication devices.
“We communicate through these portals, whether it’s a computer screen, a phone, Skype, even when you’re watching a film, you’re looking at a screen,” says Fain. “Your computer is essentially a portal to another place.”
Visually, Fain seeks to replicate this sense of constant collision between the world of the Internet and the real world.
While Fain, Child, and Britell perform onstage, the audience will see other artists on the various screens, “signing on” as if on Skype, as well as footage of the artists warming up and preparing for performance.
“What I wanted to do was to create two different worlds,” says Fain. “One is sort of an imagined performance space, sort of a mixture of a sound stage meets performance space. The other is a world of webcams, computers, where you see the performers setting up for this performance.”
To go along with the theme of modernism, the music in the show will consist solely of contemporary pieces.
“I’ll be playing some really wonderful music by living American composers,” says Fain. “Among them, Philip Glass, who just wrote a really intense and beautiful piece for me called ‘Partita.’”
Fain and Glass met while on tour with Glass’s “Book of Longing," a song cycle based on a collection of Leonard Cohen poems of the same name.
The piece and the poems inspired Fain so much that he asked Glass to write a similar solo violin piece.
The Cohen poems will also be utilized as spoken word pieces within the show.
According to Kate Hackett, director of many of the films in the show, the poems will allow for the investigation of the darker side of the digital age.
“The poetic spoken words have a lot to do with isolation and alienation, so it’s definitely speaking to some of the ways the Internet does divide us,” says Hackett.
“But I think the overall message is hopeful, because it is speaking to the way people use Internet to collaborate and make art.”
Hackett thinks that the exploration of these topics will be especially engaging for a college aged students.
“I think it’s a really familiar landscape,” says Hackett. “It’s appealing to the way all of our brains work now, being wired to the Internet.”
As for Fain, he is excited to demonstrate all the hard work of him and his cast back in his hometown.
“Portals is definitely a very collaborative piece, and I’m looking forward to performing it in my hometown of Santa Monica,” says Fain.
“Portals” will premiere at the Broad Stage Oct. 9, at 4p.m.
Student tickets are available for $20 and a small service charge of $5 by phone or $3 at the window.