01 March 2013

The Challenge of Music Reveal

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Challenge of Music! Over forty participants have joined me in sharing our creative journeys through music. But this year the twist - and Challenge - was to find a {mostly} instrumental piece of music that would allow our imaginations to tell the tale.

The first time I saw a show under the Big Top on the Navy Pier in Chicago I was hooked. The Cirque du Soleil ("Circus of the Sun") is a marvelous feast for the senses and is one of the most amazing experiences live. While you can certainly see performances of the various shows on television or in the movies, I cannot recommend the live shows highly enough.

Cirque du Soleil has revolutionized performance art, in particular blending circus arts with stunning original music spotlighting elaborate sets and lavish costuming and makeup into shows that transcend the traditional big top approach of what a circus is known for. Founded in Quebec in 1984 by Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier, the original group was comprised of local street performers. Animal acts found in traditional circuses were scrapped to focus exclusively on human spectacles - stilt-walkers, jugglers, fire-eaters, and the like. Their live action art produced a loyal following throughout Canada, eventually spreading across North America and around the world. In the 1990s and 2000s they went from one show in Montreal to 19 shows in over 271 cities on every continent except Antarctica. That is impressive growth!

Wallpaper image depicting the characters from Ka. Photo from the Ka website.
From the costumes to the sets to the characters, the Cirque has produced incredible dancing, death-defying acts and heart-achingly beautiful music. The music is so central to the performances that the musicians are in costume and make-up and usually seen onstage as part of the action unfolding. Each show has characteristic sounds that permeate every single scene, bringing out the nuances of the performances and resonating in your whole being from the soulful sounds and weaving a story with haunting albeit mysterious lyrics.

I love that the music in each show has this sort of timeless appeal. It sounds as though it could have been composed 300 years ago or 300 years in the future. There is always a harmonious blend of instruments from across the globe and a melodious blend of voices in choruses that take my breath away. Some of the songs have lyrics but they always sounds otherworldly. I have discovered that the language that is used in most of the music is an invented language affectionately called "Cirquish" and features sounds blending cultures from African, Italian, French, Slavic, Celtic, Indian and Asian influences. That makes each note filled with mystery and gives me a sense of an otherworldly place and time.

The Big Top for La Nouba at Downtown Disney
I have seen La Nouba (permanent show at Disneyworld in Orlando) twice and several other shows that have popped up in Chicago on tour. But the one that made the most impression on me was one that was unlike any other Cirque du Soleil show: Ka at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Story board for the Flight scene. Photo from the Ka website.

Typically, the Cirque is a collection of acts loosely woven around a theme. Ka deviates from the normal Cirque production in that it is an epic tale from beginning to end rather than just an abstract melange of acts. But instead of using dialogue and characterization to tell the story, the action and music weave the story and carry you on a journey. The theater itself that was constructed for this show is incredible. Each of the 1951 seats in the $165 million theater have speakers built into the headrests so that you are completely enveloped by the music. Some of the scenes feature screens that project images that respond to the actors, like bubbles rising and rocks falling. The stage is an incredible free floating platform on an immense hydraulics system so that action can be tilted, moving and even go vertical (that fight scene is mind-blowing). There is a four story drop into a pit that all but devours some performers in the show.

Photo of the floating stage deck in the Battlefield scene where performers scale the wall and swing from the pegs in incredible feats of strength and choreography. Photo from Ka.
This epic tale of love and honor, quest and self-discovery, has a soundtrack that I love to listen to. Ever since I saw that show, I have wanted to represent each of the 14 scenes through a piece of jewelry. Today I will share with you two pieces I created inspired by distinctly different musical numbers in the performance. Each of these musical numbers evoke very different feelings, colors, textures and patterns, yet they are related and tell of  pivotal moments in the gripping story.



I have to admit that I cheated a bit on this first one. I suggested that the musical inspiration be instrumental. What I really was hoping for is choosing songs without recognizable lyrics, since it is those lyrics that can influence the creating. But this music so moves me when I hear it that I knew that I had to use it.

To escape the Archers and Spearmen, the Nursemaid drags the Twin Sister onto a boat and they escape by sea, only to encounter a massive storm that capsizes their vessel. The specially-designed boat structure weighs almost 1800 pounds and the rocking and turning movements are completely manipulated by the artists onboard. Photo and caption from Ka.
In Ka there is a 57-piece orchestra that plays in the bowels of the stage four stories below the action in small lounge-type soundproof rooms while watching the action played out on monitors. That was a fabulous revelation as typically in Cirque shows the musicians are right on stage as characters. Along with the musical accompaniment, there are 40 voices that provide the chorus, and while there are some songs in the show that have what might pass as lyrics, most of the human voices provide a sort of instrumental vocalization. In this piece entitled "Storm" there is great sense of urgency created by the repetitious 'Cirquish' sounds of the mostly male voices. These chants and harmonies act as another instrument rather than tell a tale through lyrics. The rise and fall of the music and the driving force is what I wanted to capture in my piece.

Click this button below to listen to the music:

I heard these sounds as being rather dark and ominous, with flashes of red and punctuated by forceful jabs of the beat. I wanted to bring the sense of urgency and driving power to this piece through the choice of the materials and the placement.

I used a variety of beads including dagger shaped ivory magnesite, jagged quartz, a slice of horn, faceted carnelian, matte peanut beads, tribal polymer clay rounds from Pam Wynn, ceramic link and Wooly Wire from Karen Totten, ceramic beads from MaryAnn Carrroll and Lisa Peters Art, a beautiful copper spiral from Artisan Accents by StaciLouise and some hand patina-ed beads that I created along with some spicy sari silk ribbon and a coiled clasp that I created to mimic Staci's component. I think it accomplishes the tribal sounds and forceful nature of this music.


Not long after the frenzy of 'Storm' is a softer, soulful piece called 'Shadowplay.' This piece has a sadness to it, a sort of melancholy after the intense action of the previous musical number, as if you might reflect on the events that have just unfolded with a sense of loss but yet a hopefulness for the future. In my minds' eye I can see swirling and twisting that builds through a sweet melody with a feeling of happiness and serenity.
Full sketch idea I created while listening to the music
I have a goal this year of working through a stack of books on my table, one per month. This month I was inspired by a butterfly wing wire wrapping design in the Wire Jewelry Masterclass by Abby Hook. I also find that when I sketch an idea there is a higher likelihood that I will actually make something from that.

Click this button below to listen to the music:

There is an elegance to this music, a sort of playful dancing feel that is light and airy. For this piece I decided to fabricate links in a freeform wire style. I created swirls of 16 gauge copper wire, hammered for strength and texture and darkened with liver of sulfur, wrapped in tiny grossular garnet, peridot gemstones and teal nugget pearls on the swirls to catch the light and lead the eye. I finished with a deep teal blue sari silk braid as this music feels blue to me.

It looks very substantial, like a decorative breastplate, but it is surprisingly light and flexible. I like how closely it mimics the drawing I did. Score one for my rough sketching!

Oh! And I almost forgot! I made a coordinating pair of earrings to go with this necklace and created a Polyvore style board with a whole outfit. You can check that out at Earrings Everyday!


Thank you for staying with me through this blog post!
I know it is a long one, but I hope it is worthwhile.
I am looking forward to taking the next few days and really diving into
the musical experiences of the other participants who were able to participate.

{Note: There were quite a few in the list below that had to excuse themselves from playing for various reasons. I completely understand when life gets overwhelming. I hope that they will all get back to creating again real soon!}

As I stop by each blog, I will replace their links below with a direct link to their blog post and add them to the Pinterest Board that I have set up for the occasion. 

Join me in the musical journey, won't you?

The Challenge of Music participants
Erin Prais-Hintz
Alenka Obid
Ali McCarthy
Alicia Marinache
Amy Severino
Amy Grass
Carolyn Lawson
Cece Cormier
Cynthia Riggs
 Ema Kilroy (bowed out)
Emanda Johnson
 Emma Todd
Erin Kenny
Evelyn Shelby
Evie and Beth McCord
 Gerd Andersson
Holly Westfall
 Jennifer Justman
 Jenny Davies-Reazor
 Jess Green
Judy Campbell
 Karla Morgan
Kay Thomerson
Kristina Johansson
Lola Surwillo
Lynn White (bowed out)
Malin de Koning
Mallory Hoffman
Mary K McGraw
Melissa Meman (bowed out)
Melissa Trudinger
 Michelle Escano
Michelle Bourbonniere
Michelle Heim (bowed out)
Michelle Mach
 Molly Alexander
Molly Schaller (bowed out)
Monique Urquhart
Niky Sayers
Pam Farren
Rebecca Anderson
 Sally Russick
Sharon Palac (bowed out)
Sharon Driscoll
Susan Kennedy
Tari Kahrs
Tracy Stillman (bowed out)
Veralynne Malone

P.S. The next Quarterly Challenges will be in May (Literature), August (Travel) and November (Color).
Know that I will plan to do them no matter who signs up. And if no one does, well, then you will have at least my post to look forward to for inspiration! And if it happens to work out for you, I hope you will consider joining me!


Dar el Hindiya said...

Thank you for this wonderful Challenge!

Your necklaces are treasures! One can see how they are inspired by the music.

Such beautiful music! I really love Shadowplay! Cirque du Soleil is fantastic! It must be something special to see them in real life.

Best wishes Gerd

Lori Bowring Michaud said...

Oh my gosh Erin, how beautiful they both are. You are such an incredible artist. The second piece really speaks to my soul!

EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

Erin, just breathtaking! OH MY GOSH!! The music was phenomenal and the pieces you created from them are stunning. I really wish I had a way with words to express how I feel about your pieces! The only thing I can say is "MIND BLOWING"!!!!

Tracy Statler said...

Wow Erin. You are such an artist! I love Cirque. I have only seen "O" in Vegas and I would love to see "KA". Your necklaces fit the music and the spirit of Cirque De Soleil perfectly. I love how you included your inspiration sketch.

re-maker said...

Both of your pieces are stunning. It's easy to see how you were moved to create these works while listening to your musical selections.

I couldn't agree with you more in urging people to experience Cirque du Soleil. It's an amazing, immersive experience.

Thanks so much for this challenge!

Anonymous said...

Wow just stunning, love the richness of colours in both and the contrast of soft textiles with dark copper.
Amazing work

NEDbeads said...

Those are just incredible. I am also now swooning to go and hear more of their music - I have always wanted to see them perform, the circ is amazing. I was wondering about your second piece... is it for sale somewhere on your site??

Unknown said...

Erin, you have really outdone yourself on both these necklaces. Outstanding work and beauty in each one, I am amazed!!

Christine Altmiller said...

I really wanted to sign up for this again this year. I enjoyed it so much last year, but I have too much on my plate already. I am bummed. But, I am enjoying seeing what you all are making and where the inspiration is coming from. Your first piece has so much movement~spinning and swirling of a storm. It looks so tactile. And your second piece...it is so Beautiful! All I can think of when I see it is a rolling sea and what falls to the bottom. It has such a deep feeling attached to it.

Mary K. McGraw said...

While I have not seen Cirque, I can feel the power of the music in your pieces. Both amazing.

Lola said...

Your necklaces are STUNNING Erin!!! You are such an inspiration! My final design is incredibly simple (as usual), but I enjoyed the opportunity to focus on music I would most likely have skipped over and/or not *really* listened to. Your challenges provide a beautiful perspective and I can't wait to be a part of the next one!

Marcie Abney Carroll said...

This is gorgeous! I've actually seen KA on the television. (I don't remember who aired it or how, but it was beautiful and very unlike the other Cirquo shows that I like so much) You did an amazing job capturing the feeling of the music and even the story itself.

Michelle Mach said...

Wow, way to knock it out of the park, Erin! I have never seen any of those shows, so it was nice that you included some photos so we could get the feel of what you were trying to capture. I love all your gorgeous wirework!

Kathleen Lange Klik said...

Both pieces are absolutely stunning Erin! I gasped when I saw each piece. I have never seen Cirque du Soleil but am familiar with it and think your pieces represent it beautifully. The colors, textures and the way that the different shapes play off of one another is a beautiful representation.

I will say the music is a a lot different than what I was expecting! The Shadowplay song is my favorite of the two.

You really created two works of art Erin!

Cyndi J said...

To say I am blown away by these pieces would be an understatement. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them. Fantastic music and great representation to the jewelry.

Shel said...

Your pieces are exquisite! Espeically the first one - I'm so in love with that one! I saw Mystere many years ago in Vegas and thought it was one of the most moving shows ever - music, dance, stunts, everything was breathtaking! This is such a fun and interesting challenge, I do hope you continue with it next year as it's definitely something I'd love to play along with - insturmental music is by far my favorite and what I listen to the most as I create.

Cynthia said...

Wow, Erin, both necklaces are fantastic, and both really do portray the music. I really love both, but the wire work and colors on the 2nd one are just beautiful. You amaze me.

steufel said...

One Word: WOW!!!!!!!! That is....WOW!

Brandi Hussey said...

Gorgeous, Miss Erin! I'm particularly drawn to the Storm Necklace - the dagger beads and bits of fabric wrapped around the coil gets me.

Becky Pancake said...

Wonderful necklaces. The shadowplay necklace really spoke to me.

sandi m said...

These are soooo pretty .... both of them. Love the spirals, my favorite element. Guess it is those trebel clefs I remember reading when playing piano eons ago.

And anything Cirque - love!
Off to see more music....

Unknown said...

Erin, the necklaces are beautiful and I'd love to see how the second looks on your neck...just an outstanding representation of the music and great artistic style. I'm green with jealousy that you've seen the performances and now I just have to find one to attend some day.

Thank you for the challenge.

Maneki said...

Beautiful necklaces that really captures the essence of the music pieces -- as well as some of the colour and style seen in the photos from the show.

Great music, especially Shadowplay that sounds like something from my collection of classical music. And as you say, it feels classical in style and arrangement, but at the same time very timeless. Storm feels more like music you want to accompany something visual, a scene in a film or (as is the case here) a show.

I have only ever seen a few act by Cirque du Soleil on telly where you don't really get as close as at a theatre (or at a movie for that matter). But even scaled down and confined to a small screen they can be impressive so I can only image what it'd be like to see something like Ka live.

Thank you for doing this challenge! I did make it hard for myself, especially considering I love music but rarely design something based on it. But it was still fun, a creative exercise -- and I love hearing the music chosen by the other participants. In many ways that's my favourite part of Challenge of Music, to be honest!

Amy S. said...

Erin - these pieces are such amazing interpretations of the music! I am totally drooling over the Shadow necklace! Thanks for hosting another great challenge!

The Cabby Crafter said...

Congratulations on your 2nd annual challenge of music, Erin. Im so happy to be part of it again. I tired soundcloud but couldn't get to embed the player in the blog just like in your post.
The pieces that you made are so beautiful! You interpreted the music and the flow of the dance in a wonderful way. I was able to watch cirque de soleil in Hongkong and i was awed, just like a child with my mouth open... haha. I am looking forward to watching and be mesmerized again. Enjoy the day!

Michael and Cherrie Fick said...

Wow, Erin, you are so amazing. You interpret in the most amazing way. I love your journey as we travel though a piece of jewelry you design. You inspire so many and I am blessed to call you a friend.

Alicia said...

Beautiful! Both pieces are perfect - I am a tad partial towards the 2nd one, but only because it is more serene; they are equally beautifully designed and created.
Thank you for the opportunity to be part of your amazing events: they sure make me have to reach deeper every time.

LisaS said...

Such beautiful work Erin! What a fabulous blog hop, will have to follow along and see what everyone has come up with ;)

AntiquityTravelers said...

Drat! I so wanted to sign up for this challenge and must have missed the post! I am enjoying hopping around to see everyone's pieces anyway :). I love yours. The first one does have a lot of movement to which is perfect with your storm theme. And second is so elegant. Gorgeous!

Michelle said...

Thanks so much for organizing this challenge - i had so much fun with it. Your two necklaces are simply stunning - I love how very asymmetrical the first necklace is. And your second necklace convinced me that, the time has come, I *need* to get some liver of sulfur, no matter how smelly it might be! Can't wait to join in on your other challenges!

SueBeads said...

ERIN! OMG, these are fantastic and show the musically beautifully! I can't believe how I can actually feel what you are conveying! Wonderful! I love Cirque du Soleil! Have been to several of them! Thanks for hosting!

Cindy said...

Erin, my I'd say you were incredibly inspired by the Cirque du Soleil! I have never seen it myself but would love to one day. Your pieces are amazing as always - just love the wirework, colors, and the many details.... you have outdone yourself once again!

Bobbie said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous! Both are just etherial, even though they are so different in mood. I can almost hear the music just by looking at them.

rosebud101 said...

Erin, that is an absolutely gorgeous piece!!!!! Wow!!! I can see how you were inspired by the Cirque!

Jenny said...

Fantastic as always! I love both pieces ( sadly I couldn't get the music to play) The first is tribal, energetic... the second soothing and lyrical. Wow. Really inspirational! Thanks again for another fabulous challenge! You know I like to use these as a chance to play!

beautifullybrokenme said...

As always, my friend, your talent and artistry blows me out of the water! Your pieces are simply amazing: elegant, intricate, unusual and stunning. What makes them even more incredible is the story and thought behind the designs.

Thanks so much for the inspiration you continue to offer!

elisabeth said...

Wow Erin - you never fail to blow we away! Stunning pieces!

EmandaJ said...

Hello Miss Erin, Thank you for organizing such a wonderful challenge (and for keeping it small!) I am stunned into silence . . . by your beautiful necklaces, you over achiever,you! I especially love the copper swirls.
I look forward to you future challenges, especially the travel challenge as I will be visiting Ireland this summer and know Iwill be inspired.

Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

Finally I can see your beautiful creations, Erin! As always I started at the end LOL. It has taken me many hours over two days, as each stop held so much interest for me. Time well spent!

I knew I would be thrilled to see everyone's designs... what surprised me was how "into" the music I became. From classical, new age, jazz and many more, often artists and compositions that were brand new to me. Thank you so much for encouraging so many to reach beyond our usual styles!

I fully expected to be amazed by your creations, Erin. And how! Both pieces are wonderful reflections of your own personal experience of the music. The eclectic yet cohesive "Storm" design is so reminiscent of the rushing sounds of the wind and the battering waves. Your "Shadowplay" necklace with its beautifully balanced coils makes me want to grab some wire and start hammering. Such a wonderful effect!

If I never get to experience Cirque in person, you have provided the next best thing: your description of these two acts alone was worth the price of admission. Thank you again, Erin... it has been an exciting two days, and I can't wait to do this again!

Cece Cormier said...

Oh yes lots of movement in those designs. Both are very Cirq like. Love all of the shows and music that I've seen so far. So whimsical. Thanks for hosting.

Pepita said...

Stunning, wonderful pieces!!! And listening to the music by looking at them makes them even more vibrant and full of meaning.
I've never seen a Cirque de Soleil show, but I think it is one of the must do, now. If I'd eved have the opportunity to see their show, I'll attend for sure.
Let me thank you for organizing this challenge - it was a lot of fun participating and now I'm really enjoying blog hoping and listening to the music ...
Looking forward for the next challenge :-D

Jess Green said...

Hi Miss Erin!

First of all thanks so much for setting up another fantastic challenge! I don't know why I haven't tried converting music into jewellery before - I think I may feel a series coming on!

And secondly thank you for sharing your wonderful art! Your pieces are fantastic, they capture the music perfectly :) The jagged, chaotic feeling of 'Storm' is balanced yet dynamic. And I love the swirling lines and calm sea-like colours of 'Shadowplay' - it comes really close to an idea I had for a necklace that I haven't quite figured out how to do yet. I will have to try sketching it out as you have :)

Liz said...

I have never seen Cirque de Soleil in person but after hearing your enthusiasm and descriptions I will one day. Your inspired creations are gorgeous interpretations. Love them both. I especially loved the braided silk on Shadowplay...reminds me on the cords used in the performances.

Caroline said...

Popping over from the ABS blog, I recognised the Cirque logo and had to come and see! I love the Cirque du Soleil and decided the first time I saw them I was going to join and run away with them! Your pieces reflect the music wonderfully, full of drama and colour and absolutely beautiful!

AliMc said...

Stunningly gorgeous designs Miss Erin! Artful interpretations of fabulous instrumentals. Thanks so much for the Challenge, I look forward to the others. I have always wanted to see a Cirque show live and now it is a MUST next time hubby and I make it to Vegas.

kmorgan said...

Fabulous Erin! I'm finally getting around to seeing everyone's blogs & viewing their creations. Yours are exquisite. I have only seen Cirque on TV & on U-tube. It is stunning, so I can only imagine what it would be like to see & hear it live. Hopefully some day!

I just love both of your necklaces! They're unique & I love the way you brought the emotions of the music into each piece. I also love the "earthiness" of each. It is easy to see your "artist" in each. You are a deep meaningful soul! Lovely :0

Thank you for allowing me to participate & hope to join you in the future!

Anonymous said...

Erin, your 2 pieces are bee-yoo-tiful indeed! I can hear your inspiration and I love what you have created. Thanks for a fascinating challenge!

Leah said...

Beautiful jewelry pieces, and I love the inspiration behind them too!

becca said...

Erin- I really like your pieces- They are dramatic & amazing statement pieces. I have an immediate emotional reaction to both of them. My favorite is Storm, but I love your copper swirls in Shadowplay. Lovely work.

SoulsFireDesigns said...

Oh Erin! I'm sorry I'm so late, life has been crazy. I have always wondered if the Cirque de Soleil was as amazing as it reputation said, now I know it must be. It sounds incredible and wonderful and breathless? Your pieces are so amazing and so fit their themes as you describe them. I particularly love the second piece, the softer tempo of the swirls appeals to me so much. Brava! Thank you so much for hosting again, I always feel like I learn so much! <3 Jennifer

Pearl and Pebble said...

Wow Erin! I think your first piece is my favorite Erin Prais-Hintz piece of all time!!! What a powerful design that really describes this piece of music to a T! Thank you for hosting yet another wonderful challenge. (BTW my "real" piece is under "What I Meant to Say". :D

Sparkle Queen said...

Erin, listening to Shadow play really moved me this afternoon. I originally read your post yesterday (or maybe the day before, they kind of blur together) but I couldn't get your shadow play necklace out of my head. I love the way the copper swirls move together, flowing one into the next and adorned with the tiny gemstones. Your whole composition here is magnificent. I had to come back and listen to music when I could turn my speakers up to get the full effect of your inspiration! It struck me and will stay with me. Thank you for baring your creative soul to all of us. This piece is an incredible work of art! {Hugs!}

Unknown said...

Erin, your work is absolutely beautiful! I love your sketch. I love how they relate to the music. Both designs are so stunning!

Michelle said...

Hey gorgeous! I LOVE the 2nd necklace...all those swirls and curves.

Wish I would've been able to participate--maybe the next one!


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