Artist Portrait: Paul Morin
Say hello to pianist and artist Paul Morin. He’s a classical pianist, artist, composer, and educator. His performances blend classical masterworks with his own compositions and artworks. He has composed music for concerts, theater, cinema, and musicals and is also an active clinician, giving masterclasses in both the US and South America. We chatted via email to bring you this interview.
I read an article online that hailed you as the last artist to perform at New York’s Steinway Hall. Is that so?
I was not the last performer at Steinway Hall, in fact there are still performances going on there. My recital in November 2013 was going to be my last performance there because the building has been sold; however, I will perform again on May 8th 2014. According to sales personnel, Steinway Hall NYC will close at some point, although there is not a set date.
When you begin a new project, does the music come first or the images? Are they sometimes inseparable?
It all depends, they both kind of happen at the same time. I believe that my music and art co-exist together. The ending of one project usually provokes new ideas for other works in art and/or music. I go back and forth from art and music to create themes and landscapes to instruments or canvas. Each new project is a different journey.
I couldn’t stop watching the live painting clip on your site. Do you work that way a lot?
Well, most of my painting is on a solid surface, on the wall or on the floor. My process depends on the theme and in this case the colors and patterns captured what I set out to convey.
What was it like growing up in music, piano, and art?
I was fortunate to grow up being exposed to music and art. Grandma gave us our first piano and I was given piano lessons starting at a young age. Learning about music and art, as you know, is endless and growing up with it, with great teachers, was quite wonderful.
Who have been your most influential and/or supportive mentors?
I studied, for many years, with a former student of Artur Schnabel. She was my creative guidance in music and art. With her teaching of music by Chopin, Debussy, Beethoven and Prokofiev I learned to perform and create music with expression.
Have you always had such a unique individual view of composition and interpretation?
Music and art is my personal way of expressing. I do what I feel is beautiful and intriguing. Creating my last record for solo piano SUCCUSSION OF IMAGES took around two years to compose and it was based on the images and emotions passing through the mind during sleep. This song cycle consists of 11 pieces. Putting that to music was challenging and enjoyable. My new pieces, STATIC IN MOVEMENTS, shift and turn with a more ambiguous theme and direction.
Your artwork has been described as “notes in a visual kind of music” and “harmony visualized”. Do you feel that way about your work?
The colors I like to use blend together in the way that I would create harmonies or progressions. For me, progressions can work in all types of directions and if they are using colors on canvas then the visual response can be seen as musical.
I can’t imagine that your path through training and into professional life has been the expected one.
You are correct in saying unexpected but isn’t that the fun part? In my career, the unexpected has been sometimes wonderful and the others have been eye opening. I find myself going along with the unexpected and embracing those things that I feel could keep things moving along.
How do you divide your time between practicing, composing, and creating visual artworks?
In the past year, I have invested my time writing new music for piano, various instruments along with learning new music. Some of the new music I am working on includes Prokofiev Sonata No.6, Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.1 and Beethoven Spring Sonata. The new music I am writing includes music for solo piano, violin and piano, clarinet and piano, and a piano concerto. I also maintain pieces from my repertoire list that I like to mix with new music in concerts. Now, I am revisiting Beethoven Op. 110, Chopin Ballade No. 4 and Prokofiev Sonata No.3. Most days, l spend around 10-12 hours on the piano. Art and painting usually, but not always, happens in sporadic indulgences and binges. In those days, I will take a well-needed break from the instrument and dig into a new painting, art instillation or video art.
You have spent quite a bit of time in Latin America. How does that region inspire you?
Over the past nine years, I have traveled extensively through Ecuador, and I was able to see wonderful landscapes that gave me new ideas with music and art. Being surrounded by mountains and indigenous culture can be very peaceful and therapeutic for the mind. Especially if your normal place of residence is in Manhattan.
I have done a series of video art using indigenous dancing that I captured upon my visit in 2012. I created the music to accompany the dancing. The video is called Slowing Down.
Also, some of my paintings are inspired by trips through the Andes. For example the one below is based on subliminal images of being deep in the Andes Mountains.
What projects are currently in the works?
I am currently working on the recording of Static in Movements. They are pieces for solo piano that are meant to capture nuance and beauty within white noise. I have performed these pieces extensively and last year I performed them with video images to accompany. My new acrylic on canvas consists of characters moving or dancing while being gravitated towards various directions. I am also finishing up on a piece for clarinet and piano along with a piece for violin and piano that will be premiered this year. My piano concerto is also in the works; I hope to finish writing it by the end of this year.