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A world of music, the most and the least representational with Nikolas James

Introducing now

Nikolas James

                      Composer, Pianist, Poet, Painter, Writer 

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Videos of music that Nikolas gave to the world

  • What is your current art project? What are the ideas that you are working on? What is the message you are trying to convey to the world with your art?
  • I always hesitate at this question—barring the base “superstition” of disclosure being a jinx, and barring the annoyance of pedestrians annoying me with the question “how’s that thing going,” I don’t wish to show bad faith in the formal details I share (I’m so honest to a fault, you see), because we always learn, plans change, and as difficult as it is, I try to value that thing which confutes the plan rather than the plan itself….but that’s part of the reason I am interdisciplinary: I feel such a disposition is conducive to interdisciplinary creation done well, and we in this way live it rather than just “put it on.” It is perhaps a workable description of one who values having made time to create even rather than having created something of obvious evidence/plasticity; and of one who values ideas, rather than say, the actual notes written on the paper.
    I am currently pursuing the writing of a fantasia for piano solo, based on material from David Lynch’s series, Twin Peaks, for me or any other pianist to play. I will likely perform it as a companion piece to Liszt’s famous Mephisto Waltz. One of my concerns is with Mephistophelean self-contradiction, and another is with programing pieces of “romantic extremes” in single movements, whether they are of contrast to themselves or the other pieces in the program—and getting them to hang together well.
    I am also working on a stage project of a Samuel Beckett piece for 2021. I believe it is important to convey the necessity if not the integrity of human consciousness in the coming artificial intelligence boom.
    After decades of keeping notes, and communicating with people about things which really matter, as I see it, there is the impetus toward my writing a book, and I have in mind that it will be submitted for publication by the end of 2020. It currently exists as chronological installments called “The Ocean in Progress,” simply to call it something. (Writing being a sort of illness, doesn’t having a name for it give us a species of strength? It might be the ocean, but at least it’s not the myriad of other things.)
    In the absence of the time or energy to oil-paint, I am forever sketching themes for future work on canvas. This activity is really a quiet accumulation for now. It seems like several lifetimes ago that I was painting seriously.
    There are probably a dozen other projects on the shelf (aren’t there always?), but these are what come to mind readily at the moment.

 

 

“We may call music the most representative of the arts,
We may call music the least representative of the arts;

…we will be correct each time if we assume the corresponding persona, or at least communicate in the appropriate domain of discourse.”

~Nikolas James.

 

 

 How would you describe your process of entering the flow, what other disciplines overlap with your primary vision?

  • At about the age of 30, I switched from having my best energies at night to being a morning person. I guard that time simply and carefully. There is no formula—usually formulation is in a manner of speaking antithetical to organic creation. By negating the primacy of formula, I am become the type where art form is a filter or membrane for my ideas, although I can imagine someone of a more athletic relationship to a medium deriving utility from formula. I have parcels of activities—some psychologists call them ‘micro-routines’—to which I may have recourse as the energies prevail in that morning time. There are times where my mood is tinged with spite, and true to the example of Kafka, I leap into an activity that seems in contradiction to the priorities previously established; for example, playing scales when the serotonin levels are high, when my interest for the week might be writing an orchestra piece. I generally find that if I hold to these general principles, I can at the end of the week feel not too high and not too low about what I have done. If there is such a thing as sabotage entering in, I think it might look like choosing the wrong constraints within which we work: there are times when “our fat is on the fire” that heuristics will trump adherence to theory, but there are also times when responsibility dictates our being strong enough to make a theory our own, and to actually live it. I always fail in one sense, but I like to think I play the game well most of the time. As for the disciplines which overlap, philosophy, by which I mean the art/spirit of making distinctions, is of high importance, and harnessed to that come psychology, poetry, literature, history, painting, lapidary arts, classical as well as quantum and relativistic physics, astronomy, mathematics, ornithology, humor, epistemology…perhaps more heavily weighted in the Quadrivium, but not to exclude the Trivium.

    What inspired you from history of art, books, philosophy, science, any other disciplines?

  • I was once asked in an interview by a video game designer “what is YOUR style? [compositionally].” My honest answer was “whatever it needs to be,” at which point I watched all sorts of twitches and uneasiness enter into his posture, and I realized that he was seeing this as an opportunistic attitude in me, rather than one which attested to my fluency in many styles. I adjusted my word choice and ended up getting the commission, which I eventually turned down. True, speaking of “need” in art seems to reduce it to utility, but perhaps that is only in a corporate sense—personally, transubstantiating your own memory and processes may be a matter of life and death, which is to say, health. There are some people I know who steadfastly refuse to talk about their work, and I suspect part of that is because they are so thoroughly saturated with their vocational responsibilities that that they adopt this policy so as to exercise part of their brains which otherwise doesn’t get used. Samuel Beckett, a great inspiration to me, was this way.When I was 13 I was secretary of my local astronomy club, and I recall reading about Japanese astronomers, who on finding an astounding new comet, did not stop to celebrate, but continued scanning the sky, and they discovered at least 3 more that evening. To me this speaks of self-control. Superstitions might run rampant in us if we refuse to sustain our personal discomforts while science gathers the materials, or even while we are wielding those materials—like the irritation of uncertainty, or delayed gratification. Some say this is why Kafka never completed a large novel. Speaking of history, there are some who “find” themselves in history—that’s fine, sometimes I do that, just as Prokofiev wrote the Classical Symphony to show he wasn’t just a nasty avante guard guy—but what if the comfort of that finding is deferred? It may be that that person may go on to find himself/herself “justified” by history. And if further even that is found to be delusive….it doesn’t necessarily end, it is such a Newtonian concept. I feel it is time to restore faith in new art after these last decades of postmodernism and people’s heightened disgust with its lack of rigor and sophistication which often masquerades as style. When we back away from the trendy tendency to destroy the masterworks, we may stand solidly on the shoulders of giants, for whose work we should be grateful—but out of a relationship of striving, perhaps against ourselves, perhaps for others… this actually came as a surprise to me, having fallen under the spell of Glenn Gould at an early age—that technology might become so advanced that with the advent of deep fakes, persons’ skepticism would dictate that “if it didn’t happen live, it didn’t happen.” This may even mean that a performer might not have anything new to contribute except for the fact that it is live, as anathema as that may at first sound.
  • What place on Earth inspired you the most?
  • I grew up in an Appalachian town of a population around 300 people. I spent a great deal of time in solitude, walking the mining trails from 100 years earlier. My irritation with cities is conserved–it just changes modalities. I lived in Las Vegas for 10 years, and I still remember the beauty of the desert. One wonders what would drive a man to fast, pray and isolate himself in such a place, being profoundly social.
  • What is the latest dream you had? How would you like this civilization to look like in 100 years?

  • I have kept notebooks of my dreams since I was single digits in age, and some of them were startling in the force of their interpretive consistency. After a while, personal interpretation may seem to become reflexive and spontaneous, but the emotional language of the symbols can be turned on its head, when we sit with them long enough. I am content to weigh how much my personal imagery coincides with that of the collective, and then to determine what is noise. Creative tension may come from the endurance of some absurdity which might present itself….this question brings to mind Beckett’s Quad 1 and Quad 2 watched back to back

 

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Art history

 

Louise Bourgeois is crossing the boundaries of any of the definitions and exploring and emphasizing on the prevailing forces of the subconsciousness of the 20th century

Louise Bourgeois is crossing the boundaries of any of the definitions and exploring and emphasizing on the prevailing forces of the subconsciousness of the 20th century

Louise Bourgeois graced this planet with her presence spanning almost a century, during which she created a wide range of artistic pieces in different languages of materials and expression. She is one of the artists of 20th century who always came back to the psychology, self observation, getting back to the core, finding essence in the childhood memories and events.

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