Hunterdon County Composer, Artist Share Vision
Musician Heidi Breyer and artist Alexander Volkov know what it’s like to juggle many demands at once. With multiple careers and children with wide-ranging interests, they understand stress…read more
“Our lives really speak to why we do what we do,” said Breyer during a recent visit to their Holland Township home. “It’s peaceful-making.” “It’s a paradox,” added Volkov. “Artists produce what they long for more than anything else.”
Their latest venture is “Another Place and Time,” an album of piano music composed by Breyer and largely inspired by Volkov’s paintings. It’s Breyer’s second album, but her first foray into composing. The soothing compilation of neo-classical instrumental music and vocals features nationally recognized artists such as Will Ackerman on guitar, Charlie Bisharat on violin and Eugene Friesen on cello.
“Another Place and Time” has been three years in the making, commencing when Breyer was working with one of her music students on a project and enlisted the help of her friend Volkov. “I had a yearning to write and no outlet,” she said. Volkov e-mailed her a copy of one of his paintings, with the suggestion that she “see what this evokes.” Breyer taped a printout to her music stand and “it started a tsunami of creativity for me,” she said.
The energy went both ways, with Breyer’s music inspiring Volkov. “After I wrote my first piece, Alex responded with the painting ‘Returning,’” said Breyer. “It’s a view we found in Maine of an abandoned house,” Volkov explained. “It’s like revisiting an old place from your childhood. It evokes all these memories.”
Their collaboration sparked another project that audiences can enjoy next month: a concert and show that marks the debut of Breyer’s album and celebrates Volkov’s 20 years of painting inAmerica. (He’s from Russia.) Breyer and some of the artists featured on her album will perform while images of Volkov’s paintings are projected on a 25-foot screen built directly on the stage. The show will take place at South Ridge Community Church on Route 513 in Franklin Township on Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.
“By fusing the music and images together, we will take the viewer on a journey of a place and time that we think we know so well, but hardly have the time to stop and see for what it is,” said Volkov, “a beautiful corner of rural America with a lot of history to be discovered if you only listen to the landscape and people living within it.”
Getting back to basics is key for both artists, who stress the importance of creating something that is true to themselves, yet speaks to others. “Before everybody else, it’s for yourself,” Volkov said. “If it’s genuine and honest, others will appreciate it.”
There’s a link of something true,” Breyer added. “What we’re trying to do is reaching to the core.”
For the longest time, “art was meant to show the badness of life,” Volkov said. “Beauty was in exile. Now is the time for revisiting the clichés. We live in such a difficult time, we need something familiar.”
You can drive down a rural road here and see the overgrown farm machinery featured in Volkov’s painting “Brothers, 2002,” his response to the tragedy of 9-11.
“They’re all existing places,” he said of his subjects. “To me a painting is like a portrait of a place. I put my inner vision into a recognizable setting. It’s the same with Heidi’s music. It’s the voice you’ve heard before. When you recognize this, you let it take you somewhere.”
Breyer’s music is getting a warm reception. It is being used in therapy at 600 hospitals across the nation, where it’s broadcast over the Care channel. And people can listen to her music when they fly; it’s included as a selection for in-flight entertainment. She’s pleased with the response, but juggles the new demands of promotion with the lure of composing.
Breyer and Volkov appreciate the dichotomies of their lives. A theme common to Volkov’s paintings is that light doesn’t exist without darkness. In Breyer’s music, much of what sets the mood is the silence between the notes. And for both “there’s so much tension that releases this peace,” Volkov said.
“I would love to live in the writing stage all my life,” Breyer said. “The biggest high for an artist is the doing.” It can be painful separating from that atmosphere of creativity to tend to daily chores, much less recording interviews. And there’s the feeling of loss when she’s done working on a composition. Volkov faces similar tensions in trying to create the paintings he envisions. “The moment you touch it, it’s gone,” he said. “You finish a piece and it doesn’t belong to you anymore.”
Yet Breyer and Volkov are looking forward to their upcoming joint show and the chance to share their work with a live audience for the first time. They’re hoping “for people to come to themselves and visit that home, the real home they carry in their hearts,” Volkov said. “It’s something that will evolve on the spot, but the product of so many years of work.”