Looking Through Trees – Multi-Media version
Chris Chalfant, composer, producer, director
For booking contact info[at]

Premiere performance Irondale Center, Brooklyn, NY
September 17 and 18, 2010

With Meg Brooker – choreography, dance
Michael David Gordon – acting
Al Margolis – sounds and sampling
Ken Yamazaki – percussion
Joe Giardullo – soprano saxophone
Tim Cryan – lighting design
Chris Chalfant, piano, vocals

Irondale Center

This version of “Looking Through Trees” is an evening of total theater. Chalfant’s opera without the opera singer, a tale of a Monk and his cat and his search for peace, combines the forces of dance, acting, music, sound and lighting design with a full cast of incredibly talented and unique artists in their own right. Their creative expertise and insight amplifies the concept of “Looking Through Trees”, which is composed, produced and directed by Chalfant.

This accessible and yet provocative show is a total sensorial experience that will leave you with memories of sights and sounds that will last long after the last note is “sung”. It will bring you on a journey of a full range of emotions, give you time to pause, and throw you into a fast-paced tizzy with laughter, awe and amazement. You will want to dance in your seat. You will be captivated by a world of mystery, strangeness, beauty, and lyricism. You will leave with an open heart.

Chalfant combines her unique blend of sonorities ranging from the ancient traditions of Africa and India, from the Eastern spiritual traditions, and to the most far-reaching composers in the classical and jazz idioms.

The material in this version of “Looking Through Trees” dates back to 1985 up through the present. LTT is a highly structured piece with much fixed material, yet has the elasticity to reshape itself within each performance through the improvisatory process and from production to production.

Composer’s note
LTT is a very special project to me because the concept came to me in the form of a wonderful memory in an art class. My family and I used to lay down on the ground and look up through the trees as the sun peered through the leaves as they danced in the breeze on a warm summer’s day. I felt this shared sense of peace through our connection to nature.

LTT seems to have a life of its own. It has had many incarnations, all based on this same feeling, and will continue to have other incarnations. What started as a collage turned into a composition based on the orchestral fragments of the artwork, then a film with live improvisation ensemble and now the current version. Eventually I see this piece as a full-length opera.

The original collage and print of the musical score were displayed in the gallery at Irondale Center as part of the art exhibit “Nature Revived”, concurrent with the production of LTT.

Many of the elements in this recent production of LTT were conceived in 2008 during the development of the film “Looking Through Trees”. Because of time constraints I put the ideas aside and was then able to manifest them in this multi-media version of LTT.

The narrative, lighting design and staging has added another dimension to the project that has been both welcoming and challenging to figure out. It has made this puzzle much more complex, but incredibly invigorating and joyous.

The production and piece evolved organically, starting from a point of receptivity, allowing for my intuition to inform the decisions. We made some significant changes in the production and in the piece, all bringing me closer to my original concept.

The other artists in this production of LTT gave of themselves 100% with a great sense of humor, insight and trust which made my job that much easier. They met every challenge I gave them and were willing parties to go with even the wackiest ideas. They were very much an integral part of the development of LTT as it stands at this point in its life.

While the artists and I met and rehearsed separately over the months prior to the production, we did stay in touch as a group via email as the piece evolved. Our first meeting as an ensemble was on stage during the dress rehearsal with a live audience.

The strong sense of ensemble, comprehensive understanding of the vision and structure of LTT, and the group’s ability to stay in the moment as seasoned improvisors, allowed for an incredible journey of expansion, depth and sense of discovery as we navigated in real time through the piece, mindful of proportions, pacing and balance. Each new idea or unexpected twist and turn was met with seamless fluidity and brilliance on the part of the ensemble as each new moment presented itself. Each performance offered new insight and depth to the performance.

This is testimony to the value of live performance as a breathing entity that allows for change rather than being fixed as though it is displayed in a museum.

While LTT is only two and a half years old, it actually has been a twenty-five year journey to get to this point. The last multi-media piece I wrote and produced was “Uses of a Candlestick”. It was performed in 1986 at the Eventworks Festival at Mass Art in Boston with the Boston Flat Company. After that project I chose to spend my time doing smaller projects and vowed to come back to the idea of writing and producing on a larger scale later in my career.

After ”Book of Unstandards” was published in 2006, I decided my next big project would indeed be a multi-media piece on a larger scale. As a matter of natural evolution, “Looking Through Trees” ended up being that project. To celebrate my 50th birthday I chose to manifest this idea in 2010.

The best thing about doing this LTT is that it has gotten me back to looking through trees on a regular basis, and has brought me back to myself. My plants are very happy.

Chris Chalfant has been developing the concept of “polycyclic collage” for many decades. This production of LTT is yet another dimension in which it continues to manifest. It is a blending and acceptance of all rhythms of all cycles that enter into our sphere. It is about awareness and acceptance of that which is around us at all times, every moment. It is about harmonizing and being open to other rhythms that we may not understand. It is about connecting through our common ancestry - nature. Read More

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