Whilst attending the Airwaves music festival in Iceland this October, I got to see Max Richter perform his recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Although Richter calls his work a ‘recomposition’, to you and I, he has reconstructed a piece of music that many of us know so well, into a new work. What I loved about his piece was that the work has elements of the original surfacing sometimes rather obliquely, and other times very transparently.
I love it when someone turns something that I know so well upside down on its head, because it forces me to look at it again as if for the very first time.
As he says himself in an interview with the Guardian newspaper a while ago:
"It's just everywhere. In a way, we stop being able to hear it. So this project is about reclaiming this music for me personally, by getting inside it and rediscovering it for myself – and taking a new path through a well-known landscape."
I think his choice of words is illuminating. Particularly 'taking a new path through a well-known landscape'.
Additionally, this ‘reclaiming’ he speaks of, is something that I identify with very much. In the case of our own memories and experiences of a landscape, they should be based upon our own encounters, but often, before we have even visited a place, we have been overwhelmed with images that others have made. Our own thoughts and impressions of a place have been coloured and influenced (read hi-jacked), before we've even had a chance to go there. Often times, we're just not aware that we don't own the original memory of a place. Our own experiences have been built on top of someone else's imagery.
This is hardly unforgivable. Some images of a place are so powerful that once we’ve seen them, it’s hard for us to look at the place in a new way. I’ve often heard photographers say ‘did you get the shot?’. Sometimes it seems that a particular angle or composition of a famous location can’t be bettered. My own feelings are that this simply isn’t true, and it’s wonderful when I do see a successful shot of a well trodden place that is a beautiful image in its own right, because it offers us a fresh way of experiencing something we know so well.
I think this only happens when we are able to break away from any pre-conceptions we have of a place. In order to do this, we have to be aware of how our own perception of a place has been coloured and shaped by the act of looking at other people's work of the same location.
We have to make a conscious effort to leave the well-trodden path and engage in a process of enquiry whilst on location. We have to be independent enough to see what we see, not what others saw.
I'm glad I came across Max Richter's interpretation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, because it has ignited in me a sense of wonder for a piece of work that had become mostly invisible through over-familiarity. For me, he has brought the Four Seasons sharply back into focus.
He has reminded me of my need to enquire and investigate the landscapes that I visit, because it is through this sense of enquiry that my own thoughts and emotions are translated into my own personal vision of a location. It is only then, that I'm able to do what Max Richter has done - to reclaim the landscape as my own.