For his Present Box exhibition, artist and musician Jonathan Mason has converted BMoCA’s gift shop into an interactive music composition and installation. Providing visitors with a set of simple instructions that can be performed individually or in small groups, Mason invites us to participate in playful expressions of sound.
A series of six boxes, each a different color of the spectrum — red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet — are arranged on shelves around the space. A button on the top of each box welcomes visitors to play. Once pressed, 30 seconds of sound will fill the air. A rainbow of cords connects each box to a central sound system. The boxes become instruments of pre-recorded music, each with a different part of an original composition written and recorded by Mason. Together they form an orchestra of sounds and color to be performed by the visitor. The possibilities of different musical compositions are as endless as the potential combination of participants, and the timing of their interactions will continually change how the orchestra sounds as a whole. The electric blue glockenspiel* at the center of the room, a nostalgic icon of grade school music class, reminds us to engage with child-like playfulness.
The installation closely relates to the color theory presented by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky in the early twentieth century. Kandinsky believed that music and color are interwoven, to the extent that a synesthesia, a “joined perception,” takes place when experiencing one or the other. For Kandinsky, each color had the power to elicit a note or tone, and together, color, line, shape, and texture could create a musical visual experience targeted at human emotion. In the center of Mason’s installation, a music stand with colorful sheets of music are left for visitors to fill in. He encourages participants to draw from the symphony of color in the Present Box space and the elicited feelings of passion, happiness, serenity, power, and perhaps, romance, to create musical or visual arrangements using sheet music, his invented instruments, or the glockenspiel.
*glock·en·spiel / noun / a musical percussion instrument having a set of tuned metal pieces mounted in a frame and struck with small hammers. Glockenspiel bars are arranged in the fashion of a keyboard or piano and most closely resembles a xylophone; however, unlike the wooden bars of a xylophone, glockenspiel’s bars are metal plates or tubes, creating a sound smaller and higher in pitch.
Jonathan Mason is a multi-instrumentalist musician living in Glenwood Springs, CO. By layering guitar, traditional and non-traditional percussion, vocals, piano/keyboard, harmonica, children’s instruments, bass guitar, electronic elements, and anything else capable of making sound, Mason strives to create emotionally powerful soundscapes. He has played drums in hard rock and punk bands, written music for film and commercials, and performed and released music as the solo project One Man Stands Together. Mason’s music was featured during the Denver International Airport’s exhibition Colorado: See the New West Like a Local. His latest work involves collaboration with storytelling elements and the written word to create long form “episodes of music.” Mason was one of the featured artists in the 2014 season of Community Supported Art Colorado (CSArt Colorado), a program presented by BMoCA and Denver Botanic Gardens.
Jonathan Mason: a music composition for six colors and a glockenspiel to be performed by one to seven strangers is an exhibition curated by Mardee Goff and presented at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art as part of BMoCA Present Box. Present Box is a series of temporary exhibitions that invite artists to transform BMoCA’s lobby and front entrance into innovative installations, performances, and events that last two weeks. Presented three times a year, the site-specific projects are intended to encourage artists to create work outside their comfort zone and to foster interactive participation. The exhibitions encourage experimentation and urge artists to test ideas and explore different approaches. Present Box exhibitions are always free and open to the public.