Commissioning project in 2020

A project between fivebyfive and The George Eastman Museum, with open rehearsals
and a concert among the photographs (2020)
Funded in part by New Music USA with a Winter 2019 Project Grant


Rochester-based quintet fivebyfive is excited to commission three new works for the exhibition “Choreograph” by internationally renowned photographer James Welling which will run July 2020 through December 2020. The exhibition will be held at The George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY), the world’s oldest museum dedicated to photography. The works will be premiered by fivebyfive (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, bass and piano) in September 2020 during the exhibition.

Photographer James Welling has been questioning the norms of representation since the 1970s, and his practice has influenced an entire generation of artists and photographers. Welling’s latest body of work, “Choreograph”, explores his passion for architecture, dance and the landscape through boldly colored and multi-layered photographs. The George Eastman Museum will be the first museum to exhibit this collection.

As the name “Choreograph” indicates, these photographs draw heavily from Welling’s love of dance. Welling’s interest dates back to 1970 when he saw the Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform while attending the University of Pittsburgh. This exhibition marks his return to dance, albeit in photographic form.

Welling found the temporary nature of dance intriguing, like a memory. In an interview Welling commented, “My work, for myself, is about memory, feeling, touch…a sense of my relationship to the physical world, colors, sensations, photographic emulsions, but all in the service of chasing memories, both very distant and recent.” Adding, “This is the least understood part of my work.”

Eager to explore these ideas and the bold, multi-layered world of Welling’s work, fivebyfive will commission three new pieces by composers Kay He, Robert Lydecker and Kamala Sankaram that will be inspired by the photographs in “Choreograph”. These composers were chosen for their unique multi-discipline voices that we believe will effectively capture and reflect upon the multi-layered world of Mr. Welling’s photographs.

In July 2020 the “Choreograph” exhibition will open. During the Summer of 2020 there will be Open Rehearsals and Preview Performances at the museum, a first of its kind for the institution, with each of the composers and fivebyfive. The new works will be given their premiere in September 2020 among the photographs at the George Eastman Museum (GEM). Further plans include collaborating with live dancers, recording the new works, making a film inspired by the photographs, and touring to other museums where ‘Choreograph’ will be shown.

Concerning process and presentation
Embracing the spirit of accessibility, fivebyfive and GEM propose a large window of time for development. Through open rehearsals and preview performances, audiences will be given the opportunity to connect with the artists, ask questions and experience the work as it evolves. Both fivebyfive and GEM  believe this to be essential to the ultimate understanding of the art and to the development of an engaged audience.

June 2020 – delivery of scores and materials to fivebyfive
Summer 2020– open rehearsals / preview performances at GEM
September 2020 – premiere performances of new works at GEM
Late 2020 through May 2021 – subsequent performances of works, audio recordings and film in progress

Our collaborating composers from left to right:
Kamala Sankaram, Robert Lydecker and Kay He