NEW YORK – The “Bandura Downtown” series at The Ukrainian Museum in New York City concluded its 11th season on Friday, May 12, with an innovative concert dubbed “Out of the Studio: Process and Practice.” The evening featured a series of experimental and improvisational pieces in solo and duo performances by Julian Kytasty, Katja Kolcio, Oksana Kazmina, Jurij Fedynskyj and Solomiya Moroz.
World-renowned as a composer, singer, kobzar, bandurist, flutist and conductor, Mr. Kytasty is also the founder of the New York Bandura Ensemble and “Bandura Downtown.” His career as a solo artist and bandura teacher has taken him all over the world. The author of original compositions and arrangements that have entered the standard repertoire of bandurists around the world, he has been described as “the finest representative of the kobzar tradition in the Western hemisphere.”
Ms. Kolcio is an associate professor of dance at Connecticut-based Wesleyan University, and an associate professor at its College of the Environment. Drawing on a background in politics, international relations and sciences, she has created works with Mr. Kytasty in which she bridges traditional and contemporary Ukrainian arts through physical engagement and creativity. Her latest research focuses on the current social and political change in Ukraine.
Collaborating with Ms. Kolcio was Ms. Kazmina, a film director, visual artist and performer based in Kyiv. She is a visiting assistant professor of film studies at Wesleyan University. She graduated from the Faculty of Journalism at Ivan Franko Lviv National University, the Faculty of TV Directing at Karpenko-Kary Kyiv National Theater, Film and Television University, and the Moving Academy for Performing Arts in Amsterdam. Ms. Kazmina explores different movement techniques, such as butoh, contemporary dance, instant composing and body-mind centering.
Mr. Fedynskyj is a composer, torbanist, bandurist and singer-songwriter, producer, bandleader, luthier and teacher. Born in the United States, he moved to Ukraine specifically to pursue a career in Ukrainian folklore and traditional music. There, he founded a guild of instrument makers and performers in the village of Kryachkivka.
Ms. Moroz is a Canadian artist who is pursuing a Ph.D. in music composition at the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom. With an interest in the hybrid forms of sound in mixed, electronic and instrumental music, her work tends to progress towards the expansion of the music medium towards cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary media, while expanding the role of the musicians and artists within them.
The evening opened in The Ukrainian Museum’s atrium with an introduction by Mr. Kytasty, after which the bandurist played one of the introspective “Improvisations” from his newly released album “Nights in Banduristan.”
On their way to their seats, audience members walked through the museum galleries where they had close encounters with dancers Ms. Kolcio and Ms. Kazmina, and bandurist Mr. Fedynskyj.
With the attendees seated in the main gallery, Ms. Moroz presented her “Postcards From Lviv.” This work featured a video of a walking tour through Lviv that was projected on layered screens. As she walked through the performance space, the small speaker she carried played back street sounds that she had collected there, adding atmospheric audio to the visuals of the city.
Ms. Kolcio and Ms. Kazmina performed an improvisational dance work that included videos and projections. Members of the audience were given small video cameras with which they filmed the dancers, their video streams being fed back onto the screen projections. A sheer scrim in front of the projection screen added multi-layered depth to the visuals. Combined with the movements of the two dancers, the effect was kaleidoscopic and multi-sensory.
Mr. Fedynskyj followed, playing traditional instruments that he had built. On the early bandura, he played the epic song “Duma Pro Marusiu Boholsavku.” He then switched to the torban and performed “Vsi Pokoyu Schyro Prahnut,” a work that is attributed to Hetman Ivan Mazepa. As he was playing the last notes, Mr. Kytasty, seated across the room, began playing his bandura. He was joined by Ms. Moroz on flute and electronic processors. Together, they wove “Untitled Improvisation,” an electro-acoustic duet that featured Mr. Kytasty on the Kharkiv bandura and Ms. Moroz on flute and effects. The result was mesmerizing, with the now “electric” bandura at times sounding like a piano, the flute’s music flowing, and the effects processing of both the bandura and the flute becoming a third instrument.
The evening marked the release of Mr. Kytasty’s latest album, titled “Nochi v Banduristani (Nights in Banduristan).” The CD contains 15 improvisational works recorded over several years in New York City and edited and mixed by Slau Halatyn of BeSharp Studios. The music evokes an atmosphere of dappled sunlight, of rippling reflections on water, of dreamy thoughts. These pieces possess that all-important ambient attribute: they can be listened to attentively, they can be played as incidental music, or they make for some wonderful road trip music. The CD can be ordered by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bandura Downtown concert series will present more pioneering performances at The Ukrainian Museum in the fall. Dates for upcoming events will be posted on the museum website, http://www.ukrainianmuseum.org/.