Monday, 02 January 2017 10:00

Sonic Pioneer: Violinist Tim Fain Brings Multi-Sensory Projects to West Michigan

Written by  Samara Napolitan
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Tim Fain Tim Fain Photo: Michael Weintrob

Tim Fain’s violin is going to turn 300 next year, but he doesn’t let that hinder his innovative spirit.

Whether he’s collaborating with Google on a virtual reality music video or performing in Academy Award-winning films, Fain exhibits a trademark mix of talent, charisma and inventiveness. 

A Juilliard- and Curtis-trained musician, Fain is a regular collaborator with American composer Philip Glass — protagonist of the minimalist movement — and is otherwise best known for his cameo/performance in Black Swan. The many dimensions of Fain’s artistry are on full display this month in Muskegon when he partners with the West Michigan Symphony (WMS) for two unique concerts: a new adaption of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and a multimedia experience at The Block. 

Fain last visited Muskegon in 2012 when he performed Glass’ Violin Concerto with the WMS. That same year, he traveled to Kalamazoo to perform Portals, his multimedia solo concert about human connection in the digital age. His return to the Frauenthal Theater stage alongside the WMS will feature a familiar piece reimagined for contemporary audiences by British composer Max Richter. 

“I’ve known (WMS Music Director) Scott Speck for a while now, and when he asked me if I’d like to do Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed (by Richter), I was very excited to work with him again and come back to West Michigan,” Fain said. 

When Fain recently performed the piece with the National Orchestra of Spain, “Richter superfans” in the audience gave Fain the single longest standing ovation he’s ever received. 

“Max really excels at short song form where the piece gets more and more intense until it just ends in a way that’s so effective,” said Fain. “Vivaldi provides a certain jumping off point for him to explore his own sound world.”

Although Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed samples a portion of its source material, fragments of Richter’s own style are interwoven in a way that’s entirely original. Richter phases and loops his favorite parts of the original piece to create repeating motifs and circular effects. 

“It has a very meditative quality,” Fain said of the piece’s postmodern style. “I know for me, I get a lot of enjoyment playing music by Philip Glass, Max Richter and Terry Riley. At its best, these works can bring about a hypnotic state of mind.”

The day after performing the Four Seasons adaptation, Fain will head to The Block to present “Beirut is a House of Many Rooms,” a multimedia work for solo violin created by Randall Woolf and filmmakers Mary Harron and John C. Walsh. The piece was commissioned by the West Michigan Symphony. 

“When Tim Fain and Randall Woolf asked us to partner with them on a commission for The Block, we jumped at the chance,” said Carla Hill, president and CEO of West Michigan Symphony and The Block. “Our space is perfect for intimate performances and film — this commission includes both.”

“Beirut is a House of Many Rooms” follows Hadi Eldebek, a Beirut native and oud (an instrument similar to a lute) player in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. The music and the visuals both explore the textures of everyday life in a city at the crossroads of various cultures and marked by civil war. 

“The music captures the unique sound world of traditional Lebanese music,” Fain said. “Randy uses the violin in very different ways throughout the piece. It’s percussive at points. Then other times, it’s very lyrical over a texture that’s much more idiomatic of the Lebanese folk music styles. Then there’s a thread of sampling and repetition from that world.” 

Growing up in Los Angeles, Fain was surrounded by the film industry and music of all kinds — a huge influence on his genre jumping. Later this month, he will perform the score of Moonlight at a full screening of the acclaimed film in Los Angeles. More creative musical endeavors are sure to follow. 

“There’s so much interest in bringing all senses into virtual or concert experiences,” he said.


Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed

Frauenthal Theater
425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon
Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m., $20+, (231) 726-3231

Tim Fain, Violin
The Block
360 W. Western Ave., Muskegon 
Jan. 14, 7:30 p.m., $25+, (231) 726-3231

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