Grammy Award-Winning Drummer Will Calhoun Debuts Selections from His Rhythm Art/AZA Collection at the National Museum of Mathematics on April 30
APRIL 25, New York, NY – For the past four decades, Bronx-born drummer Will Calhoun has been one of the most distinctive and sought-after drummers as a member of the legendary rock group, Living Colour, and as a solo artist with six recordings as a leader. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music, with a BA in Music Production and Engineering, Calhoun combines his love for sound and science when he brings his revolutionary Rhythm Art/AZA collection to the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), 11 E. 26th Street in New York City, April 30 – July 31 in the Museum's Composite Gallery.
Part of the Traces exhibit, the Gallery also features artwork by photographers Xavi Bou and Stephen Orlando. Calhoun, who previously worked with MoMath performing in children's programs and fundraisers, was encouraged to bring his iconoclastic artwork to the museum by Executive Director/CEO Cindy Lawrence. He developed his audiovisual concept five years ago, playing with Living Colour, and wanted to create a visual experience with his drum solos by combining African-inspired dance, history, culture and rhythms with cutting-edge visual technology.
"I was thinking about visual versus sound, versus an immersive experience, " Calhoun says. "So, in my drum solos, I took the African loops off, jumped back on the drumkit, turned the lights off in the venue and then used lightened drumsticks. The people not only heard the African-type drum solos … they also saw the streaks of light."
Calhoun took his concept to SceneFour, Inc., a Los Angeles-based, visual arts company. They photographed him drumming with cameras with slow apertures, and translated his powerful, polyrhythms into multicolored abstract art. "They removed me, the [Studio lights], the drumsticks and the drum set from the photograph, " Calhoun says, "and they had these streaks, which were roadmaps of my hand movements. That's where the concept came from, and that's what got the attention of the museum."
Christening his audiovisual concept Rhythm Art and naming his collection AZA - which means "powerful" in Swahili - Calhoun's selections at MoMath reveal the relationship between improvisation and mathematical shapes. "I'm playing different time signatures, " Calhoun says. "My arms are moving in geometrical shapes like a triangle, a square or a hexagon, and the tracking of my arm movements creates the mathematical angles and shapes."
Calhoun's career is as multifaceted as his visual improvisations. As a founding member of Living Colour, Calhoun won two Grammys with the group: one for Best Hard Rock Performance by a Group for the song "Cult of Personality" in 1989, and another for Best Hard Rock Performance by a Group in 1990. Calhoun recorded and/or performed with Miles Davis, Harry Belafonte, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Santi DeBriano, Herb Alpert, Mos Def, Oumou Sangaré and Charnett Moffett. His six albums as a leader, released from 1995 to 2016, include Housework, Drumwave, Live at the Blue Note, Life in this World and Celebrating Elvin Jones.
Calhoun serves on the boards of the Bronx Music Heritage Center, which promotes music and offers free community programs; and The Way of the Rain, a multidisciplinary project that raises awareness about climate change through performance art. Calhoun has lectured at Brown University's Watson Institute, Columbia Teachers College, Berklee College of Music, Haverford College, New York University, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The New School, Head-Royce School in Oakland, and the Sup'imax Institute in Dakar, Senegal. He also has studied with folkloric drummers in Australia, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Belize, and Northern Brazil.
Will Calhoun hopes his inventive and groundbreaking artwork will inspire others to come up with their own musical mathematical designs. "I hope musicians will be inspired to visually look at improvisation as this physical movement that creates lines and shapes and angles."
The Museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. For more information about this exhibition at MoMath, visit www.momath.org or contact (212) 542-0566.
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