Houston-based Omni Brass is part of the collaboration that blends visual arts with music. The group includes, from left, Jody Ilgenfritz, John Stanley, Kevin Shannon, Dr. Karen Marston, and Michael Mizma. All except Ilgenfritz are music professors at San Jacinto College. Submitted photo.

Iconic ‘earth’ sculptures to be interpreted musically


In a unique collaboration, San Jacinto College music and art departments are partnering with the Menil Collection of Houston, noted composer Stephen Bachicha, and local chamber ensemble Omni Brass in an interdisciplinary project that will allow a variety of musicians and visual artists to combine their talents for common goals.

The primary inspiration for the project are three Michael Heizer “earth” sculptures – “Dissipate,” “Rift,” and “Isolated Mass/Circumflex #2” – artworks that are embedded in the lawn of the Menil campus’ main building. Bachicha is creating a chamber music composition that will showcase and musically interpret Heizer’s iconic sculptures.

California native Heizer is a contemporary artist who pioneered the relatively new “earth art” genre, so called because the works are generally dug out of the earth. Houston composer and conductor Bachicha, whose solo and ensemble compositions have been performed internationally, explained how the collaborative effort to musically interpret Heizer’s earth sculptures came into being. “Dr. Karen Marston (San Jacinto College music professor) asked me to choose a significant piece of art that seemed quintessential to Houston, something that felt like a significant part of our culture,” he commented. “I thought of the Menil Collecton, a place I often visit for quiet reflection, to see amazing art, and also to hear great music. The vitality of the Menil campus seemed to be a perfect match for what this project is all about – a way of bringing local students into contact with a significant aspect of Houston’s culture.”

After spending hours looking at artwork at Menil, Bachicha could not settle on any particular work. “And then I walked outside,” he said. “I noticed children playing and running along the cutouts in the ground that are part of the lawn. Their wonder and excitement caught my eye. I watched the children walking through Heizer’s forms, spelunking, and traversing around in different directions. I was inspired by their interaction with these works of art, and since this project is in the spirit of discovery, these earth sculptures seemed like the perfect match.”

Bachicha’s composition will explore and musically interpret the shapes of Heizer’s sculptures: the loop in “Circumflex,” the fragmentation and quick exits from the ground in “Dissipate,” and the sharp edges and quick turns of “Rift.” Bachicha’s composition will be performed by Omni Brass as part of the San Jacinto College Brass Symposium on Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the San Jacinto College Central Campus Dr. Monte Blue Music Building, located at 8060 Spencer Hwy. in Pasadena. The concert is free and open to the public. Houston-based Omni Brass, four brass players and a percussionist, perform classical favorites, world music, jazz, Dixieland, ragtime, and new works. They perform locally and have performed internationally. The group includes four San Jacinto College music professors – Marston (trombone), John Stanley (trombone), Kevin Shannon (trumpet) and Michael Mizma (percussion).

In early April, a group of San Jacinto College art students, under the direction of art professor Bill Frasier, will visit the Menil main building to create full-scale drawings of Heizer’s artworks. The students’ drawings will be on display during the College’s Brass Symposium, and later as part of San Jacinto College student art shows.

Bachicha’s composition will be repeated at the Menil during “Menil Fest” on April 18 at noon, and at 5 p.m. San Jacinto College music and art students will attend “Menil Fest” as part of an educational field trip.

“We are excited San Jacinto College is able to participate in this interdisciplinary project that provides music and visual arts students and faculty members opportunities for expression and growth,” commented Dr. Kelly Simons, San Jacinto College Central Campus dean of liberal arts and science. “Such a unique educational and creative endeavor incorporates the College’s core values of collaboration, diversity, and innovation.”

San Jacinto College offers a wide range of music and art courses and degree plans at all three campuses.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.