Patterns in Nature

Patterns in Nature

A multimedia interdisciplinary work interconnecting Science, Music and Film

This ambitious new project involves developing a multimedia work in collaboration with Physicist Dr. Stephen Morris whose area of research is Emergent Patterns in Nature; filmmakers:  Udo Prinsen, Gita Blak, Lee Hutzulak, and Tina de Groot; and composer and saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff writing a score for a modern chamber orchestra with unique improvisers that bridges the jazz and classical worlds.

The four movement 40-minute work will give each filmmaker the opportunity to explore an area of research within the Emergent Patterns in Nature field of physics: Branches, Flow, Cracks and Ripples. Drawing inspiration from each other’s work in progress, the development stage will see composer, scientist, filmmakers and the featured musicians working collaboratively. Dr. Morris will construct new physical experiments specifically for this project that will provide source materials that can be incorporated into the composition and filmmaking processes. Each movement of the composition will feature a different filmmaker and a different core improviser from within the chamber ensemble, creating a body of work that is strongly differentiated, but with a powerful unifying concept. Bridging jazz and classical worlds with an instrumental palette that blends a modern chamber orchestra with unique improvisers, along with the powerful visual statements from the unique film creations of Nachoff’s collaborators Udo Prinsen, Gita Blak, Lee Hutzulak, and Tina de Groot, the result will be a unique and unforgettable immersive experience.

The chamber ensemble instrumentation will consist of 6 woodwinds (flute, clarinet, oboe, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, bassoon), 3 brass (trumpet, French horn, trombone), percussion, harp, piano, string quartet (2 violins, viola, cello), bass, drumset and conductor.

Featured soloists will include clarinetist François Houle, the Molinari String Quartet, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Mark Helias, drummer Satoshi Takeishi, trombonist Ryan Keberle and saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff.

          Project creation and development:  January 2023 through May 2023

          Concerts and recording in NYC:  October 2023

          Concert in Toronto, Canada:  Fall 2023

          Supported, in part, through The Canada Council for the Arts and the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences

New York musician Quinsin Nachoff has carved out a unique career exploring the connection between the twin worlds of jazz and classical music, in a city that is equally renowned for both. Nachoff gained early recognition as an award-winning tenor saxophonist in his native Toronto, establishing a name as a formidable player “parsing shimmers of Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and Mark Turner” (Downbeat).

His individuality as a composer became evident on his 2006 debut Magic Numbers, with its groundbreaking blend of chordless jazz trio and string quartet. Since then, a consistently impressive output of albums, projects and commissions have demonstrated his willingness and ability to explore both worlds with equal conviction, whether through his 2017 Saxophone Concerto appearance and commission, Winding Tessellations, with contemporary chamber group Turning Point Ensemble, his 2018 commission for the Molinari String Quartet, or his remarkable group Flux, which features the stellar talents of saxophonist David Binney, keyboardist Matt Mitchell, and drummers Kenny Wollesen and Nate Wood. The group’s 2019 album, Path Of Totality, received worldwide acclaim for its ambitious, immersive long-form pieces that blended intriguing compositional approaches with the passion and freedom of jazz improvisation.

Nachoff’s 2020 release Pivotal Arc presented his most ambitious and acclaimed project yet: bringing together virtuoso violin soloist Nathalie Bonin with a jazz-inflected unit featuring two established giants of the NY scene, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Satoshi Takeishi, and adding a wind and string ensemble to realize his unique crossover vision. Nachoff continues to compose, tour and record with an array of cutting-edge international artists while leading his own projects, including Flux, Ethereal Trio, Horizons Ensemble and Pyramid Project.

Professor, Department of Physics, 
University of Toronto

Ph. D., 1991, The University of Toronto,
M. Sc., 1985, The University of British Columbia,
B. Sc., 1981, The University of British Columbia.

Winner of the 2003 APUS/SAC award for excellence in teaching.
Winner of the Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award, 2004.
Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall, Cambridge University, November 2005-July 2006.
Senior Visiting Fellow, The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematics, Cambridge University, 2005.
Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2012.
J. Tuzo Wilson Professor of Geophysics (5 year term), 2014 – 2019.
Co-curator of the ArtSci Salon at the Fields Institute of Mathematical Science, 2013 – present.

Research interests: experimental nonlinear physics, nonequilibrium pattern formation and spatio-temporal chaos, convection in simple fluids and liquid crystals, segregation in granular media, laboratory geophysical fluid dynamics, the history of Physics and art/science crossover.

Continuously funded by NSERC since 1993.

Over 50 refereed publications since 1986. Over 25 conference presentations in the last 5 years. Over 40 invited talks and lectures in the last 5 years. Numerous undergraduate and graduate courses taught.
7 PhD and 11 MSc theses supervised since 1996.

Art credits:
Riverdale Art Walk, June 1, 2, 2013.
“Perpetual Motion”, installation and performance, Project Gallery, June 27-July 5, 2013.
Annex Patio art show, July 13-14, 2013.
Subtle Technologies advisory board member and symposium presenter.
“The Map and the Territory”, gallery show with Ron Wild, at the Red Head Gallery, January 2016.
Collaboration on “Ice”, composition by J. LeBlanc, video by F. Chanda, performed by Continuum Contemporary Music, May 2015.
Collaboration on “Bounce”, composition by Q. Nachoff, on “Path of Totality”, album, 2018.
Collaborated on “Winding Tessellations”, composition by Q. Nachoff, premiered 2017 at The Vancouver International Jazz Festival with Turning Point Ensemble.

Artist/Scientist statement:
I am interested in self-organized, emergent patterns and textures. I take photos of patterns both from the natural world and of experiments in my laboratory. Patterns naturally attract casual attention but are also the subject of serious scientific research. Some things just evolve all by themselves into strikingly regular shapes and textures. These shapes emerge spontaneously from a dynamic process of growing, folding, cracking, wrinkling, branching, flowing and other kinds of morphological development. My photos are informed by the scientific aesthetic of nonlinear physics, and mathematics lurks behind every image for those who know where to look for it. My art images celebrate the subtle interplay of order and complexity in emergent patterns.

Nachoff has always loved film and animation: his compositions are very expansive and cinematic in scope and lend themselves well to a creative visual. For his critically acclaimed 2019 album Path of Totality (Whirlwind Recordings) he commissioned six filmmakers to create six original short movies inspired by the music. This fruitful collaborative experience inspired Nachoff to develop Patterns In Nature and invite four of the filmmakers to participate in this new endeavor.

Lee Hutzulak’s interest in making video started in the early 90s at art college, shooting 8mm film and Video 8 for his recording project/band Dixie’s Death Pool. A couple decades later, with the advent of affordable, powerful personal computers, tiny digital video cameras and Youtube as a platform, a return to the medium felt relevant. Since 2008 he has put up hundreds of videos on YT. While most are simple documents of live music performance, some incorporate additional footage shot by Lee and special fx using both software and real world, physical techniques. Some pieces, like the video for “Bounce”, are companion works of art using composition, movement, light, colour and texture to echo elements in the music. Check out his Leisure Thief channel on YT.

Željka Blakšić AKA Gita Blak is an interdisciplinary artist and educator who works with performance, 16mm film, video, and installation. She was born in Zagreb (ex-Yugoslavia) and is currently based in New York City. Her work often stems from the subculture of the 1990s-era in Croatia, when punk, anarcho and eco movements were having a renewal. Resistance manifested itself through the cooperation and gathering of different alternative social groups. This experimental environment became a university of rebellion–a key force, giving voice to new expressions of democracy, justice, common values and free speech. Blaksic often collaborates with members of different subcultures, activists, schoolgirls, singers, urbanists, and students, creating sites and praxis of collectivity. Using pedagogical methodologies within the context of contemporary art she organizes workshops, creates publications, makes films and exhibitions.

Recent exhibitions include “It Won’t Be Long Now, Comrades!” curated by Inga Lāce & Katia Krupennikova at Framer Framed in Amsterdam; “The Witnessing Event” curated by Rashmi Viswanathan at Los Sures Museum in NY; “BROUHAHA” project at Recess SOHO; “Claim Space” performance at Museum of Modern Art, NY; Artizen Cluj, Romania; BRIC Contemporary Art Gallery, NY; Gallery Augusta, Helsinki; District Kunst- und Kulturförderung, Berlin; AIR Gallery, NY; Active Space, NY; Urban Festival in Croatia; Gallery of SESI, Sao Paolo, Brazil; The Kitchen, NY and The Khyber Center for the Arts in Canada. She was a recipient of the Residency Unlimited & National Endowment for the Arts Award 2017, New York USA; Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto Residency 2017, Biella, Italy;  MuseumsQuartier Program/ Q21 2017, Vienna, Austria; Recess Session commission 2016, New York USA; A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship Program for emerging women artists 2014/15, New York USA; The District Kunst Award 2013, Berlin; New York Foundation for the Arts Residency 2012, Paula Rhodes Award 2010, New York USA, and many others. Most recently she was a resident at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, UAE.

Udo Prinsen (The Netherlands, 1974) started his career as an animation designer. Having learned many tricks of the trade at Rocketship Animation in Vancouver, Canada late 90’s, he started working as a creator of identity for television and film.

In 2000 Prinsen moved to England for The Bristol Animation Course, which was set up by Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. He spent a year in England working for Phew TV!/BBC Education and other production companies and always worked on independent projects on the side.

His short film Audition was created with the musical help of Eric Vloeimans and Martin Fondse. Audition has led to many more short films, educational publications and art projects like the musical film Into Spring, which was made in collaboration with Han Bennink and LOOK! a short film inspired by Dutch Sign Language.

More recently Udo is exploring different ways of (visual) storytelling. Examples are the audio book Last Words in collaboration with Amsterdam Forest, Shapes of Time an exhibit, art book and musical show based on long exposure photographs created during a Dutch scientific polar expedition to Svalbard and Wood, a cultural exchange in wood design celebrating the friendship between the cities of Utrecht (NL) and Portland (OR, USA)

Tina de Groot is an animator based in the Netherlands. After graduating from the University of Arts in Utrecht she has worked independently on various artistic projects. She loves to work with her hands, instead of a computer, so most of her work is hand-painted frame-by-frame animation. She uses oil paint on a glass table, and just like traditional animation, takes a picture for each drawing. Animating with oil paint is intuitive work and she enjoys the spontaneous nature of the outcome. She is currently working on a short film, The Little Violin, about a little boy from Syria that travels the sea on his violin.

When Nachoff composed his Saxophone Concerto to feature himself and chamber orchestra (Turning Point Ensemble), he collaborated with Dr. Morris using data from one of his physical experiments of cracks slowly forming in mud. The data and imagery were used as inspiration for the second movement and parts of the third movement of the Concerto.

Patterns in Nature

Patterns in Nature

Nachoff has always loved film and animation: his compositions are very expansive and cinematic in scope and lend themselves well to a creative visual: for his Juno-nominated album Path Of Totality he commissioned six film-makers to create six original short movies inspired by the music. This fruitful collaborative experience inspired Nachoff to develop Patterns In Nature: an ambitious multi-media project, again combining science, film and music. The development stage will see Nachoff collaborate with Dr. Morris, filmmakers, and musicians, all using each others’ work-in-progress as inspiration. Dr. Morris will construct new physical experiments specifically for this project that will provide source materials that can be incorporated into the composition and filmmaking process. Each piece will feature a different filmmaker and a different core improviser from within the ensemble, creating a body of work that is strongly differentiated but with a powerful unifying concept. With an instrumental palette that blends a modern chamber orchestra with unique improvisers, and the powerful visual statements from the bespoke video content creations of Nachoff’s chosen film collaborators Lee Hutzulak, Gita Blak and Udo Prinsen, the result will be a unique and unforgettable immersive experience.

Saxophone Concerto (2017)

Saxophone Concerto (2017)

Quinsin Nachoff — Composer and soloist

with Turning Point Ensemble
Conductor and Artistic Director — Owen Underhill

Flute, alto flute, piccolo — Brenda Fedoruk
Oboe, English horn — David Owen
Clarinet — François Houle
Bass Clarinet — AK Coope
Bassoon — Ingrid Chiang
French horn — Steve Denroche
Trumpet — Tom Shorthouse
Trombone — Jeremy Berkman
Harp — Janelle Nadeau
Piano — Rory Cowal
Percussion — Martin Fisk
Violins — Mary Sokol Brown, Domagoj Ivanovic
Viola — Tawnya Popoff
Cello — Peggy Lee
Double Bass — David Brown


Premiered at Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre
SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (Vancouver, Canada) 
Co-presented by The Turning Point Ensemble and The Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 27 & 28, 2017

Thank you to Professor Stephen Morris at the University of Toronto Physics Department. His research area is emergent patterns in Nature. Through one of his physical experiments, cracking patterns in drying mud helped to form the foundation for several musical elements in this concerto.

In 2017 Nachoff was invited by Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble to compose and feature himself in a Saxophone Concerto. As inspiration he used the data from a physical experiment of University of Toronto Physicist Dr. Stephen Morris. Morris’ area of physics is Emergent Patterns in Nature, and the composition drew on Nachoff’s fascination with the way that Nature spontaneously builds ordered patterns, from the organized swirls of flowing water to the networks of cracks that appear in drying mud. Nachoff and Dr. Morris also collaborated on another piece, Bounce, from the Juno-nominated album Path of Totality with Nachoff’s ensemble Flux (featuring David Binney, Matt Mitchell, Kenny Wollesen and Nate Wood) that uses the physics of a bouncing ball as a motivic idea throughout the piece, manifesting melodically, rhythmically and harmonically. In both works Nachoff endeavoured to incorporate the science as a source for inspiration, taking artistic liberties with the source materials, rather than using it as a set of rules that must be strictly followed. The Saxophone Concerto premiered at the Vancouver Jazz Festival in June 2017, setting the stage for further collaboration.

Snippet from Rehearsal

Pyramid Project

Pyramid Project

Quinsin Nachoff – tenor sax, compositions
2 Trumpets – have included Ralph Alessi, Jonathan Finlayson, Tim Hagans, Nadje Noordhuis, Shane Endsley
French Horn – John Clark
Trombone – Ryan Keberle
Tuba – Marcus Rojas
Drums – have included Jim Black, Mark Ferber, Jeff Davis

Nachoff’s music is equally grounded in jazz and contemporary classical and this project explores this intersection in a highly individual way. A series of compositions for a five-piece all-brass ensemble are driven by Jim Black’s powerfully polyrhythmic jazz-rock drumming while Nachoff’s own distinctive voice on tenor sax sails above. By turns quizzical, introverted, textural, and dynamically funky in the best street brass tradition, this is a truly idiosyncratic blend of genres that shapes a cohesive whole. The power, dynamism and playfulness of the band shine out in live performance: launched with a series of shows at Brooklyn’s Seeds!, IBeam and Cornelia Street Café, with a line-up of Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), John Clark (French Horn), Ryan Keberle (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and Jim Black (drums), the band has continued to develop, with Tim Hagans & Nadje Noordhuis joining on trumpets for a gig at Hunter College NYC.

Penderecki String Quartet + Ethereal Trio

Penderecki String Quartet + Ethereal Trio

Penderecki String Quartet
Jerzy Kapłanek, Jeremy Bell – violins
Christine Vlajk – viola
Katie Schlaikjer – cello

Ethereal Trio
Quinsin Nachoff – tenor sax
Mark Helias – bass
Dan Weiss – drums

Nachoff’s free-ranging creativity has long led him to explore the outer reaches of contemporary music. The groundbreaking ‘Stars and Constellations: Scorpio’ followed this angle naturally by taking the exploration of the physical outer reaches of interstellar space as its inspiration. The piece was commissioned by the Penderecki String Quartet, who provided the perfect creative partnership: in the thirty years since their formation in Katowice, Poland, they have established a reputation as one of the most celebrated modernist chamber ensembles of their generation. With his creative foils Mark Helias and Dan Weiss on bass and drums respectively, Nachoff blends the freedom of the jazz trio with the intricate precision of contemporary classical quartet writing. The success of the commission’s 2015 premiere has inspired Nachoff to venture even further on his exploratory voyage: premiering in 2021, he will be writing a complementary piece in the series ‘Stars and Constellations’ along with a piece for double string quartet (with the addition of the Molinari String Quartet) and Trio.

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