Raid the Icebox Now with Sebastian Ruth
Much of my work questions how to integrate musical experiences and the life of a community for mutual benefit. I’ve been inspired by educator John Dewey’s project in the 1930s to find ways of “restoring continuity” between art and everyday life experience. Dewey worried that the formality of art spaces prevented people from seeing art as lively, meaning-rich encounters connected to our sense of purpose as humans in the world. Philosopher Maxine Greene took this a step further and said we can and must “lend works of art our lives”—we must allow ourselves to see art as speaking to our core questions, not in an abstract or cerebral way, but in a way that connects to our memories, our pasts, our lived lives.
In this gallery I’ve created a musical soundtrack for scoradatura (retuned) solo viola based on the blinking lights of the iconic Providence smokestacks, themselves a musical gesture. The works I’ve chosen from the RISD Museum collection seem captivated by a similar impulse—to see the everyday for its beauty. Witnessing invites us to consider our daily lives as aesthetic encounters.
Sebastian Ruth is a musician, educator, and organizer whose work has been in reimagining careers for musicians at the intersection of performance, teaching, and deep community collaboration. Through the work of Community MusicWorks, the organization he founded in 1997, Sebastian and his colleagues have continually experimented with the forms and traditions of music making. Sebastian thanks the following people who were critical to creating this project: Carson Evans, Carolyn Gennari, Erik Gould, and Jeremy Radtke of the RISD Museum, who collaborated on making the film; Jim Moses, who served as recording engineer; Marek Bennett, for noticing the lights and their musical potential; Sarah Ganz Blythe, for revealing the possibilities in working with the RISD Museum’s collections; and Paolo Cardini, who shared this: “Hearing the soundtrack to the smokestacks will cause me to look for music everywhere.” We hope it does the same for you.
Raid the Icebox Now is made possible by a lead grant from the National Endowment for the Arts with support from Taylor Box Company, Pace Gallery, and a generous in-kind gift from Meyer Sound Laboratories. RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and Museum Governors.