A Q&A with The Industry's Yuval Sharon

April 9, 2014

Yuval Sharon and Terry Riley
Yuval Sharon and Terry Riley

You’ve probably heard us tossing around the name “Yuval Sharon” a lot lately. That’s because he is the Artistic Director of The Industry, the experimental opera company that envisioned the acclaimed performance visualization of Terry Riley’s In C, which debuted at the Hammer last Saturday. Before our second (and last) performance this coming Saturday from 1-5PM, our curator got a little insider information from him.


Here’s my feeling. Yuval Sharon is brilliant and we should coerce him into talking about his work as much as we can. Fortunately, his intelligence is matched only by his warmth and generosity so there isn’t too much arm twisting involved in getting him to chat with us, and words seem to flow from him as easily as music does. What’s not to love?? –-Allison Agsten, curator, public engagement

AA: We started talking about making In C here in 2012 and since then have seemingly thought out every angle of the production. Still, was there anything that surprised you about the performance on Saturday?

YS: No matter how much you plan, there's an obvious unknown element to any performance:  the audience. Duchamp's statement that "the audience completes the work" has been a mantra for me: it means the results of your work are completely out of your hands and unpredictable. So you take a leap of faith every time you do something like this, hoping the field of potentiality you are creating will resonate beyond your own imagination--that is, without needing an explanation. Once we finally had an audience on Saturday, I was overjoyed and surprised that no explanations were needed for anyone to engage with the work: what we created was pure, and it presented some mysterious logic to people from all walks of life. What could be better?

What’s a little secret about this performance that only we know (or maybe only you!) that might give the audience extra insight?

I don't think anyone knows that those beautiful wooden boxes the air dancers spring from actually made this production possible:  by muffling the fan noise so ingeniously, the audience was able to move among the field of air dancers and still hear the music (which, after all, was the point of all this!). When we first tried the original fans in the courtyard, we couldn't even hear one another, they were so loud! So those boxes made this performance happen, and I'm extremely grateful to Studio Sereno for both the intelligent design and the beauty of the execution.

Wooden sound mufflers for the air dancers
Wooden sound mufflers for the air dancers

So you made a last minute decision to play toy piano during the performance. In addition to being Artistic Genius, I mean Artistic Director, of The Industry, you are obviously a musician yourself. Tell me about your training.

I am nowhere near the musician the other performers are--I haven't actively played piano since I was 18! Once I decided to join the ensemble on toy piano, I felt a sudden rush of terror that I was going to mess everything up. But things were going so well with the preparations that I realized I needed some last challenge for myself, or some aspect that would still keep me a little "on edge." Once the work no longer poses a challenge to the artist, I don't see how it could interest anyone else. So I had to give myself a challenge, otherwise there would be no electricity.

Yuval Sharon playing a toy piano. Photo by Instagram user @ashpurrr.Yuval Sharon playing a toy piano. Photo by Instagram user @ashpurrr.

What’s the best compliment you have heard about In C at the Hammer so far?

It's hard to top Joni Mitchell telling us it was "magical and delightful, the way all art should be." The only thing that could top that is if Terry Riley responds positively--which I guess we'll find out on Saturday!

Finish this sentence… if I wasn’t making music, I’d be….


Last Saturday's performance of In C. Photo by Instagram user @randomistheplan.Last Saturday's performance of 'In C.' Photo by Instagram user @randomistheplan.