Interview with Eugene Feygelson: i=u and what it’s all about

shared musical creativity

Hi, can you please introduce yourself and your company I=U?

Hi, I’m Eugene, Brooklyn-born musician. Being raised in that urban oasis of diversity directly inspired me to create i=u. I wanted to create events that brought to life the psychology of how we interact. For example, coming from a classical music family, there wasn’t much improvisation in the house – and yet – improvisation was core to many of the great classical musicians: Beethoven, Bach, Mozart.  No one was really programming improvised classical music events – so I went on to lead this events organisation in London and New York.

So what does i=u mean?

i=u is three different things:

·         i(mprovisation) = u(niversal). We are all creative. A bartender is creative when swinging a bottle around the bar or a lawyer as he composes a contract.

·         i=u is about listening to another person, to listen and engage. Listen, improvise, then listen again. It’s like a feedback loop of listening.

·         Ensure both the performer and audience are mutually involved in the creation of the performance. It’s all about the connection and exchange. In the end there’s no leader and audience, the sense of leadership has been dispersed and everyone contributes to the end creation.

How did it all start?

It started with sound. Senses enhance the world around us, sounds stimulate the brain. You can take away the visual, close your eyes when you listen to classical music and experience the sound. That’s BitterSuite (which I have also been involved in).

So much is focused on our eyes, focusing on the visual over anything else. There is so much more though. Think of a coffee shop: so many options for engagement with the sound, smell, spatial awareness, taste…

I first became aware of the importance of the senses when at 19, I had a cross roads moment when I was a bit bored of playing the violin. I decided to pursue a more academic research focus investigating where music and language fit into human evolution – basic question was like – why am I spending 8 hours a day with this wooden box – what’s driving our interest in music? In the end, I completed a PhD in how improvising musicians use non-verbal communication to communicate ideas at KCL – sort of a more applied aspect from this language and music interest. 

What will i=u be bringing to Open Senses this year?

i=u will have several areas at the festival showcasing a series of workshops, events and concerts.

A wide range of improvised and musical activities I’m really excited by including great artists such as Cosmo Sheldrake and Roscius who create textures and layers of sound with others. Roscius has collected percussion instruments from all over the world – and he samples and improvises world minimal disco with these amazing instruments. It’s magical.

The Rich Mix programming is more upbeat – Shoreditch Church on May 20th will be more reflective – non-alcoholic – mindfulness oriented.

In the lead up we have #improvaday Instagram campaign led by percussionist Maria Finkelmeier encouraging you to engage with wherever you are and take 15 seconds from your day to have some fun with percussive improvisation.

How would you describe it in three words?

Shared musical creativity

Why do you think this is all so important?

We need to be situated in the body. When we are, we are more aware, more integrated and have more care for our environment. Senses are for engagement with other people, animals and our environment. We really listen and really smell. It grounds and situates us.

There are Arts Festivals but this is different in that it explores headspace versus ‘sense’ space.

A huge proponent of this is Ivan Andrade – who will be doing workshops at Rich Mix both weekend days – he draws from Grinberg Method to channel fear as a source of creativity – but it’s all about how the body interprets fear. How it changes and shifts our physiology.

Why should guests visit your performances?

Continuing with that thread. It’s a chance to become present using your ears and your bodies; to engage and realise your creative potential within. There is a freedom; an opportunity to work in an open way which is a rare thing. Any of the activities are great ways to become present.

You can practise your own musicality in advance if you get involved with #improvaday on Instagram. In only a few weeks find yourself much more present. You discover things around you that you might never have noticed before.

We will be selecting a bunch of #improvaday entries and displaying them - so you might see your work exhibited along with others’ work.

There are a wide variety of offerings until the early hours including opportunities to relax and chill in amongst the bustle. We’re centrally located with many of the other activities in Shoreditch so pop along and see as many as you can.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

BitterSuite, which I have been involved with; SenCity; Moorfield’s Eye Hospital and other pop up events to surprise! The workshop with Deep Throat Choir is gonna be awesome!

Where would you like to Open Senses in the future?

I hope it becomes a more regular yearly or bi-annual event. It is really important especially in a city like London where it reminds us of our surroundings. We need this to invest time in becoming more grounded and more situated.

What’s next for i=u?

i=u will be touring, spreading the music and improving ways to communicate. We’re going to Barcelona in October for example. We would love to have a devoted space to work and create. Tour the world to gather communicate and share findings through improvising with fellow humans.

Three words to describe how you feel about the festival?

Visionary, innovative, experiential.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

'She Can Just Whistle' – it is an incredible film I’ve been involved with – and its gaining momentum. The project is about how women and whistling or women whistling have been prohibited in a variety of work, sacred and public spaces – and how this has transferred to a new code of behaviour – one we aren’t even really aware of.

The film-maker,Thea Stallwood, is amazing and will actually be lending a hand in the festival – talk to her! It’s just such a great idea. We had the screening a few weeks back. I’m really excited to be sharing this narrative and story with the world!

Come join #improvaday before it all kicks off this weekend!

Start your own conversation @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this conversation initiated by Natasha Blok.