A newly released project that delivers the jazz experience from every conceivable angle – literally – is what Viktor Haraszti calls “jazz meets virtual reality.” He has publicly launched the platform, ViO 360, with his first song “Haiku,” inspired by a work from the late 19th Century poet Masaoka Shiki.
Meant to be experienced in the visual and audio realms, “Haiku” allows the listener to explore the music from any corner of the room.
Led by Haraszti who has a strong and confident presence on the saxophone, “Haiku” has a flow that seems to both anticipate and follow where a viewer wishes to go. The track is open-ended with meandering ideas expressed through the music. A potpourri of rhythm reinforces the feeling of spaces melting into each other and then splitting off of their own accord.
This song is the first in a series that will explore how place and perspective mesh with melody and measure.
Not just unique, not just immersive, Haraszti’s ongoing musical exploration will be fascinating to witness as he develops his catalogue in this new technology.
How did you come up with the 360-degree concept?
The funny thing is it began with the budget. When I made my calculation about the costs and what it takes to make a professional live video recording – hire a film crew, a producer, and an editor to do the post-production etc. – I became terrified. I really wanted to create a video with an atmosphere which expresses and collaborates with my music in a unique visual way like never done before. It forced me to use all of my creative ideas and step out of my comfort zone; to take the risk on something that I didn’t know where it would lead. Now I know!
This is a highly individual art form where the listener is in full control of his/her view of the video. Does this heighten the experience?
Absolutely! We never had a chance to experience that before – to have such freedom. It is going to be an adventure for sure!
We are heading to a new area technologically. With the fast development of virtual reality, the way we look at films and videos will change entirely in the future and so is the way we listen to music. That change is unstoppable.
Can we implant some greatness and warmth into the ”cold” digital world? I hope so.
When did you start sax?
It happened in stages.
I didn’t start to play until I was 21. I had a straight-ahead and classical music education back in Budapest. It all started with the piano and continued with the clarinet at the age of 12. Two years later I got a five-year scholarship at the famous Bela Bartok Conservatorium. A quiet “spartan” classic music school for young kids in those days (1986).
Around the time I formed my first big impression of the saxophone, Fats Domino came into town! I went to see him and I fell in love with the saxophone section. Those guys were the coolest thing on the planet! My classical study was a bit cursed after that. I didn’t make it to the Franz Liszt Academy. I was devastated.
I sold my clarinet and asked my mother to buy me a saxophone. She was sad but she did. From here my other journey began!
What was your first exposure to jazz?
During my classical studies, I had some gypsy friends from school and from time to time I visited them. They showed me videotapes from the Oscar Peterson trio and the Chick Corea electric band. I loved to see them play!
My biggest exposure came when I started to work at a music library in Budapest. One day I borrowed an album and I started to listen to it without knowing anything about it. I remember crying when I first heard the Miles Davis band play “Blue in Green.” That was it!
What is the biggest challenge for a jazz artist today?
To stay a jazz artist! Times have changed, to play well and be artistically fearless is not enough anymore. You have to learn many other skills just to even have a chance to play somewhere, and to be your own producer, manager, social media correspondent, you name it! I had to learn about editing film using different applications, 360 video technology and Photoshop. Also, you have to face the compulsion to compromise yourself all the time.
What is the jazz scene like where you live?
Honestly, I didn’t follow the scene that much in my town (Utrecht) lately.
We use to have two jazz clubs but urbanization and the opening of mass concert halls have sucked out and centralized the city’s jazz life. After the clubs closed I stopped following the scene. Now jazz has become a bit of an underground activity. Here and there you catch the occasional jam session or a small concert in a pub or a smaller club.
But, there is hope. Some new small organizations and experiments are starting up. Jazz is an organic thing. You never know where and how it’s going to show up next. That’s the beauty of it! It always renews itself.
Talk about your ensemble and how they contribute to your vibe?
Well, the guys I’m playing with on the recording, Taco Nieuwenhuizen (bass), Edgar van Asselt (keys), and Remco van der Sluis (drums) are great guys and l love working with them!
We started to rehearse the material last year after the summer and it developed quite fast. We kind of have the same jazz-fusion background which helped us to communicate musically.
I’ve tried to lead the project in a way that the spirit of the music gets above our egos. I think in the end we shared a common vision.
What captured you of Masaoki Shiki’s poetry?
The mystery. I felt a great beauty in it on so many levels. That moment he describes made me visualize and imagine it clearly in my head. It had a deep impact on me. I wanted to try to express that affection in a musical way. I hope I’ve succeeded!
What do you like most about the fusion sound?
”Fusion” – I love all that it means. The blending, the combination, the binding, the integration, union, etc. The antonyms of the word are division, separation, disconnection. I guess no person wants to go for that, at least not me!
Are you planning to expand the 360-degree concept to future projects?
During the process, I’ve realized there is a lot of potential to explore the technology in an artistic way. It would be great to have the opportunity to work on more material in the future. But for now, I’m glad that I could finish this one and will wait to see where it leads.
One thing you’d like people to know about your music that they might not already know?
There is a quote from Albert Einstein on my website I like to highlight here as a possible answer. “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Yes, if you’d like to experience the video of “Haiku” in its full potential, watch it with Virtual Reality glasses and use headphones. Discover it step by step and don’t try to turn your head all the time looking for excitement, just listen to the music as you would do normally in a relaxed way and the rest will come to you…or not.
All that counts is the music, after all, and the rest is –let’s say – the cherry on the top. Enjoy!
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Viktor Haraszti.
© Debbie Burke 2018