Houston weather inspires Musiqa’s final concert of the season at MATCH

In the weeks and months after Hurricane Harvey, many Houstonians dreaded the idea of any more rainfall. What would have been the most routine, ho-hum shower before the storm became a source for community-wide anxiety that spilled all over social media. 

Carrie Marie Schneider gets it. The formerly Houston-based visual artist, who recently finished grad school at Rutgers, viewed this localized surge in ombrophobia (fear of rain) as a challenge.

“I was thinking a lot about how after Harvey it seemed like everyone was still cringing when it rained,” she says, “and what would be a way that making things creatively could give us new memories with water that weren’t all traumatizing.”

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As a way to explore Houstonians’ relationship with water and weather, and consider its ramifications in the contexts of climate change and the regional dominance of the petrochemical industry, Schneider began an ongoing series of projects she called Washing Water. In the early stages, she hosted a series of public events in different Houston city council districts.

Here, Schneider set up a 30-gallon fish tank on top of a GoPro camera and invited people to share their associations, aided by objects that were symbolic to them (a bucket of sand, perhaps). Some people reflected on time spent at the beach, others on plants, others on jellyfish. Still others created miniature hurricanes. According to Schneider, the results resembled small-scale dioramas, at least until a projector blew up their creations to enormous proportions.

When: 7:30 p.m. April 29, 4 p.m. April 30
Where: MATCH, 3400 Main St.
Details: Pay-what-you-can, 713-524-5678; musiqa.org

The communal way people interacted during the process reminded her of how things had been after the storm, when neighbors helped muck out each other’s homes. Appropriately, “people’s specific stories kind of flooded over into each other’s stories,” she says.

Eventually her art came to the attention of Musiqa executive director Anthony Barilla, who extended an offer to collaborate with the local new-music organization. Alongside music by Ryne Siesky, 2021 winner of Musiqa’s emerging-composer commission, the results will be revealed this weekend as part of New Dimensions In Sight and Sound, Musiqa’s final concerts of the season. Schneider’s video installation Weather Models,  will accompany a string quartet and vocalist Jillian Krempasky performing music by Sam Wu, last year’s emerging-composer winner.

“I admire her approach on all the projects of hers,” Barilla says. “It’s very, very thoughtful. The work is also beautiful and engaging, but she really thinks a lot in a way that really touches me. I’m just happy to have her thinking associated with something that we’re putting onstage.”

For Wu, a doctoral candidate at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, Schneider’s work lit up some of the same areas of his brain. The two were well-matched: Wu is a self-described “weather nerd” whose previous works include a piece called Wind Map For Orchestra. He and Schneider bonded over their love of digital weather maps, which — from a certain point of view — can easily take on artistic qualities.

“It’s very empirical, but nevertheless the end result after you color-code certain parameters… looks kind of like Van Gogh’s brush strokes,” Wu says. “That was really fascinating to me: how something that is so scientific actually looks like painting, and that was kind of an inspiration for the piece of music.”

Winner of an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Wu enjoys the creative charge he gets by immersing his music in other disciplines. His 2021 solo piano piece Tiny Forests was inspired by practice of transplanting miniature forests onto urban landscapes, so Weather Models fits on a similar trajectory.

“Every time there is text involved, or dance or just a dialogue or a back and forth between me and a performer, or me and a text or something, or even just me and a concept,” he says, “I feel like it challenges me to rethink what kind of structure the music can be, what kind of story the music can tell, or what kind of sounds or colors come.”

Schneider noticed another interesting phenomenon at her aquarium events: some people who came out a couple of times then turned around and held similar events of their own. She and Wu are coy about precisely how, but the audience will be invited to participate in Weather Models in some fashion as well.

“That’s one of the things I love about Houston,” Schneider says. “People don’t do stuff to be a part of a scene. They really care about what they do, whether or not it looks cool.”


Chris Gray is a Galveston-based writer.



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