Indianapolis saxophonist Sophie Faught remembers going about her usual day job at Indy Reads Books a couple years ago. But for some reason the abstract Steven Sickles paintings hanging throughout the bookstore just wouldn’t leave her alone.
“Everyday, I was just coming into work and they were there, and I liked them very much,” she remembers. “When you’re around a piece of art but you’re not actively thinking about it, it’s still affecting you and it’s in your subconscious. I found myself just feeling really musically inspired, and I kind of traced it back to those paintings.”
Faught has played everywhere from New York to Rotterdam, but these days she gets her kicks teaching saxophone at the University of Indianapolis' Community Music Center.
When she realized the magnetism of the art and how it had affected her, Faught contemplated writing and recording an album with her group (the Sophie Faught Trio) that would be inspired by Sickles’ work. She admits it was a daunting task initially. But after mulling it over for a while, she proposed the project with Sickles. He was thrilled by the idea.
“For me, it’s just the highest compliment [someone] could possibly pay [you] -- to inspire someone else to create a completely different form of art based on what you do,” he says.
Sickles invited Faught and the rest of her trio (bassist Nick Tucker and drummer Ben Lumsdaine) to his house, the walls of which he had lined with his sizable pieces of artwork.
“I shoved as many of my paintings on the walls as I could. They went across doorways and all kinds of things,” he says. Each member of the group then made note of their favorites, eventually receiving very large prints of each to use for inspiration during the composition process.
When it was time to start writing music, Faught sat down with her saxophone and engaged with each painting musically. Then she culled the best ideas she had from these one-on-one sessions with the artwork and orchestrated them for the trio. Much like working with another musician, though, some of the works didn’t cooperate as well as she hoped they would.
Sickles' painting Bags, Portmaneus & Boxes provided inspiration for the song Noir.
“I think that the frustrations came really early on when I was trying to force certain paintings that just weren’t working for me,” she says. “That was tough. But, if the music’s not there, it’s not there.”
The Sophie Faught Trio honored Sickles art by putting it front and center on the cover of Three Muses.
With each musician having their own compositions, Faught, Tucker and Lumsdaine worked through what they had written, eventually constructing a cohesive album to be titled Three Muses. It is comprised of eight original compositions, each of which correlates with specific Sickles’ paintings.
“I think Steven's paintings are beautiful, but he leaves a lot of the work up to the person looking at his art,” Tucker says. “They are up for interpretation, and I think the music we've recorded is up for interpretation as well.”
To celebrate the release of Three Muses, the group will perform a week from today, Friday, April 10 at Indy Reads Books, alongside Sickles and his paintings. At the free event (for all ages), vinyl and digital download copies of Three Muses will also be available. Faught couldn't be more pleased to see it all finally come together.
“It’s actually pretty rare that a person would have a really big idea, and that one day that idea would be a real, tangible thing that you could hold in your hands and experience and hear and see,” she concludes. “I’m really proud that this one good idea that I had is now real. It’s not so easy to do that, and we did it.”
For more information on the album release celebration, visit Faught’s website.