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Chasing Memories in ‘Choreograph’: new music inspired by the photographs of James Welling

Commissioning project between fivebyfive and The George Eastman Museum, with open rehearsals and a concert among the photographs


Rochester-based quintet fivebyfive is excited to commission three new works for the exhibition “Choreograph” by internationally renowned photographer James Welling which will run July 2020 through December 2020. The exhibition will be held at The George Eastman Museum (Rochester, NY), the world’s oldest museum dedicated to photography. The works will be premiered by fivebyfive (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, bass and piano) in September 2020 during the exhibition.

Photographer James Welling has been questioning the norms of representation since the 1970s, and his practice has influenced an entire generation of artists and photographers. Welling’s latest body of work, “Choreograph”, explores his passion for architecture, dance and the landscape through boldly colored and multi-layered photographs. The George Eastman Museum will be the first museum to exhibit this collection.

As the name “Choreograph” indicates, these photographs draw heavily from Welling’s love of dance. Welling’s interest dates back to 1970 when he saw the Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform while attending the University of Pittsburgh. This exhibition marks his return to dance, albeit in photographic form.

Welling found the temporary nature of dance intriguing, like a memory. In an interview Welling commented, “My work, for myself, is about memory, feeling, touch…a sense of my relationship to the physical world, colors, sensations, photographic emulsions, but all in the service of chasing memories, both very distant and recent.” Adding, “This is the least understood part of my work.”

Eager to explore these ideas and the bold, multi-layered world of Welling’s work, fivebyfive will commission three new pieces by composers Kay He, Robert Lydecker and Kamala Sankaram that will be inspired by the photographs in “Choreograph”. These composers were chosen for their unique multi-discipline voices that we believe will effectively capture and reflect upon the multi-layered world of Mr. Welling’s photographs.

In July 2020 the “Choreograph” exhibition will open. During the Summer of 2020 there will be Open Rehearsals and Preview Performances at the museum, a first of its kind for the institution, with each of the composers and fivebyfive. The new works will be given their premiere in September 2020 among the photographs at the George Eastman Museum (GEM). Further plans include collaborating with live dancers, recording the new works, making a film inspired by the photographs, and touring to other museums where ‘Choreograph’ will be shown.

Concerning process and presentation
Embracing the spirit of accessibility, fivebyfive and GEM propose a large window of time for development. Through open rehearsals and preview performances, audiences will be given the opportunity to connect with the artists, ask questions and experience the work as it evolves. Both fivebyfive and GEM  believe this to be essential to the ultimate understanding of the art and to the development of an engaged audience.

June 2020 – delivery of scores and materials to fivebyfive
Summer 2020– open rehearsals / preview performances at GEM
September 2020 – premiere performances of new works at GEM
Late 2020 through May 2021 – subsequent performances of works, audio recordings and film in progress

Project Media

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Features: fivebyfive

Awake combines the cyclic processes and layers of Javanese gamelan music with harmonies and colors of Western classical and popular music.

Patrick Burke, composer

Performed by fivebyfive:
Laura Lentz, flute
Marcy Bacon, clarinet
Sungmin Shin, electric guitar
Eric Polenik, bass
Haeyeun Jeun, piano

Recorded live on April 26, 2017, WXXI Radio – “Live from Hochstein”

Cue @ 2:25-5:00

On the Pivot of an Abandoned Carousel
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Features: Yuanyuan (Kay) He

In On the Pivot of an Abandoned Carousel, the flute and electronics overlap so the audience cannot determine what is real and what is not. This mimics our memories, so as to show the exaggerations and delusions that form in our head.

Yuanyuan (Kay) He, composer

Kenzie Slottow, flutist

2015 EARS concert in Austin

Cue @ 1:18-2:56

The First Drop of Rain from Thumbprint
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Features: Kamala Sankaram

In this 90 minute contemporary opera-theater work, the libretto originates from a series of interviews with Mukhtar Mai whose world was shattered by an act of brutality that could have destroyed her. The score is a dynamic collision of Hindustani and European opera influences with an ensemble of six singers and six instrumentalists, featuring flute, violin and viola, upright bass, piano/harmonium, and percussion (drums and tabla).

Kamala Sankaram, composer

Performance – June 18, 2017 at Redcat with LA Opera and Beth Morrison

Cue 1:56 to End

Start and End Dates



Rochester, New York

Project Created By

Rochester, New York
fivebyfive is a quintet based in Rochester NY, formed in 2015 with a mission to engage audiences in the collaborative spirit and creativity of modern chamber music by commissioning, arranging and performing a wide range of works for its instrumentation. The group performs works of today’s leading composers, supports emerging composers from around the world,…

In Collaboration With

Bronx, New York
Los Angeles, California
Tucson, Arizona


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