David Felberg

Violinist David Felberg talks about his craft, the art of trying new things, as well as giving a virtuoso performance at Albuquerque’s legendary Chatter.

AIRED: June 07, 2019 | 0:26:35

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

...and Viewers Like You




"I love that connection because I love the music

that I'm playing and I want to share that and I

want to share it in the most profound way that I

possibly can."









♪ ♪

>>Felberg: Music is about communication.

And it's also about being in the moment.


>>Kasinuskas: Thank you very much.

I'd like to thank David for playing this piece.

He does such a terrific job.

>>Felberg: For me, it's one of the only things

that I can be truly in the moment with and share that

in the moment-ness with other people.

♪ ♪

>>Felberg: You know I get excited personally

about all the inner workings of music and how

music is put together, and how clever it is.

Trying to always figure out what the composer's trying to say.

♪ ♪

>>Felberg: That's a lifelong challenge.

But then, to be able to share that with people on

an intimate level is really cool.

♪ ♪

>>Felberg: There's harmony, but there's so

much more to music.

There's sound.

Its texture.

Its color.

Its emotion.

And, it's such a reflection of the world

around us.

♪ ♪

>>Kamerick: How would you express your sense or

your interpretation of Joseph Kasinskas's flight

of birds piece.

>>Felberg: It's an incredible musical flight.

It's an extremely emotional piece...

♪ ♪

>>Felberg: All the timing is so important.

The space between the notes is equally important

as the notes themselves, and it's all about timing.

There was a place in the piece also that I had to

sing and that was pretty new for me.

♪ ♪

>>Felberg: Just coordinating all those

things is very untraditional, things that

I wouldn't normally do, but it's a magnificent

effect that he has with the looping, just like you

would do on pop albums.

And so it requires, you know, knowing some technology.

And it really feels like you're looking at birds

overhead in the sky, and then singing with them, or

at them, or something.

>>Kamerick: Is that what you thought about

when you were singing?

>>Felberg: I thought about singing with them, with the

birds themselves.

♪ ♪

>>Kamerick: Why is it important for you to

bring people together?

>>Felberg: Creating a community of, you know,

creating a small community is part of creating a

large community.

And so, to do it at the very ground level is so important.

And it's a reflection of creating a community

in a large city.

>>Kamerick: What do you want to bring to the audience?

>>Felberg: I want to bring a sense of shared

experience, which I think is the most important

thing is that, we're all sharing this together.

And also, to give them an appreciation for something

maybe that they don't know they like yet.

>>Kamerick: How does it become an experience?

>>Felberg: You know, as an instrumentalist, you spend

a lot of time by yourself in a small room


hopefully away from other people, so they

don't have to hear all your little experiments that

you're doing.

And you have to work out a performance of a piece.

But, it's a really cool experience when you

finally get in front of people and you have to

feel like you let go.

When you're super prepared, really

ultra-prepared, and the audience can feel a sense

of confidence and there's a relaxedness and that

when the audience can relax then they can take in more.

>>Kamerick: What does it feel like when you

make that connection?

>>Felberg: It's a great.

It's like nothing else, yeah, and that's why you do it.

That's why you spend many, many hours in a room by

yourself, working, so that when you go out there and

make the connection it's really an incredible feeling.

♪ ♪

>>Kamerick: Sometimes, I feel like when I go to

Chatter, that it's all rehearsed, of course, but

there's a thing being created right there in

front of you, in that room.

>>Felberg: Definitely, yeah.

If you're really well prepared, then you can be

a little more improvisatory.

You can take chances that you would not have planned out.

And what's exciting is when you, as a performer,

when you're feeling the audiences is with you, you

can really have a conversation with your audience.

♪ ♪

>>Felberg: I think that the intimacy...

you feel the vibrations.

You actually feel the vibrations of the notes

and there's something about the actual feeling

of it which is a different experience, as opposed to

just hearing it.

You really feel the wood in the stringed

instruments moving, or a reed vibrating, or if you

hear breath you know the breath is part of the

music, and the way the musicians move together is

really exciting.

It's exciting to see how people react to one

another, to try to bring off something.

>>Kamerick: Why do you love that connection?

>>Felberg: I love that connection because I love

the music that I'm playing and I want to share that,

and I want to share it in the most profound way that

I possibly can.

♪ ♪



>>Dibbs: Every day is awkward at the beginning,

especially if you are starting with a white canvas.

There's nobody saying, oh you are doing

the right thing now.

You've just gotta go, am I, am I not, is it good is

it not good.

Let's see how this goes, I'm not liking that, why

don't I like that, I'm not sure.

And then finally the voices quiet down.

But it's really satisfying when you're not wondering

where you are going your just doing.

I use a mirror to get an idea what it looks like to

someone else it flips it around and gives me double

the distance it gives me a fresh view.

I like it because when I look this way, it's very

familiar, I'm already starting to categorize the

shapes, and I go like this and it is completely new to me.

And I thought, why am I painting a landscape, why

don't I just use a photo and I really honestly

think that the act of putting all that work and

care into it and then scribbling over it means

something, it really does.

It's almost analogous to how we treat our planet.

How could it have sustained us and be such a

beautiful thing and we treat it like this?

So I'm trying to shine a light on our soulless

attitude towards our planet.

When I started with landscapes I was obsessed

by the idea of horizons and I did these big skies

and I always felt like we are a speck of dust on the

skin of creature earth.

I found comfort in the idea that we are just a

cog in this biological process.

Times have changed a lot.

There's definitely more of a threat out there in

terms of the environment it's pretty critical now.

Its worthy of addressing.

I never used fluorescent paint before on a

painting, it just seems so wrong.

But it also kinda goes because it is a landscape

and I want the viewer to still see the painting but

their really going to have to look through all the

stuff and wonder what it's about and wonder why it's there.

Trying to put it into words, what it means,

sorta makes it a lot more literal than what it is.

I think in my mind it vaguely represents

humanity, human construct, things that we build, the

things that we do that don't quite mesh.

I'm trying to address something uncomfortable.

Human beings have a relationship to nature but

we also have an anthropocentric existence

and I want to point that out.

If you just do something that's really didactic or

finger wagging or terribly ugly nobody wants to hear

it or look at it.

So I want my paintings to be beautiful and I want

the viewer to want to look more so they stop and

really understand what it's all about.

Why are there these fluorescent green lines,

obliterating the landscape?

Why can't I see it clearly that's a little uncomfortable.

I'm trying to make them disarming enough that

people will look and be drawn in by the beauty and

say, oh look, that's so true.

And people usually do really relate because I

think a lot of people really feel that in this

day and age, wow we are at a really interesting point

in human development in terms of our relationship

with the world but no one really knows how to put

their finger on it.

And I think putting your finger on it in an

abstract way is better than talking about it.

I feel like I'm helping you express something that

you know and feel and are aware of but don't know

how to express or talk about or bring into a conversation.

It's really an interesting time in human history, I

don't think people dreamed it would get like this.

I try to give a title that is a clue as to what the

meaning of the painting is so all of the first ones

in this series had the name Anthropocene this is

a geographical epoch that has been completely

shaped by humans.

Biology is not incompatible with art.

Biology has informed my sculpture, my sculptures

are all based in the look of invertebrate zoology.

And I do a lot of work that address survival

strategies in a changing physical world, spikes,

spores, proboscis for feeding, creatures that

are sorta horrifying but beautiful,

trying to ride that line.

A little bit of that with a little bit of the

miracle of what something can do to survive it just

goes on and on.

I love that regenerative concept, the power in that.

I think it inspires me.

I did study biology so I just think of us as a species.

It's hard for me not to do that.

But things start to seem ridiculous I was a ski

instructor and I'm like, wow, I'm spending all this

energy teaching a creature how to strap things on its

legs and slide down the hill for fun.

I always think of things that way

and it starts to seem silly.

Culture is very interesting but underneath

culture is nature.

Underneath it all we are human beings that are a

part of the physical, biological world and we

separate ourselves from that but we really can't.

I think we pay the price for doing that.

Biology led me down this path and I think that for

a long time I was happy doing the landscapes but

after a while they seem kinda pointless, so what's

a pretty picture?

What is it, a diorama from the past in a museum, why

am I painting this it's not even how I feel.

There's always a little bit of tension in me when

I travel and I see beautiful things and worry

about what's happening.

I think if you study biology or environmental

science or anything like that you end up with a

real depth of understanding of the

interconnectedness of things and the fragility of things.

Art can put a conversation on the table in a way that

other things can't.

So do I think art changes the world?

Not one piece by itself but as the conversation

moves forward, the world slowly does change.

So I think it's really important to bring up that

conversation and I think it's really important to

continue the dialogue and get people comfortable

talking about it.

To have it be an issue.

Because when something is not an issue it's never

gonna be addressed.


>>Greene: I've always like to reuse things and it

just seems natural since I like books so much and I

collect them, but not all books are really that

pretty or make me want to re-read them again, that

it's nice to be able to do something else with them.

For me re-purposing books comes a lot from I like to

recycle things and after visiting the library book

sale several times, there are hundreds of thousands of

books that get discarded from the library every year.

So, it's a really great opportunity to turn them

into something else.

I do occasionally read some of the before I fold

them, so that's an added bonus.

I get to read and then I get to do something fun with it.

Most of my inspiration for the sculptural quality

ones would be geometric forms, which I tend to

enjoy a little more so than the ones that are

like actual words or patterns mostly because I

can make my own patterns for either one but I just

enjoy the geometric forms a lot more if it's not a

geometric pattern, sometimes I just start

folding to see what things will look like for that

but anything that's like letters or words, um, shapes

like hearts, stars, pretty much any shape you can imagine.

I try to get things that aren't overly complicated

because the more pages it is, sometimes it doesn't

look like what it's supposed to look like.

So, usually simpler things work out a little better.

I actually create my own patterns.

I go into illustrator and I make a grid and then

place a picture behind it that way I've got

everything lined up.

Once I've made the grid I pick a book and sometimes

I have to pick a book that's the right size,

sometimes I'll pick them oversize, it just depends

on how much space I want around the object.

I make marks on the pages as to where they need to

be folded, then that's what I use the grid for

and then I mark all the pages and then after I

mark all the pages, I start folding.

Start to finish it can take maybe a couple hours,

just depending on how many pages it is.

Sometimes, it's only 30 or 40 pages and then some

I've done are over a hundred pages or more that

I've got to mark and then fold.

Does not involve a ton of tools.

What I use most is a mechanical pencil cause it

gives a really nice fine line when I'm marking

patterns on the book pages.

Sometimes I use a bone folder if I want to a

really crisp edge when I fold a page but normally it's just

a book, my hands and whatever pattern it is I've made.

I teach book folding classes because I think

they make really nice gifts and it's a fun

project, it can be a little tedious and time

consuming but it's enjoyable.

I myself find it more of a meditative experience

because you can just kinda get in the zone and start

doing things and I like to share that with people.

I think teaching others helps me understand a

little bit more of how I make my patterns and what

I could do different to make it easier which is

good because I'm always looking to make things

easier or more fun.

I haven't had too many people get mad at me for

folding pages, every once in a while, they'll be

like, "oh how can you do that?

It's a book, I love books."

But, honestly I don't fold books that are like super

special, they're not first editions signed, for one

thing really old books, the paper doesn't fold

well and they usually look neater.

So, those are the ones I collect whereas more

modern books the paper's more flexible and you can

fold it without cracking.

It makes a difference, it really does.

Sometimes when I start looking at a book and

think I'm gonna fold it, I do decide not to because I

like it too much.

It does happen.


So let's take a look at him, stroll around.


Right If that's ok?

And every detail, right from the base to the tip,

in some way was rooted to what was found in


Absolutely, Yeah.

Even a little bit of the structure of the base and

then of course it's hidden, little items.

Little, little secrets...

Secrets, yes For kids For discovery

When you were approached and asked about the

project, what did you initially think?

>>Ullberg: I thought it would be incredible.

It'd be a closing of the circle.

It would be, so almost emotional to do it,

because this museum brought me here, exactly

40 years ago.

To become an American, to live my dream, and then

eventually to live by my own sculptures.

One of the world's foremost wildlife

sculptors, Ullberg, a native of Sweden, came to

the United States in the 1970's to work as an

exhibit artist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Eventually Ullberg would decide to concentrate on

sculpting fulltime.

He's created hundreds of works for public and

private entities, becoming known for his large-scale

bronzes of animals of all sorts.

Weighing in at 5,000 pounds and 22 feet from

ground to tusk, Snowmastodon is the

largest mammal done work Ullberg has created.

>>Ullberg: You know and I thought I really need to

do this, in spite of all the challenges, you know,

and the size, the scale and you know, at least two

years of my life.

Ya know at this stage in my career.

And, well, its relative the wooly Mammoth was

found completely frozen in the Siberian tundra.

No such discovery has been made for the American Mastodon.

That left room for artistic license.

I mean you have to stay within anatomy, but stuff

like expressions, the face, the eyes, which are

to me, very, very important, you know.

They are the mirror of the soul you know and animals

too then.

So I had the freedom to do, you know the soft

tissue, the eyes, to make him look kind or, you

know, benevolent.

The team that helps to put together a sculpture,

let's talk about some of those parts, once you've

made the mold, then what happens?

Well, first off, we have a team here of course, you

know, that I have people helping me.

And then we make a mold here, with the team, which

is you know an impression of the clay here and

that's done in a lot of pieces.

We have over 100 molds.

And then we take those down to the foundry.

They have many different departments.

For many years, we've done it all here in my shop,

but it's easier on a monster like this to have

the guys down at the foundry.

It was done in, let's see, in 180 pieces.

180 pieces of bronze welded together.

So it's like doing it all over again, you know.

And to get it right you have to have tremendous skills.

A lot of people in the foundry are artists themselves.

Many of the artists in this area got their start

working in the foundry.

Ya know, today with the modern method and the

technology that this foundry here in Loveland

Colorado has brought to the, the art world is remarkable.

It is a really delicate process too because if

it's not done properly you will see where those 180

pieces have come together.


It'd look like a road map, you know, and that is the

final way of touching skill and sensitivity, and

then try to duplicate my texture, which was done in clay.

What is it about sculpture that you connect with?

>>Ullberg: I connect with sculpture in many ways,

you know and I feel like you've done an honest

day's work, when you've sculptured a big piece,

that's one thing, but the other thing too, is of

course the obvious is that you have a three dimensional

opportunity of communicating and it's a challenge.

What do you think or hope his role will be, as a

piece of public art?

>>Ullberg: The Mastodon, well they might, might

look and say "Wow, look at that!"

You know the kids turn in the car and they may say,

"Oh we know what that is, that's an elephant."

You know and they can communicate it.

And then the parent says, "No, it's a Mastodon."

And then you can start talking about extinction.

You can talk about all the time periods, climate

changes, you know, fragility of nature,

there's so much you can say.

Well and I think that's, a really beautiful part for

you to have a considered the amount of people to be

able to enjoy it that way.

Well you know it's got incredible meaning for me,

because my favorite place in the whole world when I

was a little kid was my natural history museum in

Gothenburg, Sweden, which was the nearest museum and

that's where I grew up.

I spent every minute there that I could.

And then I studied there.

And now I can pass it on, maybe excite other kids.


New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

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Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

...and Viewers Like You


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