Milford Graves ‘Heart Harmonics: sound, energy, and natural healing phenomena’ at Fridman Gallery




Milford Graves, Big Bang, 2020, Acrylic on wind gong, ⌀ 31 in

Fridman Gallery will open its doors to a solo exhibition of the late free jazz percussionist and visual artist Milford Graves. Heart Harmonics: sound, energy, and natural healing phenomena brings together three bodies of work comprising the most recent (and last) artistic output of his research.

A set of four hand-painted wind gongs will resonate throughout the gallery, activated by the sounds of Graves’ unreleased Heart Music recordings. The artist spent nearly 40 years establishing a healing correlation between the vibrations of percussive instruments and the rhythms of the human heart, which he termed “biological music, a synthesis of the physical and mental, a mind-body deal.” These works not only represent his scientifically recognized research, but also the deep, artistic connection he shared with his wife Lois who has painted two of the gongs in the exhibition as a tribute to her late husband and his work.

Milford Graves. Image courtesy of Shawn Hanna

The exhibition will also feature a series of recent works that explore sound vibration as a painting technique. This process involved placing palettes of paint between black vinyl covers and attaching to the outside of the covers a transducer playing intimate recordings of instrumental experiments. Graves would slide the transducer around the surface, like a brush along a drum skin, causing the paint to blend into organic shapes and natural patterns.

In the downstairs media room, the gallery will present a four-channel audio-video installation of Graves’ LabVIEW Animations based on electrocardiogram recordings made in his basement laboratory, where he studied the intricate melodies generated by the human heartbeat. Graves customized software that recorded the voltages produced by the electrical pulses of the heart, capturing the frequencies at which the heart vibrates. These frequencies could then be translated into the audible spectrum and analyzed as sound and melody, which he called Heart Music.

Milford Graves, Untitled 14, 2020, Acrylic on paper, 18h x 24w in

In loving memory of Professor Milford Graves, his family, friends and colleagues created a memorial fund that will allow his legacy to grow. Throughout the years, Professor Graves carefully cultivated his home, garden, and temple space, which are treasured by his community in Jamaica, Queens. The Milford Graves Memorial Fund will honor his wishes for the long term care of his estate and continue the community work that he valued so deeply.

Professor Graves passed on February 12, 2021, from a rare heart condition. His music and spirit defined the sounds of free jazz, a musical style that became a symbol of Black empowerment. An herbalist, healer, martial artist and teacher, Professor Graves taught and inspired generations of students and was a beacon to a community of collaborators and peers. His work took him to the furthest reaches of the cosmos and deep into the body as he continued to research the heart and its interconnectedness with metaphysical forces into his later years.

Milford Graves “Heart Harmonics: sound, energy, and natural healing phenomena will be on view from May 25 to July 7, 2021 at Fridman Gallery, 169 Bowery, NYC.