IMAGINE CLARINETS made from carrots. Or an entire meal made for you while the culinary artist sings, drums and otherwise percusses. 

That’s what the Atlanta multi-instrumentalist Klimchak — one name only — has planned for two weeks in the summer of 2015 at the Goat Farm Arts Center. His music-and-food show is called CooksNotes, an idea that’s been percolating since 1994. Back then he envisioned a show that recorded percussion improvisations with food, and planned to pitch it to PBS as a cooking series.

That changed when he shared the meal with a live audience and received incredibly honest feedback. Doing it live became the only way to go.

When the economy became uncooperative, he put the show on hold and worked as a musician, known primarily for percussion and handmade instruments. He specialized, and still does, in electro-acoustic music for dance, theater and his own live performances. He became an artistic associate at Georgia Shakespeare and invented the Marimba Lumina, an instrument that lets him perform live music that would normally take four musicians.

He earned a Charles Loridans Foundation Arts Award in 2009, a medal and grant of $15,000 for individual artists who contribute long term to Atlanta’s cultural life. When Rochelle Barker, general manager at Theatrical Outfit, suggested he bring back CooksNotes, he began to think long-term about reviving the show.

Photo: Jeffrey N. Beard

“To be able to do something and imagine two different things together like cooking and music is a fascinating way to view the world and life itself,” he says. “Cooking, in this case, is inexplicably linked to making music.”

Attendees at a recent CooksNotes launch party watched as he sang, drummed and employed other sound techniques while creating vodka punch and guacamole. Klimchak splashed whisks and tapped wooden spoons to create a whirring song. The audience sipped punch while he moved on to the guacamole, a task accompanied by a foot-pedal recording and overlapping beats.

The environment was lively, with a clear give-and-take between the artist and his audience.

“Usually you do a show and people say, ‘That was really great, thanks a lot!’” he says. “And now it’s like, ‘On that course, I thought that was overcooked … on that one I think maybe you could do it this way.’”

He plans to cook dinner for 20 people a night during the eventual two-week run of CooksNotes. He’s now in the process of creating instruments and music for a soup, appetizer, salad, main course, vegetable and dessert. All menu items will depend on what’s in season, and part of his process in the next year is working on the menu.

It’s natural to wonder which comes first, the food or the instrument. “It’s sort of both,” he says, “but it’s really more the instrument first. I think of a style, like maybe I’ll fry something. Now how can I go about frying and making something musical?” After considering and building the instrument, he’ll seek the ingredient to be fried and create the performance around it.

The rehearsal process, as you might imagine, creates quite a feast. As launch-party attendees sipped the last of their punch, they put their names on a rehearsal list. A select few will be contacted to attend a rehearsal in the next year, meaning another meal drummed into existence and a preview of the instruments Klimchak is working on, including several made from food.

As one patron offered, “It’s like Stomp hibachi!”

About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

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