Monday, July 25, 2011

Redefining 'drama'

I want to clarify what "drama-free" means. I don't use the term casually because, as a performer, I recognize that tension and conflict run beneath everything worth living for. Drama itself is a fact of human experience and expression. As Augusto Boal advocated, our gift of self examination allows us to exist in multiple and to empower ourselves. What I think the term refers to is communication that captures life's inevitable tensions and expresses and processes it in a way that reflects the respect, care, and compassion we deserve from one another.

Life hands me drama. I work to let it bring out truth between friends, to transcend it in relying on my family, and to signify it in my music. Deliberate, exploratory dramatization can help me tap into emotions I habitually tamp down to be "presentable" -- that's not drama-free; that's a public face. I try to respect others' public-private boundaries, but mine is an essential part of the exploration.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Evidence that through composition and improv do not conflict

Since I won't be updating en masse over the summer, here's what I've been working on. It makes me wonder if there's grad level research I can get my hands on so I don't have to figure it all out from scratch. But there is value in that, especially given who's been in grad school before me.

Yes, those are column headings.

As I play with improv beyond "here are your timing/ rhythmic/ dynamic/ pitch constraints" and toss around the questions of privilege around musical skill and audience fitness and class- and culturally-proscribed behavior, I find myself delighting in questioning also my role as composer. Am I equivalent to a BDSM Dominant, calling the shots and bossing my players and producers around? Or a submissive, catering to the whims of the talent, a beneficent performing group, and ultimately the paying, soul-hungry audience? Evidence supports the conclusion that it does not matter as long as details of the arrangement are transparent to all parties and consensual.

What does this look like in practice? A few months ago, a favorite pianist at New Keys asked for additional movements to The Jots, a four-hand, sight-reading piece I dashed off earlier this year. I was experiencing a personal renaissance in ... a universal daily bodily function pertaining to internal movement. Writing the companion movement as a multi-phase improv theater pierce set my mind reeling on the topics above.

What I want to do exceeds the human resources of a conventional music concert; it needs the participants of an improv theater workshop for an audience. Further, working with the subject is helping me cope with the offensive aspects of reality like unresponsive audience and power vested in skilled artists. It's not bad; it's necessary and colorful sensation.

If you're in the SF Bay area in the upcoming weeks I'm organizing casual meetups to play theater games. No acting experience required! just respond to a scheduling poll.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A lifelong search

After finishing a series of video shorts enticing shy listeners to new music, I've found myself distant and unmotivated from attending live performances.

In my work I have the luxury of seeking deeply in myself and the potentials of the world I know. With alarming frequency I uncover concepts and truths that challenge the way I think and live, forcing me into a struggle of emotion and problemsolving. There is a beautiful piece of poetry Coleman Barks translated from Rumi beginning "When you are not with me I resemble..." I love the casual way he treats the juxtaposition of yearning and celebration, all in absence of the beloved. It also directed me to consider how fantasy coexists with reality in our living and coping. Yearning need not be grieving alone but a powerful manifestation of the divine.

In the course of relating to many others as I develop, I notice patterns like friends don't stay fast over long distances, few friendships are ever carried out to mutual satisfaction, and investment in relationship building comes at the expense of that in my work. Other patterns are challenged by new experiences, for example I've come to believe differences never have to cast two parties apart, and when they do, it is for lack of trust in and commitment to resolution for the sake of the friendship. I used to respond extremely badly to strong "negative" expressions directed at me, but am practicing to respond contructively, step back and view the possible larger context of the scene (I might be wrong!), and redirect destructive energies.

This search has led me to a place of being with my self, trajectory, and environment that troubles me with irrelevance to the classical music community. As my original music source, its preoccupations with control and class leave little space for the work I'm interested in doing with audiences. Who hasn't felt captive by norms of conduct in the face of an awful or frustrating performance in any genre? I want to harness the power of those conventionally captive voices.

Tomorrow I attend the wedding of a childhood friend, a first attendance at that of my own friend, as opposed to a significant other's family and, well, my loved ones are scattered across the earth. As I watch the lovingly interpreted rituals unfold, I too will be part of a performance in which by attending I consent to a form of captivity. Sometimes I wonder at the image of myself holding simultaneously disjointed past years, potential future relations, the refracted interpretations of the moment, and their many alternatives.