A few of our Nostras Voces: Out of Darkness Into Light donors have asked how we will prepare for this performance. Actually, I already know some elements that will make a significant difference in our playing. We are truly empowered by what we choose to bring into the FourthStream. The journey from darkness to light will be fundamental to the development of the piece and the experience of the audience. Indeed, I have a vision of my composition as a search for music in the dark. To that end, I will practice for three months prior to the performance blindfolded. Not only will I improve the technique in my hands, but I will develop a listening skill that will allow me to fully concentrate on Tom's playing. I am confident that this will bring us to an extraordinary level of improvisation that the audience will appreciate.
The Mystery of New Music
Could a musical composition and performance that invents itself from nothing into something be the new paradigm in contemporary music culture? The very process of cultivating broad based support for a specific project through crowd funding is liberating for the artist and exciting for the audience. It fosters an atmosphere of free and independent artistic work. It is essentially a one of kind experience that is unfettered by the need to sell concerts just to fill seats or to court the continued support of a local foundation. Its all about doing it once and doing it well.
We live in a era that has put a price on culture. Music in particular has evolved into an on demand experience. Through instant downloading and file sharing, it has become part of an endless chain of music past and present that saturate or ears without a present cultural context. Often the only context is nostalgia. I am suggesting that there is an alternative experience, an experience that promises to be a rich and fulfilling.
In David Byrne's book How Music Works, he astutely describes how the music industry has changed through technology as it perfected the creation, promotion, and sales of recordings and then evolved into an industry producing inexpensive, mass manufactured goods sold for pennies or given way for free. I was particularly inspired by his definition of music of the past. He said "music was something you heard and experienced, it was as much a social event as an aural one. It was communal, and often utilitarian…music was a singular experience, something connected to a specific time and place. It was part of the continuum, the timeline of your life, not a set of "things" that lived outside of it."
His description of the way is was, strikes me as exactly what is missing in the experience of music of today. Instead of accepting that technology has permanently changed how we experience music, perhaps we should be thinking about how we can use technology to restore the fullillment that we have been missing.
The evolution of music is full of examples that have changed how we experience music. A few examples from Bryne's book include the creation of great cathedrals that enlivened the music that was performed within the space, Jazz musicians improvising the melody so the dancers could continue dancing, and creating recital halls so the harmonically complex passages and intricate melodics variations could be appreciated by the audience. So, for the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work, I believe we need to focus on cultivating an environment, fiscal and artistic, that will inspire great performances and enrich the audience.
One of these compositional enhancements that Tom was talking about include what I call "shadow music" It is music that I bring to the live performance that grows emotionally and spiritually out of the ideas that we might have incubate at our rehearsal. But the key to this music is to keep it in the shadows until the performance, introducing it spontaneously, just at the right moment to take the music over the top or turn it in an unexpected direction. It serves to keep the element of the unknown alive so that we serve our ultimate goal of bringing the heard and the unheard to our performances.
Our collaboration brings to mind the significance of the chalice in the Christian liturgy. The fact that it serves to hold and contain something sacred reminds me of what we try establish on stage. These four streams of improvisation, composition, technology and imagery, encircle us and focus us on the center of our performance and then back to our own centres of concentration so that we may perform at our optimum level.
All by the magic of digital acoustics, like creating a symphony, if you will, from the chirp of a cricket.
By supporting our Hatchfund.org campaign, you will make this vision real and bring so many people together in a joyous celebration at the end of our journey next Fall. We have reached over $1,000 in support, please help us with our goal of $1,800 by the end of next week!
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I recall in my student composer days when I was enamored by a young female dancer in the theatre department of Case Western University. She was built like an athlete but moved like a young child. Instead of using her body to leap and jump around, she created these slow motion vignettes standing still. I remember her interpretation of a segment of the Antigone legend, a five minute fluid transformation of every muscle of her body including the muscles in her face. She was depicting Antigone's reaction to the news of Polyneice's death. The manner in which she brought the intense inner emotions of this story slowly from within her through every part of her body and outward into the space of the auditorium was breathtaking. And then the unexpected, I learned later that she was playing to someone in the audience who unexpectely came to the performance: her on- again off-again lover- the boyfriend who could not decide what was more important to him the State of Israel or his love for her. You see this was in the middle of the 1973 Arab–Israeli War and he was an Israeli-American and was considering leaving the country to join in the conflict. The parallel with the legend of Antigone was obvious: two brothers leading opposite sides in the Thebes' civil war creating a conflict of Antigone's loyalty in the eyes of Creon, the new ruler of Thebes.
I remember this because all of the elements were working for one thing: the exploration of the mysterious.