Craig Shepard reports on two composition workshops.
In the work before me this Fall, I've noticed a thread of group work. Each upcoming concert is a different situation of how groups work together.
Tomorrow night at the Whitney, I'll perform Seth Cluett's 99 Objects together with Ben Neill and Tucker Dulin. We'll be outside on the terrace next to a Sol LeWitt--one of his collaborative pieces where he gives instructions on how to realize the drawing and invites another artist to realize it together with him. Seth's piece carries this spirit into the music. As a performer, I am invited to listen to the sounds of the terrace, the audience moving around, the sounds of the city, to Tucker and Ben, and to place my sounds in relationship to everything I hear. Of course as musicians we are always listening and doing this; in Seth's piece, the music grows out of it in an organic way.
We had a rehearsal at the new studio space and it became even more clear to me that this room is a space for a wider community, not just a safe quiet space where I can do my own work. During the slow work days, I've noticed a connection with the others working. There's something about working together in silence which opens up a different communication.
The Music for Contemplation series for the Fall features three different situations of working in groups. In September, each of us writes a piece and we play everyone else's pieces. The result is that each of us "listens" three times as much as we "speak". We began rehearsal in April, and have had three so far, with two more scheduled before the concert. This has given each of us the opportunity to really listen and understand the sounds of the others' pieces. I've noticed that there is a resonance between the pieces as well.
In October, Stuart Dempster will lead a large trombone ensemble in the beautiful resonant sanctuary. Here I will show up as one trombone player among many. As we all share a common instrument, there is a common language and way of doing things. It works because we all recognize Stuart's role as leader, holding the space in the center of the group.
In November, I will participate with the New York Guitar Circle as a guitarist. The program is called Circulations, which is a practice of the Guitar Circle. Standing around the audience, the ensemble passes a note from one musician to the next around the circle. The resulting music comes out of the group, and is beyond what any one of us would do. The notes passing around take on a life of their own, each individual responsible to listen and be ready when the note comes around. The preparation involves an 8-week commitment to do an individual morning sitting as well as attend 4-hour weekly workshops.
Each concert approaches the group work differently, and I'm very excited to hear how the music comes out.
In 1998, I attended zwischen, a two-hour live installation by Marcus Kaiser at the Wuppertal Main Train Station. Now when I go to a train station, I listen for the song—I can almost hear Marcus’ quiet, sustained tones. Marcus had transformed all train stations for me.