Summertime and the living is…BUSY!

Riding through life on a wave of wonder does not always support the routines that the thinking, identifying mind lays out. Thus, I have not blogged for several weeks. Up to this point, I devotedly published a post EVERY Wednesday. This was a self-imposed deadline that felt well disciplined. The wave of wonder, from here on referred to as The WOW, breaks down my cycles of discipline on a regular basis. So I celebrate that for six months, I carried out my intention to blog every week!! And I celebrate that I can now relax my grip on the blog and let it flow with The WOW.

So, what have I been doing these last several weeks if not being with “In C” and writing about it?

I volunteered with Girl’s Rock NC camp for a couple of days. I worked with adolescent girls on writing and performing an original rock song. This was an amazing experience on many levels. I played hooky for most of my junior high school years by pretending to be sick. I was teased at school and The WOW took me right out of there. Girls Rock NC gave me a chance to repair and reformulate my feelings about adolescent girls. The girls in the band that I worked with were caring and respectful of each other, they knew how to brainstorm, and they created and performed a really cool song. Kudos to Girls Rock NC for creating the space that encourages creativity, experimentation, taking risks and celebrating each other. When I visited some of the other bands, I learned that not all of them worked together as well as the group I got to witness. We are nothing if not diverse. At one point I was pulled in as teacher of the drum methods class, which served to remind me that I do not like teaching. I got the class started on the fly and was very happy when the regular teacher showed up. And I learned pretty quickly that I am NOT a rocker. While I appreciate all music, rock is not my main squeeze. Good to know.

The second week was a major WOW experience facilitated by my friend and co-creator, Jody Cassell. Jody has been deeply immersed in the American Dance Festival all summer, taking classes, and attending workshops and performances. ADF began in 1934 in Bennington, Vermont with the mission of supporting established and emerging modern dancers and choreographers. ADF has been headquartered in Durham since 1982. Jody has performed and studied with ADF for 40 years. She hooked me up with her Composition class who needed musical accompaniment for their final presentation. The class was taught by Rodger Belman, a Professor at Florida State University, who has danced with numerous professional companies in addition to teaching and composing choreography all over the world. He is a warm and generous creative spirit.

The class was structured around the idea of collage. Each dancer had a personal notebook covered in a collage made the first week of the class. The collages were like vision boards of words, colors, images. Inside the notebook, the dance students kept a journal and conceived dance phrases and movement patterns. During the 6 weeks they spent together, they exchanged notebooks and worked with their own and each other’s phrases, taking them apart, extending and reshaping them. I joined them in the sixth and final week when they had shaped a performance that was a collage of the whole group’s ideas.

What an intense week of creation, as I observed the class on Monday to get ideas, then went home and began shaping a soundscape. When I watched the dancers on Monday, I heard shiny, shimmering slashes of sound. I started with cymbals in a rhythmic swing pattern and worked from there. I brought my sound system and computer to class each day and played what I had come up with. Rodger asked for more unusual non-instrumental sounds and random drum hits. The swing cymbals were transformed into a hollow pecking sound to mirror a birdlike feeding gesture that was part of the dance. Water poured, beads clattered and rolled, a knife was sharpened – all recorded in the reverberant bathroom. I found some prerecorded files from an Ipad app that worked really well in a couple of sections. An incomplete Ableton sketch called Molecular worked for one duet that I particularly enjoyed. By Friday, I had a sound collage that underscored and supported the dance collage.

I told Rodger I would have loved to work with them the whole 6 weeks going through the collage process as a musician. The sound piece would have been shaped and sculpted with more layers. I would have added live sound. As it happened, the creative experience was very satisfying and I am grateful for the generous feedback from Rodger, Jody and the dancers. This was my first time playing a soundscape live with a dance performance. Some of my cues could have been tighter, so it was a learning experience. This is what I want to do and I will continue to work toward collaborations with dancers. And if Rodger does this class again next year, I will take it as a musician. Maybe other musicians will as well. Now THAT would be interesting!

Another wonderful part of this week was being with Susan Gitler, a 94 year young dancer who I played percussion for a number of years ago. She was part of Glenna Batson’s pickup performance group The Wisecracks. Susan had a dancing story to tell and I provided the drums and sound sparks for her performance. Jody Cassell was in the audience for that performance, but we did not know each other until several years later.

It has taken me a while to understand and appreciate the vortex of creative cohorts who move into and out of my life. I appreciate all these vibrant and constantly shifting connections. I welcome the new and cultivate the old or simply let go when the time together is done. That is how life and The WOW flow!

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