Transmuted DreamsUnlike the narrative or concrete nature of literature and most visual art, most genres of western classical or art... Read More
Unlike the narrative or concrete nature of literature and most visual art, most genres of western classical or art music are inherently abstract. Abstract thought is manifest in art music as the aesthetic object, the score, is rendered in a codified language that can only be realized, or brought into full experiential existence, by gifted and highly-trained performing artists. While the music presented in most scores remains abstract, as composers and performers we nonetheless grapple with the relationship between and among aesthetics, non-representational work, and our imaginations. Following French philosopher Paul Ricoeur’s (1913 - 2005) lead back to Aristotle’s concept of fantasia, as performing artists we often relate to these scores vis-à-vis stolen stories, i.e. we see, dream or fantasize about events that are not directly accessible in our immediate surroundings, either spatially or temporally.
The foregoing process of imagining the non-present in relation to artistic production and performance practice always engenders a fascinating tension between such imagining and aesthetics. Aesthetics in this instance implicates both the very principles of beauty and artistic taste as well as the highly developed process of achieving same - namely the transmission of artistic concepts by great artists to future generations, e.g. concepts of core sound, line, variations of articulation, color, intensity, etc., and why such choices are made. It could be argued that the most compelling performances are those in which the tension between attempting to achieve an ambiance that correlates to, or is derived from, imagining the non-present, is conjoined with high aesthetic principles. As my great teacher (the inimitable flutist Albert Tipton) would say, “we know something is true in art by its ability to transmit truth to future generations.” While seemingly tautological, in Albert Tipton’s world such “truth” in aesthetic matters was synonymous with “good” and was both sine qua non and equivalent to beauty and artistic taste.
In reflecting on the sublime Adagio in Bohuslav Martinu’s Flute/Piano Trio (H 300, 1944), in preparation for a recording project, I imagined a series of possible quasi-narratives that seemed connected to my own aesthetic views and interpretation, all of which shared a common thread. While at that time we were principally focused on the recording project, I knew I would return to the Martinu and the afore-referenced imagined quasi-narratives as the basis for a connected but separate video-art piece, which has now been realized. In Transmuted Dreams, a 19th century pistolero frantically searches for a lost comrade’s grave in a desolate American-west cemetery. While his frenetic search ensues, in another place and time - late 20th century Japan - a young Japanese woman patiently waits to perform chado (tea ceremony) for a presumed romantic interest. As the seeker’s cemetery search continues, the tea ceremony unfolds with a rare degree of elegance and beauty. The two protagonists’ disjunct stories, both spatially and temporally, are occasionally interrupted by the presumed present via 2D video images of the performers. Two lives that never intersect, and that seemingly have little in common, present different versions of the elemental human phenomenon that is hope, as imagined and interpreted by the performers.