Last weekend I had the opportunity to talk to some Columbia University students about my work. They took a group trip to Dixon Place to see my show (which went unbelievably well, by the way) and then on Sunday morning I lead a workshop with them to talk about my process, answer some of their questions and then create some new work together.
Talking to them and answering their insightful questions actually taught my a great deal about how I perceive my work and where I have travelled as an artist over this past year. It really hit me while I was talking to them that at this time last year, I was working on the very first version of Tentative Armor and prepping for a reading at Judson Memorial Church. Very few people had heard any of this material, and I was in tremendous fear about how it would be received and constantly wondering who the hell I thought it was to have the audacity to expect people to sit through an evening of me performing material I wrote about me. I mean, come on.
One of the students asked a question that I’ll paraphrase here: “Do we have to take the audience’s entertainment into consideration for something to be considered art?” Those are my words, not hers and I am not certain I have captured the essence of her question correctly, but if nothing else, this is the question that was inspired by the conversation that followed.
“Do we have to take the audience’s entertainment into consideration for something to be considered art?”
In thinking about that question, I realized that both things are true. That is, art exists simply because it is created, but I think it’s also important for the artist to consider what he or she hopes to convey to the audience. In my case, I felt this conversation was really timely for me. The first couple of presentations of Tentative Armor were an exercise in my just doing it, in finding the confidence to move forward, and just discovering that “hey, you have something interesting here.” I think this has been a vital part of my process, if only because I am a relative baby in terms of creating work like this, and I needed to get to the other side of the fear.
Especially during this most recent incarnation of the show director Adam Fitzgerald and I asked more pointed questions about the work. Really, he asked the questions of me: “why are you saying this?” “what purpose does this piece of music serve?” and of course, “what are you saying with this piece?” In that way, what was a pretty cool yet disparate collection of stories began to take on a form that was more directed and interconnected and meant something more to me and hopefully also to the audience.
So which phase of this was art? Was any of it? What is art? Is it the process of just writing down words and music, even if it is never heard or does art require an audience? Is this the most pretentious series of questions ever asked?
All of that musing aside, I am so satisfied with what I have done so far. Wednesday’s performance was imperfect, yet I am incredibly proud of having put it up there in the way that I did. I’m not sure what’s next with this show, if anything. I really feel the urge to create some new things, and maybe leave this show behind for now, but I am not making any decisions for a while. I have a couple of soundtrack projects coming up, like, immediately so maybe that will get some of the “I want to create something new” out of my system. Who knows?
Thanks to everyone who is going for this ride with me. Dixon Place was packed Wednesday night. Packed. It felt so good to have a crowd of people who believe in what I am doing. It’s terribly solitary putting this type of thing together. I did so much rehearsing alone in my apartment, or in a tiny rehearsal studio with Adam, so the massive energy exchange in a theater full of people is a welcome and satisfying payoff. Thank you everyone for being there!