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May 29, 2011

I’m seated in the window of my study.

The view is a long one, down the valley for ten miles or so. The sky is grey and the wind is blowing hard. Not as hard as it often does, but hard enough to make the tough, ground-hugging plants of the small garden shudder and seem to hurl themselves away from their own roots – simultaneously seeking freedom and death. The glass rattles as the wind, made violent by its journey through the mountains, meets the window pane and, urgent and indifferent, diverts around this house and leaves me an oasis of calm. Watching.

My body is tired. I travelled for 16 and a half hours yesterday, returning home from a week of residential workshop in the heart of the Southern French countryside. It was a beautiful week of training, physical ensemble work, improvisation, eating, talking. Artists from the US, Greece, Sweden, Australia, France, UK. Improvisations in multiple languages, Punjabi, Swedish, Greek, English. Yet all speaking the language of the expressive body. The language of the expressive human. The language of the present, curious, generous creative artist.  I can feel the sun on my skin still.

My thoughts are drifting round “Echo Chamber”.

The performance work we made in the long six days at Au Brana was fragmented, complex, funny, profound. Character transformed to abstract and abstract to clown. Voices and bodies interlinked. The profound became ridiculous and self-doubt became bravery.  Every moment creates as many questions as it suggests possible solutions. In each moment of each performance, letting go of certainty, of familiarity, of habit, each moment of opening up really to being with another performer, creates a thousand doorways to walk through, a thousand new possibilities, a thousand fragments which, sitting alongside one another, make up something like a life.

The creative life of a creative artist.

Back here, protected from the wind, I am listening to a beautiful CD by a friend of mine, Monty Adkins. Monty is my ‘composition mentor’ for ‘Echo Chamber’. His new album, ‘Fragile. Flicker. Fragment’ is really wonderful – complex, drifty, deep, contemporary electro-acoustic music. Amazingly this composer – internationally renowned and making music of such beauty – has agreed to allow me to compose music that he will listen to and comment on and help me structure. He has encouraged me not to know what I am doing, to open doors, to take risks and to see what happens if I try to do things I have never dared to do before.

Is it foolish to take such risks? Foolish to say that I will compose when I am not ‘a composer’? Certainly I have been told by several people as I try to put together the bigger DUENDE project that I am working on at the moment, ‘ferment’, that I am not a dancer or choreographer so should not try to work in areas that could be mistaken for dance. Should we stick to what we know? Should I write a script and then perform it as I have many, many times before?

Yet there is a fragment in my creative vision for ‘Echo Chamber’ that tells me that I need to start not from writing words but from sound. From my sound. My composed sound. There is a fragment, an urge that there are a thousand reasons not to pursue. There is only one good reason to pursue however – it seems right. Just as there is a fragment, a sense, of my understanding of ‘ferment’ that tells me that it is a dance, not a piece of theatre. The source of ‘Echo Chamber’, of ‘ferment’, of everything I make, is fragments.

In the beautiful studio in Au Brana, improvising, collectively making beautiful moments, each performer learns to value fragments, to allow each fragment to have its life, to reveal to its creator its secrets. Each fragment, each living moment, opens doors to the unknown, the unimaginable, the unique.

In the long creative process of developing ‘Echo Chamber’ I need to trust each fragmentary moment just as, when improvising or teaching others to improvise, I know that each fragment of performance appears for a reason and if we learn to pay attention to it, it will reveal itself.

For if we learn to trust each fragment of our selves, each creative urge (however ill-defined or seemingly absurd), then perhaps, in time, we can construct the jigsaw of our own, unique art. Each creative process sees me standing against the wind. I am caught between the need to tear myself from my roots, from all the things that keep me exactly where I am, and the fear that, if I fly in the storm, it may be the last thing I ever do…

I am very tired and these thoughts too are fragmentary. I’ll let them exist and see if tomorrow they make more sense.

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