I’ve also had a lot of help. When your collaborating artist is an unstoppable force of creativity, it eases the burden. Lauren Baker dances for three different dance companies (Black Label Movement, Shapiro and Smith Dance, and Zenon Dance Company), teaches dance classes, and is also a professional photographer. Working with her has given a great deal of depth to the project, and has been one of my favorite aspects of the piece. Her verbal descriptions of what elements of the piece look or feel like, in addition to her choreography, has absolutely enriched the energy and direction of the piece.
When I initially began this project, I thought it would be a fun experiment. I am a very visual person, and I thought it would be interesting to compose to something visual and reactive. That aspect has absolutely been stimulating and inspiring. But as the months passed, and events large and small occurred across the U.S., my project took on a different identity. It no longer felt like an experiment, but as I felt the weight of circumstance, it felt like a podium.
Lauren and I have rehearsed and talked about our lives and the current events and our own situations, and how that impacts us as people. As a woman, the last few months have been hard. And I know there are many others who do and will feel it harder. But as artists, we can connect, communicate, and share emotions, sometimes instantly. That can mean a lot of different things, but I am hoping that the expressions we’ve developed are received as vindicating, healing, and uplifting. The element of that opportunity, the weight of it, has absolutely influenced the way I’ve written. Portions of the piece focus on a juxtaposition of time feels, sometimes three at a time, which grind and rub against each other as they try to relate. There are dark, soloistic moments to honor what has felt very much like lying in a dark room on a floor, and there are moments of brightness and joy. Through the vindication and weight, I do hope that joy is what rises as people experience our piece, and I hope it gives our audience a chance to embrace human connection through art.
The Cedar Commissions is The Cedar’s flagship program for emerging artists made possible with a grant from the Jerome Foundation. Since its launch in 2011, The Cedar has commissioned and showcased new work by more than 30 local, emerging composers and musicians. Buy tickets for the 2017 Cedar Commissions here.