Thursday, January 28, 2010

Heap O' Cats.

I've birthed an ensemble! This is a little like birthing a litter of kittens, except with more yowling. Hopefully that yowling will be -mostly- tuneful.

We've wrangled players, taken pictures, put up a website, scanned avelanches of sheet music, researched program ideas, programmed, and recorded some sample tracks. It's been more work than herding fifteen preschoolers to the toilet.

On the other hand, it's kind of fun. Plus we've settled into natural -and naturally complementary roles. One of us does logistics, booking, and marketing. One of us does research, writing, and programming. Some of us just play the pants off things. It's so nice when your weaknesses click, like puzzle pieces, with someone else's strengths. The thought of marketing, for example, makes me want to change genders and experience kidney stones. (HINT: I'M THE ONE IN THE LIBRARY).

Anyhoo, I wrote a deeply empurpled website blurb for the group (anytime you use the words passion and turbulence in the same sentence you are either an pilot fetishist or a shamelessly self-promoting musician). I also used the word innovative. As in, Wxxxxxx Sxxxxx is committed to sharing the music of the early Baroque through "innovative programming."

One of my oldest friends, a smart seventh grader transformed, via the magic of adulthood, into a policy wonk, called me on it: "How can you be innovative," she wrote me, "if you're playing music from the 1600s?"

To me, the answer is crashingly obvious. You present music of the 1600s in a way that's different from the way people are currently tending to present music of the 1600s. My friend, at a much further remove from the tiny closet that is early music, hasn't seen enough concerts to even register that there is a norm.

This is a problem of vision and of distance. It's as if my friend is far-sighted, only able to see clearly from thirty yards out. Whereas I am nearsighted, nose-to-the-wall, taking in the wood grain, the microscophic chips, the squashed bug. In a way, we are both right -but it depends on where you're standing.

I am reminded, forcefully, of the interview I heard on Tuesday as I was careening around the city from one job site to another. Susan Page (where is Diane Rehm anyway?) was interviewing a man whose research suggests that babies develop an almost immediate preference for faces of the ethnic groups into which they were born, and that both babies and adults are much more adept at distinguishing between members of their own group than between members of others. The researcher went on to outline the sobering implications for our legal system: If we assume that witnesses are color blind, and that a white woman can distinguish as reliably between two black men as she can between two white men, then we are ignoring empirical evidence and helping to institutionalize racist outcomes.

The closer you get, the finer the distinctions you draw. And if you don't think that's something worth looking at, well, there's always kitten piles. Do a Google image search and prepare to die of cute.


Kirk Hamilton said...

"How can you be innovative," she wrote me, "if you're playing music from the 1600s?"

To me, the answer is crashingly obvious.

Yeah, me too! You lay down a beat and throw some delay on that shit.

But seriously, good luck with the group! Hope you share some more recordings, shows, etc.

Also - I've heard great things about "Manhood for Amateurs." How is it? I love Chabon, like, this much, and so am quite looking forward to reading it.

Also, judging by the title, it was written for me, so that's nice.

Anne said...

HA! A backbeat would blow everybody out of the water! I'm disturbingly tempted. Anyway, thanks for the good wishes! I am about equal parts scared and excited: self-promotion takes such chutzpah.

The Chabon is great so's funny to read something about manhood as a woman.