By Esther Rogers
Over the last few weeks as I have tried to explain what I will be doing in Colorado to my friends and family I have been thinking about response work, and have been aware that I am anxious about the unknowns of the creative work I will be doing in Canyon of the Ancients.
The majority of my work, and the work of most musicians, is to take a written composition and interpret it- much like an actor who takes a written script and then works to bring it alive through the way they speak, move, gesture, etc. I work to find the way to turn a phrase to sound the way I want it to, or to find the composer's intention. In the wilderness art and science residency I won't be interpreting someone else's composition. I will be composing my own works for myself. I also will not be composing for musical reasons; I won't be starting with a framework of a particular musical form or goal. Instead I will be focusing on responding to what I see and experience.
Response work is very exciting. It trusts that if I fully experience/think about/embrace/take into myself an idea, place, object, an event... that I will have a response, that I will have inspiration and my own questions and ideas and reactions that I will want to explore or express. It is exciting because it is about allowing oneself to process/feel/intuit something and to use that response as fuel for creative work. Response work allows for possibility, curiosity, change. It gives me the freedom to create new work which doesn't have to fit into a particular box of musical expectations... a certain key or mode or genre or way of playing... rather, the expectation is that I will be fully aware of myself and the particular element I am responding to and have the honesty to create from there. ( ! )
How do you prepare for that??
I want to get ready, to prepare the score for rehearsals, to make sure I know my part, to be responsible.
How do you get ready to experience something?
There is no score... yet.
I'm afraid I won't be creative enough. I won't have anything to say. I might not do it well enough.
How do you respond well enough? Can you tell yourself to respond well ?
It makes you feel like a beginner, in a way. While I know that in two months I will still know how to play the cello, I will still remember how to write notation, I will still have a body of musical and creative professional experience in my pocket, and I will still have the ideas for musical things I want to try.... there is that element of starting at the very beginning where you have no idea what will happen. Author Julia Cameron says: "The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew... willingness to once more be a beginner..."
But what if I don't know what I'm doing? What if I forget how to respond? What if I don't know what to do?
But isn't that where great creative innovators have started? Isn't that the point? Isn't that explorative research? Music maker Brian Eno said in a lecture that in his work with musicians he asks himself: "how can I reframe the creative process so that people find themselves in a place they don't recognize?" Intentionally? You mean, he intentionally wants people to 'get lost' ?
I remember the response work I have done in the past, the composition I have just finished, and I know I felt the same way before I started then too... and I take comfort as then in the words of theatre director Anne Bogart: "Finding yourself off balance provides you with an invitation to disorientation and difficulty. It is not a comfortable prospect. You are suddenly out of your element and out of control. And it is here the adventure begins. When you welcome imbalance, you will instantly enter new and unchartered territory in which you feel small and inadequate in relation to the task at hand. But the fruits of this engagement abound... A director asks simple and basic questions propelled by curiosity. Curiosity cannot be faked... In travelling outward, in pursuing an interest we experience insecurity. Insecurity is not only okay, it is a necessary ingredient."
A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration
Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.