January 11, 2010


The new performance work that I do with cellist Kathy McTavish falls between genres (see samples http://www.cellodreams.com/music02.html).  It isn't song lyric and it isn't linear.  It isn't narrative but it does rely on narrative structures, some related to myth.    The cello, freestyle, improvisional, experimental sound, pulls you into the subconscious.   I begin with submersion.   

Roberto Bolano's novel, The Savage Detectives, begins with the narrator's statement that he joined the school of 'visceral realists.'   Next paragraph, he says he isn't sure what that means.  Nevertheless, he's in it and the novel unfolds from there.    I too search for the word that can define this writing.       

The sources of my work are diverse--first, Finnish folk literature.  The Kalevala was an oral tradition:  a creation story told (in rhapsodic meter) while playing the folk instrument, the kantela.   The epic is pre-Christian and contains many things, the creation story of the universe, charms, magic spells, stories of the magic singer, North Farm, weddings, feasts.   In the beginning, the Kalevala portrays the world as all water, without shore.  

Second, dream is a source.   The work I've been doing isn't exactly surreal.  It's isn't exactly magical realism.  I've found a new term:  irreal.   Irreal describes the work of Franz Kafka.   It puts you in another world and speaks to you of life.  It isn't a term that is used very much, but it does help describe the other world of 'undertow,' our new work in progress. 

I do like the words of Rene Magritte, "...If  'dreams' are concerned in this context, they are very different from those we have while sleeping.  It is question of self-willed 'dreams'...which are not intended to make you sleep but wake you up."      Some of the writers I have long admired:  Clarice Lispector (Hour of the Star, Family Ties, Foreign Legion, The Passion According to GH), Jorge Luis Borges (Dream Tigers, Ficciones, Labyrinths), Eduardo Galeano (Memory of Fire), Arguedas (Deep Rivers).   Nightwood by Djuna Barnes.   Ava and Aureole by Carol Maso.   These are stories of longing, mystical and somehow the author dislocates the reader in a most satisfying way.  They are definitely not plot driven, and not even especially character driven, but perhaps soul driven.     

Third, my source is music and art, especially abstract expressionism and conceptual art.   I find that the other art genres can trigger my own work.      The language is musical, with internal rhyme, assonance and consonance.   Other things feed my work:  fear  (what Kathy calls "trembling before God") or existentialist anguish and / or spiritual crisis that comes from life: the loss of loved ones, disaster, precipitous change.   The writing grapples with that.      In revision, I have reached into myths (Leda & the Swan, Orpheus and Euridyce), Biblical story, Tarot, and other art (the visual art of Hyman Bloom) and literature (the writing of mystics).   It is ethereal but completely rooted in the body, and visceral, but in the other world.   A touch sidereal, surreal, magically real, irreal.    For Bolanos, definition is only the beginning.  The writing of Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking) says, "never mind mind...."

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