September 25, 2010

Synergy: Poems & Music & Film


water resists
breaks without breaking
flows along invisible scores
courses between continuous
ends, begins

doesn't resist
touches, touches, turns
over the same skin...." 

Click on the link to view a sample of collaborative work. In this piece, I have written and read the poems and Kathy McTavish has composed and performed the music on cello.  The video images are selected collaboratively; Kathy has made the film. 

Immersion: poetry on video

In performance or in video, my poems are often joined to music and image.  Poems are often created in silence and solitude, and sometimes they are created while listening to music.  My poems have strong images, and they are a painting with words.  The poems reflect my landscape of northern Minnesota and the body.  I use memoir, myth, and the patterns in nature to tell a story of change.  Yet it is not 'nature poetry.'  I tend not to write wisdom poems.  Not that those are bad, but they aren't what I'm after artistically.  I seek to evoke multiple meaning and in the interest of that, pare down the language and have rapid "turns." In the patterns of nature, migration, erosion, flood, storm, I find meaning that lends itself well to human experience.    A good poem is vivid and immediate.   I like the poem to be an investigation that breaks open emotion. I have no ready answers nor do I trust that there are any.

When Kathy McTavish and I perform together, we do not seek to illustrate the other's work.  Poems are made of figurative language; we love the imagination.  We strive to 'push off from each other' and present a sound that has a creative tension and dialectical meaning.  We begin, but the sounds are like two people in conversation who are not necessarily talking about the same thing. This technique makes a much more interesting dialogue and story.  It is improvisational.

In hand, I have more poems than I will read that I've arranged into an arc.  The individual poems are pieces of mosaic that create a larger story.   My choices in performance are spontaneous and in relation to the sound of the cello.   The cello sound that Kathy has developed is done by a technique that we call "deep listening."   Deep listening demands a concentration and being in the moment.    In the moment, the changes of intonation and color are responded to immediately.  We do not erect rigid barriers but are open to the subtle and sometimes not so subtle changes in the environment, the instrument, the voice, and the setting.  We have learned that relying on intuition is best.  

The voice of the cello and my own voice are similar.  We are doing a duet.  It means that we can flex and alter and shift and build on each other.   The video work that we create also seeks an independent flow.  We have learned that interpreting the words of the poem literally in video image also does not work well for our purposes.   It must evoke meaning, and continue to be able to provide new meaning.  Therefore the still motion images create an abstract expressionist painting in motion.  The film has gestures and movement and color, and by itself is a shifting and beautiful story that invites the viewer to participate.  There are glimpses of character in shadow or mirror or other oblique means. The viewer interprets the meaning.  This is the same for the poems and music.   

The still motion images are created by the use of DSLR camera, a Canon EO5.   Kathy has been exploring Bokeh effects.  It is an artistic technique initially used by some Japanese photographers who enjoyed the aesthetics of blur.    She comes to this work by way of music; in fact the images are created in the same way that she creates music in her studio.  Her echo pedal and harmonics perhaps are a musical expression of blur.  She likes the 'infinite between.'   She began using images in her search for techniques of writing scores.   The images evoke meaning; to her, they create a synesthesia and seem to have their own sounds.  

The creative work that occurs simultaneously in performance will draw more shades of meaning and energy in proximity.  We seek to share this synergy with the audience and are pleased to talk with people about their own 'invisible procession' of images that arise in their imagination while they listen to our performance.

Poetry works well with other media.  See this website for the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, Germany.

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