This is the first of three blog entries by curator Owen Weaver leading up to the 10/26 MATA Interval Series concert at the Actors Fund Arts Center.
This is a place where I will discuss the music and artistic collaborations in the works for this show. Special thanks to MATA and Issue Project Room for making the magic happen!
Episode I: A Watched Pot by Steve Snowden
In hindsight, this piece kicked off an ongoing commission process of mine wherein I strive to generate repertoire for portable instruments with electronics for extra sonic oomph. A Watched Pot could be considered the poster child of this philosophy. With its kitchen instrumentation of six metal mixing bowls and a tea kettle (a pot pilfered from June Snowden), the entire setup fits nicely in a tote bag and an iPod. The challenge for Steve was to do a lot with little, coaxing every possible sound from our humble bowls while his riveting electronic counterpart twists and turns through ten minutes of really, really fun music.
I’ve written about he 3-way creative process of this piece in the past, so please allow me to excerpt…myself:
Steve and I had been friends for a year and a half, batting around ideas for a percussion piece before we began working on [A Watched Pot]. I had worked with dancer/choreographer Rosalyn Nasky twice before, once in a truly epic staging of George Crumb’s Music for a Summer Evening and again in an eerie setting of Temazcal by Javier Alvarez. Naturally, I was really excited when I was able to get all three of us together to talk about a possible collaboration . . .This was a particularly fun project in that it was a three-headed collaborative process between Steve, Roz, and myself. Based on our schedules we had collectively about one month to put this together and for the first couple weeks Steve worked at an astonishing rate. . . . As he worked he uploaded his progress onto a blog he created specifically for our project so Rosalyn and I could witness the creative process unfold, offer feedback, and in her case find Inspirado. Then we had couple weeks for me to try and learn the piece and for Rosalyn to work out her (and my) steps.
This month’s presentation of A Watched Pot is especially exciting as it marks the first time since the premiere that Rosalyn will join me in performance. Over the many times I have played the piece since Big Range Austin dance festival I’ve felt something missing—although the music is solidly “standalone”—and October 26th will bring a sense of completion that I hope translates onstage.
Rosalyn was featured in the Austin American Statesmen in an interview conducted by Jonelle Seitz where she discussed her artistic vision and identity. Read the whole thing here: http://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2012-06-22/alchemies-of-anatomy/
When discussing her work with me, Nasky takes care to avoid the intentional fallacy: She qualifies her meanings and experiences as being solely her own. “I really like things that audience members can sort of pick out and find and try to put together to make meaning for themselves. My brother” – the actor and playwright Evan Nasky, whose wisdom has taken up a special place in her mind since his death in March – “once gave me a really good tip about always trusting the audience’s intelligence to make the meaning of the work. So you can let it be really – I don’t know if bizarre is the right word – but open, and not give a whole lot away.”
Perhaps it is that bit of space and freedom – derived from slowness and an allowance to be bizarre – that makes Nasky identify as a “performer” rather than a “dancer.” She sees her work somewhere between performance art and dance, a cross-section where she finds other artists using “a lot of movement, but it’s really smart movement. Not just dance for the sake of dancing. So it’s pared down and thought out.” But the use of her highly trained body as her tool and her focus on music-driven movement make her, for me, undeniably a dancer – and an enthralling one at that.
As a testament to Rosalyn’s dedication to the subtlety of movement and meaning in her works I’ll leave you with a piece of hers described in the above article. All I can say is sometimes it does take four minutes to stand up.
Stay tuned for more posts on the music of Chris Cerrone, Lisa Coons, and Ian Dicke along with details on collaborations with Tigue Percussion and photographer Lucas Foglia. I tell you what, this is going to be one fun show.