01 October 2010

vendredi, 1 octobre: Bach Cantata BWV 8

The first day of October! A crisp autumnal feel greets me as I open the window onto a rose-threaded sky, the dome of le Panthéon peeking over the plane trees  Memories of late-September stays at my friend Jim Irwin’s cottage nestled against the woods in Northern Michigan superimpose with today’s impressions. Superimposition, impression, overlay, multiplies of some version of my identity… good lead-in to the matter of today’s entry.

I’ve finished a ROUGH video draft of a new work to a divine Bach cantata and, inspired both by his company of dancers and the space it performs in, I’m proposing it Matt Farmer, to a former student and company dancer of mine. Here’s the correspondence, including the video composite in two parts (due to restrictions in YouTube length when uploading!). He and colleagues Kristen Berger and Shauna Steele, also U-M MFA grads and now independent teacher/dance/choreographers, have established a home base at an extraordinary space in Jackson, Michigan. They have, through Shauna’s residency in the complex, access to the armory of the renovated Jackson State Prison. The space is as large as a church or modest-sized stone cathedral, with high, narrow windows along one side and a ceiling height that sends your head upwards towards the beams.  Tentative title: Arts et Métiers ou Compagnons du Devoir

Here’s our correspondence:

Bonjour, Matthew!

Thanks for your note, and for taking the time to share in some of my Paris works. 

Speaking of... This is very interesting to me that you just communicated. I've been thinking of you and your company this past day or so, spinning an idea that I'd like to propose to you. I've been making a new piece to a Bach Cantata while here--using the same basic "multiples of myself dancing all the roles" methodology that worked for the Grand Rapids Ballet piece I did a few years ago for 11 dancers. I need three really strong men, two strong woman soloists and a chorus of at least 5--men or women. 

The Jackson Armory space would be perfectly for it... because of its tone, its look, high ceilings/windows, its sepia-like, historical "period"  embodiments of the harmonic convergence of Bach, Calvinism the Enlightenment (yes, even if it WAS a prison!) and, maybe most of all, the burnished beauty of Bach’s choral work and the celestial instrumentation of this particular cantata. AND the new work has pendulums in it... ones that dancers hold and "measure" or sound the space with, and a longer, more significant one I'd love to have descend from above (using some kind of pulley rigging) for the last chorale. I have been enjoying reading Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum” and also seeing the actual pendulum at the Musée des Arts et Métiers here. Fascinating. And of course, I do have my own collection of plumb bobs.

The work is about work: the work of the spirit, the intellect, the mechanics of living and dying, the celestial mechanics of the arts and sciences, and how we as a community move through harmony-discord-harmony in the course of our minutes, days, hours, lifetimes. And how that's OK. It's the way it is. Bach captures it yet again in his unique talent for combining religious, hymn-like and the secular, more purely sonic architecture of the music. I am reminded of dancing José Limon's works to Bach, and of my love of his music ever since I played the works myself as an aspiring violinist. 

The work is in six sections, totaling about 18’: opening Chorus, Aria (men's duet), Recit. (man on bench), Aria, (one very quick-stepping man and ALL), Recit. (woman solo) and final Chorale (ALL). Anyways, I am going to upload a version of the rough, unfinished cut tonight that's only meant for you, Kristen and Shauna (and Thayer?) to see, and let you know by e-mail how long I'll keep it up via my website. Click here for a look at first chorus section only. Click here for sections 2-6! I am inspired by the lovely recording of Joshua Rifkin and the Bach Ensemble. 

There is a possibility of including a chorus of kids in the opening & closing chorales and in the dancy 4. Aria section. Kim Hastings and her kids? And of course, I'd love to raise the $$ to make beautiful video version of it (some through my U-M resources, other through public/ and private sources?).  I could prepare each individual's role on separate DVD for each dancer to send well ahead of time... It worked pretty well at GRB. 

I know this is a lot to throw your way. You know how ideas get started. I will certainly understand if this does not fit your vision or scheduling of activities over the next year. After all, you put the company together to be able to make your own works! I know all about that!

More later. Until then, we forge ahead. Stay centered and beautiful. 





I think the idea is absolutely wonderful!  I am always up for new and exciting projects, collaborations, and simply the chance to create art. And yes, the Armory would be lovely to perform in again. In fact I am currently working on two new pieces that would work splendidly in the Armory. One is set to some of Irelands newest emerging traditional bands (very raw and uncut), and the second is to two works by Ralph Vaughn Williams and is inspired by The House of Mirth and a movie title "Goodnight Mr. Tom".

In any case I think this could be an absolutely wonderful opportunity to return to the armory. I love the idea of the ropes, the work, and simply once again capturing the beauty and magnitude of the space. Of course I am also a huge fan of Bach, and therefore jump at the chance to perform to his music. Yes, and I believe you are onto something when you mentioned the Armory being a prison, and yet very reminiscent of a Cathedral. There is something very pondering about that idea, and perhaps electrifying.

There are of course logistics we would have to work out; the main being finding 5 men. However I know that both Thayer and Tim mentioned that they were on-board with any future concerts we many have at the Armory...so it looks like we only need to find 2 more men. Also, the Armory is usually closed during the winter due to the massive amount of heating the space takes, so we would want to look at something closer to summer or fall.

In any case, yes I love the idea!! I am not one who only wishes my dancers to do my works. I know that working with you and performing your choreography would push them in ways I wouldn't, and therefore would be honored if we could make it happen. I am also honored that you would think of me and my company for such a project.

Oh how I love it when ideas come into life. Thank you Peter for bringing this to my attention. I very much look forward to seeing how we might bring this to fruition. I truly hope your time in Paris gives you the rest, enjoyment, and time you very much deserve.  Miss you much and can't wait to continue our discussion on this. I also can't wait for more videos....they are truly enjoyable ,and bring a portion of sunlight to my day.

Much Love,