Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Listening Shell

My friend Carol Koffel is a sculptor who mostly works in ceramics.  She offered me the opportunity to compose sound pieces for a couple of her upcoming projects.

The first project is called "Listening Shell", a part of an exhibit at Sculpturesite in Sonoma called "Being Woman".  Here are links to Carol's plans for the show (Carol: Being Woman) and Sculpturesite's event page (Sculpturesite: Being Woman).

Carol suggested some videos of women and the media talking mostly about menopause and experiences of women as they mature as sources of spoken testimonies for the project.  Listening to the women speak and the media speak about them was a very intense experience for me, as maturity did not seem to be a very happy place for American women, either as they tell their own stories or as major media portrays the experience.

My own experience of maturing (nearing 60 years old) has been that as I have gone through the years there have been cycles of blossoming, blossoming, over and over again, each new blooming season bringing me closer to who I really am and out of the cofusion of what I thought I was supposed to be or supposed to be doing.  Last week I was talking to someone else about this, someone who has found their true vocation as they move into their 50s.  I feel that maturing is just taking me to a more true experience, more honestly me and my true vocation. And when I speak of this kind of maturing, I speak of what is possible for people, not just American women, but each of us, all the genders, in all the communities, without barriers.

I had to think this out before tackling my selection of utterances for composing the sound portion of "Listening Shell".  The piece had to turn down the shrill volume of the media polemic on women and ageing.  It had to be a more personal view.

Last Friday, Carol and I visited the home of Edith and Michael Kimball, where we were to record some musical instruments to be included in "Listening Shell".  Edith had been in India and Tibet in the 1950s as a youth.  Her mother and father, scholars and diplomats, were given a few musical instruments and beautiful tankas when they were there.  It was these instruments we had the opportunity to play and record.  We also had the honor to listen, to Edith, to Michael, their histories and knowledge, their unique points of view, expanding our own life experiences and teaching us so much.  Michael is a composer and especially clarinetist.  He played his collection of clarinets and excerpts of some of his compositions for us to record.  Edith and Michael were so generous and so beautiful, I want to thank them for having us into their home and sharing so much with us.

While we were at the Kimball's home, Carol played an antique piano, the action of which is different from modern pianos, in that the strings are stroked by chamois-covered mallets rather than striken by felt-covered ones, which is how modern pianos work.  This causes the strings to vibrate longer and the sounds of earlier notes to sustain and soften the sounds of subsequent notes in a beautiful manner. Legato, Edith said.

We include an excerpt of Michael Kimball playing one of his compositions on the clarinet, Carol doodling on the antique piano, Tibetan bell bowls and bells and drums, and, oddly, me singing inside Richard Serra's 60-foot Charlie Brown sculpture at The Gap headquarters. 

These sounds blended with the testimonies of several women . . . "Listening Shell"

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