The band is getting ready for dress rehearsal of my piece 'Bird-Like Things...' and I thought that I would share the program notes, in advance of tonight's performance. This is a piece that has grown on me and grown with its performances, becoming more refined and compact, but also more open and varied in the options available to performers; I'm very excited about this performance of this group of performers:
'Bird-like Things in Things like Trees' was conceived along with painter Rob Tarbell during a stay in the medieval village of Auvillar in south-western France at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. As we shifted into the slower pace of Auvillarian life, focused on natural, agrarian cycles of the day, season, and the harvest, we each were struck by a heightened presence of birds in our lives— birds were not to beings to be observed, but part of the every day, circling and singing on the way to the market, hovering and pilfering during our meal time, and entering our studios sometimes in an explosive flutter, and sometimes as a surprise guest on our tables, canvases, and scores. Neither of us had pursued mimetics or have much interest in strongly representational practices, but we felt obligated by our situation to trace our encounters with these birds into our art in some way. This is a rather different situation than 'mimesis' – we drew and sang things that were like birds, but that bird-ness is revealed most clearly in the gesture of their tracing. This is ekphrasis far more than it is mimesis; what is figured is that act of figuring, rather than the figured. These are processes in which source material is only occasionally clearly visible or audible; the originary image or sound is 'worked' so thoroughly that connection to the source is replaced by connections to the subsequent iteration of 'working.' Thus the audience is hearing traces of sense memories of birds: the obstinate pica pica, and the ortolan, that royal feast so delicious that its enjoyment must by hidden from God by a napkin placed over the head. But also represented is the milieu in which these birds fly and nest and sing and eat. This piece is less about verisimilar representation than it is about the gap between experience, memory, and communication: the composition and the improvisation of the performers is the folding and refolding of memory and experiential trace, the transition from event to memory, memory to speculation, and speculation back into being is that bird-like behavior called musicking. The composition of this work has been supported by a grant from the The George Washington University.