Gifts from Omaha

It's incredible how lucky I got, with this whole thing of going to Omaha Under The Radar. Months and months ago I decided to follow up on this nagging feeling I had that I needed to do a project with Sam Scranton. His piece Detritivore had been one of my favorite and most memorable performances in all my time in Chicago. And I had this feeling that perhaps he and I were interested in similar things, such as humanity and mortality and ritual and painfully tender truths. I could also see that as artists we were approaching those things from completely different directions [like COMPLETELY different, such that by the time our piece MIMIC was done, I was wearing a tuxedo and bowing my violin with a threaded plastic rod using my left hand. All my virtuosic ego attachment to The Violin had evaporated, and I became simply one-half of MIMIC. This became a problem  while we were in Omaha because I came very close to forgetting my violin in various cars and apartments and museums because it didn't feel like I needed it. Violin? What violin? Oh, right!! Thanks, Sam! Thanks, museum front desk attendant!]

Sam and I performing MIMIC. Photo by Aleksandr Karjaka.

Sam and I performing MIMIC. Photo by Aleksandr Karjaka.

As an artist, you do not have a crystal ball to see how your projects will pan out. It's so hard to tell what's going to be great and what's going to be terrible. Right? We worked for six months on our piece; we met in the evenings when Sam was done with his long work day behind a desk. I took time away from Susan and Sam took time away from his wife and daughter. We met in Sam's little carpeted practice space on Howard Street and at least ten times Sam nearly lost it over the Rat's Nest of electronic cables spiraling around each other and causing feedback and other sound problems. While making the electronic tracks for the piece, poor Sam had to battle with a broken iLok. We bemoaned the horror of ProTools and its predatory parent company, Avid. And then we drove 7.5 hours each way to Omaha to perform our 30-minute piece in a bar which we feared might be too loud or too crowded or just not right for the piece. For all this work we received an honorarium which I'm not even sure will cover what Sam spent on materials. 

Sam has two sayings that apply here: (1) "Ohhhhhhhhh, music and art. It's so weiiiiird." (2) "Making art is basically impossible." 

Except that we did it. It happened. It was great. It was worth it. We got it all back -- all of it -- every bit of time and energy and doubt and tearing-out-of-hair. Here is how the Omaha Under The Radar compensated me for my time and effort over the past six months: 

1. I became part of a band. The MIMIC band. Riding in the car with Sam, talking endlessly about music and life and our project, I reconnected with what it means to be a bandmate once more. Like it was with my friend Andrew, or my friend Nick. Being part of a living, breathing creative project becomes, in certain moments, as important as a roof over our heads. It's a beautiful thing. 

2. I rejoined a wider world of music and art that excites me. I'd been feeling pretty disconnected from the New Music Community, like maybe I didn't actually care about it that much, or it didn't care about me. But I know now that that is not true. All over our city, country, and world, there are people making art that gets me super jazzed. Art in which I can see myself; art that speaks to me. Have you heard of this person Paul Pinto? He's an absolute doll and his collective thingNY has an opera premiering in 2017 and I hope by then I can afford to buy all the tickets and give them to you so that you can hear the opera. Also, have you heard of this person Alejandro Acierto? He's my hero because he started out as a clarinet player and now, in addition to that, he is a composer and sound artist and performance artist and producer and always-growing-human-being. And when I feel confused as hell about Who I Am, I can just call him. Done. Crisis over. Make some damn artwork already.

Alejandro (L) and Paul performing scenes from said opera. Photo by Aleksandr Karjaka.

Alejandro (L) and Paul performing scenes from said opera. Photo by Aleksandr Karjaka.

3. I remembered how much I love to dance, and I danced a lot. One time I even danced to bassoons. 

4. I saw the organizers of the festival, in all their grace and generosity and adorable outfits, creating the festival for us. Opening up a space where a thousand wonderful things could happen. Thank you so much, Amanda and team, for giving that to us.     

Now, to do the hard part, the best part: to keep going.