Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

Archive for August 2013

The gift of a sandbox

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..is very precious.

As children I don’t believe we comprehend just how informing the opportunity is, being able to freely muck about in a specific space of imagination, sharing toys and tools with any other like minds who bumble over the sides of the box to play.

At present, the analogy of a ‘sandbox’ is particularly apt for me, and has broad parameter around music.

In bringing together a classical orchestra, the sandbox for ‘creating’ is identified as the rehearsal room; here, the music score is rendered through a certain experimentation of ‘phrasing’ and finesse, accent and ‘attack’.

Though each division of the orchestra may have some flexibility, it is the conductor who lays down the parameters – the conductor who establishes the shading of the moments of individualism, in order to keep the orchestra etching the same diagram.

Within the dimensions of this particular sandbox comes agreement that the composer has laid down the ‘word’, so to speak, and however the orchestra paints that specific, ultimately, it renders a charted course and presentation of the maestro’s intention.

..in another kind of music -the written phrase is there to mutate, and noted merely to establish a point of entry off of which a group might riff. Here individual instruments speak their expertise, note to note across a terrain of exquisite expressions of sound, sliding through chat to, perhaps, identify some relative corner of the initial note to dialogue in.

This sandbox is jazz, where a coalition of musicians discerns a musical conversation through ‘open questions’, and ‘riffing’ is not about an answer; it is about etching a texture for further conversation.

..Let me suggest that, with my writing, I endeavor to create in a riff of ‘open questions’ – having found that an audience is tackled by this, and in consequence, will readily ransack the baggage each has carried in from their own paradigm, provoked to patch the perceived gap. Unaware that the quivering, left of the experience, is the resonance of the question, which still itches through the dark into a riff off other articles of secreted debris..

Resonance; like molecules, collide and shape trajectory to other experiences and sensations ..perhaps, in the final analysis, unanswerable; but in the journey, informing.

…I have always had a passion for large canvasses of texture and tapestry, and have always sought opportunities to riff.

In the last few years I have found myself engaged in an amazing journey with Stanford in Washington, lecturing an audience of students and guests ahead of opera performances attended at The Kennedy Center.

These lectures began as straightforward information on the opera’s they were going to see, but, over time, I enlarged the scope of presentation to weave in conversation of context, of how music defined, or was impeded in a particular political period; how composers were connected to the mapping of current, or cross-current, cultural challenges; how enlightenment or repression affected the advancement of ‘entertainment’, and the purposes of composition. Context, ultimately, that allowed me to present a more organic sense of integration of environment, political landscape, society, and endeavor, beyond the notes placed on a stave.

This past May my passion for storytelling elicited a special commission from Stanford in Washington, which is the riff I’m currently endeavoring.

The main instrument through this piece is Duke Ellington, but chords of the story of Ethel Waters and Ella Fitzgerald breech a counterpoint to genius, creating a dissonant look at privilege, race, and opportunity between the 1920’s and 1950’s.

The title of the work is Blues For A Royal Flush.

..my hope is that it will allow me to continue an artistic reach of personal ethic, while engaging the tools of 21st century theatre. In this I mean: finding the route and balance to manipulate stage action, musical performance, and sequences of film (as visual transition; ‘resonant stepping stones’ of specific images and associations) – moving each of these components fluidly as collaborative narrative, without congestion or gimmick, while creating storytelling opportunities resonant of aural textures and ‘fuzzy logic’.

..yes, well; speaking all that out loud I know how it sounds: “..ambitious”!

But fortuitously, as I speak with colleagues, it is the very ambitious nature of the stretch that engages them, and piques their desire to collaborate in the endeavor.

And so this sandbox is a unique place of play, with a commissioned piece offering me opportunity to ask a diverse coalition of artists, talents and expertise, to bumble over boundaries and riff!

Written by tomminteroffthestoop

August 13, 2013 at 3:23 PM