[This is an archival post from November 2019]
I moved to Berlin in September, which now somehow feels both like yesterday and last year. Moving so far from my former home of San Francisco has given me a radical amount of space, geographically and emotionally, to re-evaluate and take stock of what I want out of my musical life. For example:
What kind of routine do I want? (One which allows me Sundays off)
What kind of gigs or opportunities will I find fulfilling? (Any for now, so long as I either get paid or am inspired)
What kind of students to I want to attract to my new teaching practice? (Ones who want to be there)
Are there skills I want to incorporate into my musical/performance practice that I haven’t previously had time to learn? (Yes, many!)
I have also had the gift of time to ponder larger, more philosophical questions. You know, the ones that so often get waylaid by the demands of daily life.
What kind of art do I want to create, why, and for whom?
What do I feel I have to say, why is it important, and what would be my aim in saying it?
What are the various roles artists can play in society, and in what role(s) do I see myself?
Will I seek to challenge my audience, and if so, how?
I have been thinking a lot recently about how many contemporary artists are using their practice to challenge social constructs and political ideals, or as a form of protest. Others are capitalizing on our unprecedented access to technology and seemingly limitless connection to other artists and styles, to push the boundaries of what an audience even considers to be art. I often wonder why some things get lauded as “art,” while others do not - why not incorporate this question into my practice? As a longtime pupil of the Alexander Technique, it would satisfy me to engage my audience more consciously and to challenge them to action, either physically or intellectually. Why not involve myself more deeply in projects which seek to protest commonly held beliefs in favor of more critical thought? Why not participate in a performance that advocates for the planet, a cause about which I care deeply? I certainly have many peers who are doing these exact things in phenomenally compelling ways.
Then again, life is hard. I consider artists whose work poses a challenge as being in contrast to those those who seek to continue the legacy of art as balm. We are facing an unprecedented ecological crisis, a resurgence of populist politics, widespread financial inequality (etc)…and the pace of modern life makes it seemingly impossible to process any of it while realizing what you once imagined would be a worthwhile life. Perhaps people are turning to art for solace rather than yet another challenge. Perhaps our protest can be to create a separate space, a temporary escape, in which we and our audiences can remember that it is okay to be soft. I wonder if my gift as an artist in this overwhelming society is to awaken my audience through softening - through letting go - through an aural reminder of how loving and beautiful and amusing our world can be. In the language of my new home, Ich weiße noch nicht, but for now, I am reveling in the space to consider these questions and examine the myriad artistic exhibits and performances in Berlin through a more philosophical lens. (And in the immortal words of Old El Paso, "Por qué no los dos?”)