Eryn, Regina, and I went to see Nick Flynn talk about his new book The Reenactments. Flynn is a poet and memoirist who works at the University of Houston. He wrote a memoir called Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. That book was made into a movie with Robert DeNiro, Paul Dano, and Julianne Moore called Being Flynn. The Reenactments is another memoir about the process of making the movie, seeing your own memories come to life, be retold with actors, and what that process feels like. These three pieces of work kind of form the infinite view when you are standing between two mirrors. Life reflected in art, reflected in art, reflected in art, culminating in this discussion today: life.
He was sitting and talking with a neuro-scientist, David Eagleman, who studies memory and how the brain functions with regards to memory. It was really interesting to listen to an artist speak with a scientist about the same ideas with slightly different takes on them. Listening to them really made me want to read his books and see the movie. Track the progression of all these events and ideas. I think it is really special what Flynn did.
Listening to this talk triggered a memory of mine about composition that I have wanted to try out for some time but either haven't thought about or haven't had the guts to go through with. I am not even sure if it would work. But here is the set-up.
I want to write a piece where my own memory becomes the primary tool for variation on material. I am formulating the process by which this will happen and I don't want to give too much away before it is even a thing. But, I think it could be a really cool compositional experiment. More on this as it develops.
Memory has been creeping into my artistic vocabulary for some time now. My piece for string quartet and electronics, The Gate, uses memory from both a compositional and programmatic standpoint. The three "gardens" which make up the middle section of the piece are my musical representations of my memory of reoccurring dreams that I have. The first, is a memory of a description I read about a room in John Cage's apartment as told by Morton Feldman. I based the concept on that memory and wrote with that image in my head. I later found the quote I was thinking about - I had it very wrong. But, my memory was overwritten with this idea that artistically, I've wanted to try. The concept of memory plays into the story of the piece in the third garden in which the character is in a dark room with flashes of different memories being projected onto the walls and ceiling, as if you were seeing home movies that only the mind can store.
My piece Music Box 9 uses the memory in an immediate sense; the memory of the audience. It was an experiment in which I tried to make contemporary music more accessible to the everyday listener by teaching them what was important and as Aaron Copland says, "What to Listen for in Music." By giving them the snapshots of material upfront and out of context, my hope was that when they head the material in context, they would know what is happening.
Memory, biology, the natural world, poetry, visual art. These are all things that are becoming more and more prevalent in my work lately. Notably, not music. It is almost as if I have been trying to get away from my own art form in order to discover myself in that art form. I'll let you know how it turns out.