It has only been 2 weeks since my previous post, which is a lot better than my previous hiatuses of 1 month and 2 months.
Lots of exciting things have been happening that I could not have foreseen, the most prevalent being that I am featured in the March issue of Southern Living Magazine! For those of you from another country, such as New York or Kansas, Southern Living is basically the monthly guide by which we Southerners lead our lives. So, it was a great honor to be named as one of their first ever Heroes of the New South! Interestingly, the Arts and Culture category contained the youngest honoree (me, at 20) and the oldest honoree (Vollis Simpson, at 93!). You should all go and read about Vollis Simpson right this second. I’ll wait until you get back. This man is impossibly cool. Basically, his whole thing is that he makes these huge carnival-like sculpture out of pieces of scrapped farm equipment and appliances, most of which fall under his general term “whirligig.” The best part is that what started out as a hobby became kind of a phenomenon. He’s been in the New York Times and PBS, and his pieces have kind of taken the art world by storm. And the structures are just impossibly fun and cool. If I was ever going to be runner-up to someone, I am glad it was him. (A funny note is that the very first thing we learn about Vollis in the SL article is that he has “enormous hands.” Imagine if my first sentence read, “Price Walden’s enormous hands scribe thousands of notes, creating chugging rhythms, etc..”)
Another very cool thing that happened is I am nominated for the Music Composition award for 2012 from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for Leaves of Greens. Two fun facts: I’m the youngest nominee, and from what I can ascertain, I am the only person nominated in my category that has not won the award previously. The winners will be announced in March, so everybody keep your fingers crossed.
The last announcement, for now, is that on April 12, I will be having my Junior Piano Recital, which you are all required to come to. I will be playing a lot of fairly hard piano music, which is still yet to be determined. The problem is the amount of piano music that I like is far greater than the amount which I am Allowed to Play. At this point, I am considered just learning like 15 pieces and doing some crazy John Cage I-Ching chance thing with the whole program so I don’t ever have to actually decide anything. But at any rate, everybody come, I might be playing a new piano piece if I can actually write one between now and then.
This week, I have had the extreme pleasure of visiting with the Dance Composition class here at Ole Miss to talk about the relationships between Dance and Music. I got to share a lot about my feelings about dance, and I got to share with them some of my favorite composers they had not heard of such as Nico Muhly, John Adams, Steve Reich, etc., which is always very satisfying. Today, we did this extremely fun exercise, where they would show me a phrase of movement a couple times, and then I would improv a phrase at the piano that I thought would match. From there, we would experiment with letting the dancer lead me, or letting me lead the dancer, or sort of a back-and-forth exchange. It was an absolute blast, and incredibly insightful into the very strange marriage of music and dance. If you ever have a chance to do something like this, I highly recommend it. I am very excited that I’ll be collaborating with the resident dance company on something for the fall, but I will talk more about that later.
A very interesting comment came up today in class that I wanted to talk more about here. One of the young ladies mentioned that she thought it would be much harder to be a Music Composer rather than a Dance Composer because, while modern dance has been around only since the mid-20th century, formal music has been around for hundreds of years and would, therefore, require a greater more knowledge of the history. Now, this is a very interesting notion to me, because I don’t think I have once ever felt The Weight of History bearing on my shoulders. Like, yes, I think it is important to know a rough guide to the history of music, but I don’t think it’s important to know all the words and plots to all the verismo operas before you try to write one. Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t love to devour music. I could talk to you about every piece John Adams ever thought about writing and about why Fearful Symmetries would beat up Naïve and Sentimental Music if they met in a dark alley, but I think I am fine at this point in my life without knowing the formal content of every Mozart symphony (which totally bore me, but that is both Unimportant and For Another Time).
A quick round-up: Everybody go learn everything you can about the ENO’s new production of The Death of Klinghoffer (which will be coming to the Met, but I can’t talk about that right now or I might get too excited and throw up). Click here to watch Meredith Monk and her ensemble perform part of her absolutely gorgeous Songs of Ascension inside this crazy spiral staircase tower structure. And everybody go buy Austin Kleon’s new book Steal Like an Artist, based on his mega-hit blog post, where he discusses the lines between influence and plagiarism and how they relate to creativity, both past and future.
Posts to come: My new list of 50 books that I am going to read this year, and why the Met’s new season is The Worst.
Until next time