Because lately I feel overwhelmed by the media and all the (technological) possibilities of today, I wanted to go back to the essence for me: music. Before the feedback session I was wondering what to show: music, and what more? What can I add? But then I realised: why join into overstimulating people if I don’t believe in that? While I think that nowadays we need more moments of peace and quiet? Aren’t we constantly overthinking and overanalysing?
So going a bit against my intuition, I decided to present something really simple: just my music. This piece was all about going from thinking and analysing to feeling and experiencing. I let people lay down on the ground with a pillow and an eye mask. The piece started off with a quiet story which transitioned into a mantra and later into music:
I was watching her
Her Ethiopian dark hair
Her eyes focussing on her hands
making coffee like her grandmother used to
I was watching her
Sitting in a cosy corner
especially furnished for making Ethiopian coffee
Roasting fresh coffee beans
Spreading an intense scent of something burnt
I was watching her
Taking her time
And after a while, through the burnt scent
I started to recognize the delightful smell of roasted coffee beans
I was watching her
and felt a sense of longing
started regretting my own ways
often so hasty and frustrated
because: who has time?
I was watching her
and for a moment forgot my world
full of possibilities
full of technologies
full of burnt-out people
I was watching her
and remembered a picture from the 70s
where a group of people met to lay in a barn
just to listen to music together
just like my young self
sitting in my room, my eyes closed
I was watching her
and felt poisoned by my continuous overanalyzing mind
poisoned by all the stimuli my brain cannot process
I long for her state of being
being beyond thinking
back to the essence
back to simplicity
Main findings are based on the reactions, which are written down later in this document.
Main findings from students and teachers
- It felt relaxing.
- Be careful with using pop music and clichés, it brings up associations, and can make you lose attention.
- The setup was good, makes you focus on essence, it works.
- But eventually the beat felt incoherent with the setup.
- I could think more about position of sound: stereo, surrounding, mono, etc.
- For me music is to go to this other state of being, beyond thinking.
- Sensory deprivation was interesting: mind fills in the gaps. Color purple: iet paars?
- Beware of orientalism, could create unforeseen awkwardness.
- Find your own way in a simple way, do what feels good for you.
- Thesis & graduation: I feel the need for a gathering method. Would like to present it in a spacial context, with music. Cause music is for me a way to understand myself.
My own findings
- After the feedback session I felt done with school and went on a vacation to Spain.
- I feel done with presenting my music in a school context. Maybe it’s because I had many performances recently, or because of the reactions, or maybe it’s just something so personal that I don’t want feedback on it in this way. I feel more enthusiastic now to work with Kinect, spacial installations, and performances with Desta.
- I’m really happy with the feedback, even though they’re not all positive. It felt really good to go against the feeling of adding something (because the teachers would like to see that?). And they understood my point completely. So apparently this storytelling + music works? But not when it becomes too ‘poppy’, pop music is not so popular here.
Kevin: It was very relaxing, and the way you introduced the subject, slowly and slowly turn to music, I think the effect was very interesting. Because we enter the story, we follow things, and repetition, and slowly turn to music. It was crescendo, and still relaxing. Pretty nice, enjoyed it.
Desta: In my experience you were above me. But then seeing you now, next to the desk brings me back to reality.
Danja: I like the blindfolding, then you really focus on listening. And because we were lying down, we feel the vibration from the music.
Me: Where you guys thinking about a lot of things? Or were you experiencing, feeling?
Michiel: I was thinking about what you were talking about, so definitely thinking. And it also, for me personally, going from an unfamiliar space, all of a sudden in a very highly recognizable music space. “ooooh this is where we’re going”. I was floating and drifting around in non-space, and suddenly out of it.
Kevin: Are you looking for something more atmospheric?
Michiel: My head is filled with associations about this kind of beat. Brings me to memories to this kind of music.
Jan: That’s the danger with cliche’s. This music is definitely full of cliche’s. In the beginning widens our perception, makes me curious about the story and how it might develop, and then suddenly it’s just a commercial. I am not saying it’s not beautiful, it’s beautiful music, but it’s very common. The commonness takes away the attention, of course if i’m willing I can course my attention to it. But it splits away, because this kind of music is so much used for background music, where it’s not really necessary to pay attention. Of course my consciousness tells me that you’re singing there and I should pay attention. Look up Lauri Andersson.
Ruud: Beginning was interesting: story/poetry that transferred into weird voice/music. But then suddenly the drum, I was totally out of it. The first part was for me enough. But look for it, what is your goal? Setting was pretty good, eyes closed, focused. But then at this point (drums), it becomes too normal. Story was intriguing, but didn’t come back.
Me: But that was the idea, that I first think and slowly go over into another state of being.
Ruud: Yeah, and the sound I hate, it was too stereo. It should be very around it.
Jorge: I really like pop music. And I don’t have any trouble with the beats. It’s just incoherent with the setup. They are danceable. Lying down, but I want to move and see. Incoherency with beat and lying down. Music is fine. I think it’s really commendable if you can convey a message in a way that is more accessible or even danceable, because I think artists are often too serious. So it’s good to dance it off. For the first part I understood why I had to lay down and wear a mask, but for the second part I was like yeah I would rather see Kayleigh.
Sarune: Why did you feel the need to see her? I also felt like standing up.
Jorge: Yeah and maybe dance a little bit. But at that part it didn’t make sense lying down and shutting my eyes.
Michiel: I like pop music.
Jorge: Sometimes the lyrics of pop music are really good.
Jan: I also like cliche’s, it’s not a bad thing, it’s something you can play with and use very consciously just to support the function of it.
Me: This experiment has been about a theme that has been going on lately: I feel like I need to add things all the time, like “okay I have this music, what can I add”? But with this experiment I wanted to go the other way around, and rob you of your visual senses.
Michiel: Which works.
Me: It wasn’t necessarily meant as sleeping/relaxing, but about taking away the visual sense, and by lying down you can focus.
Desta: Now knowing this theme, I don’t feel like the song was necessary for me. I think if you would have laid me down with just a story would have been enough for me.
Me: I was talking about another state of being, being beyond thinking. I’m tired of myself thinking all the time, happening to everyone. For me the music was to go in this other kind of state.
Desta: Did you yourself go to this other kind of state?
Sarah: What is interesting is this sensory deprivation where your mind starts making up things. When you started off with that this very poetic beginning with speech, had direction, focus on the moment. I was focussing on the story and interpreting it, but when it started to fade off, I started fill in the gaps. And when it totally became music, to me it sounded like the color purple. It’s very interesting when your brain starts to fill in what’s missing.
Michiel: A very different note: I don’t think it’s necessary to mention that it is an Ethiopian woman. It gets this atmosphere like: “yeah me with my western very electronic digital brain, and this pure Ethiopian woman”.
Me: I just tried to tell the story as how I literally experienced it. The story wasn’t meant as an art form itself, it was just a way to tell you guys why I was doing this setup etc. But I didn’t want to start with a presentation/explanation, because that is not my language. That’s why I told it like a story.
Michiel: Here in the academy we are discussing this topic of diversity, and this would be an example that I tell: unforeseen awkwardness.
Me: What do you mean?
Jorge: (to Michiel) Aren’t you projecting this?
Michiel: It becomes some kind of orientalism.
Bouke: Especially because the coffee was also Ethiopian.
Jan: I liked some parts in the beginning, the voice transition. Do you know Alvin Lucier? From I am Sitting in a Room. He records his voice and the playback until it’s distorted. In the end only some noise remains which reveal the physical sonic qualities of the room.
Sarune: Did you approach this as a performance, or as a statement to say that you are changing the way you are working?
Me: Maybe an experimental statement. For me it’s an experiment, because I had this strong feeling that I didn’t want to add something, but instead go back. So for this feedback session an experiment, and try to tell you what’s going on with me.
Sarune: I still think you should do what is the best for you. If you are overwhelmed, overthinking, you should come back, just try to find your own way in a simple way. Even if you now don’t get the most positive reactions, it shouldn’t influence you to come back to what you don’t feel happy with.
Jan: Of course new things can first feel very uncomfortable, and sometimes you have to extend and maybe later cut back.
Kayleigh: Yes and that’s how it’s been like for me here. Trying new things, and now is a moment where I cut back. But I will probably try new things. But this was an important moment to let you guys know.
Jorge: About the comment about the stereo thing: I was sitting beside the speaker. I didn’t get any stereo. Mono, but was really nice. Maybe next time not stereo, but speakers concentrated on a side of the room. At some point your words were distorted, but I could still hear you, the value of the live performance, instead of pre recorded. So I was slightly transitioned from here to there. You could think of the spacial travel from here to there.
Sarune: But now we are giving her again all these ideas, do this do that. But what she wanted to say is to come back to the music. Does it make you overwhelmed?
Kayleigh: Sometimes, but it’s also me doing that.
Bouke: What were the lyrics of the song?
Kayleigh: I see calm waters, and I run. I see you balanced bodies, and I run. Creatures, invite me in your ways.
Bouke: What language?
Kayleigh: English, you didn’t understand? :’D
Ruud: Yeah, then the translation to the thesis. Do you have some ideas?
Kayleigh: I feel like I really need some kind of gathering method. I feel like, a bit like what Desta does, writing every week/day. Some method to get thoughts structured.
Ruud: Could it be a sound piece?
Kayleigh: Yeah, for me it feels like a way to understand myself. Could do something like this every day/week. I need that. Graduation: still enthusiastic about the thing I did for my assessment, space, walk through thoughts etc.
Michiel: I didn’t see much the last half a year. Did you also do some really long pieces?
Kayleigh: The most recent one was at the exhibition of Marc Bijl, it was almost an hour.
Michiel: One piece or different pieces?
Kayleigh: Different pieces.
Michiel: It would be interesting to see how you could stretch this.
Kayleigh: Some of the pieces I did were around 20 minutes. It was also about being overwhelmed about media and all the possibilities.