6 June 2014
On knowing what you think it might be – Intimacy
Melody Eötvös took part in the 'Intimacy of Creativity - composers meet perfomers' event in Hong Kong in April-May 2014. The intimacy she encountered was a little bit different from what she had expected, and involved being open to public feedback by composer colleagues and performers, as well as members of the general public.
Intimacy is a spellbinding notion. Depending on what you believe, it has been a part of human evolution and the development of our artistic practices for as long as we've creatively engaged in them. All you have to do is sit down for a moment, perhaps stare out of a window, as I would, and think about exactly how important the concept of intimacy is to you as an artist… many different kinds of relationships and scenarios will probably jump in to your head. Maybe some other words will drift effortlessly along with your thoughts: sensuality, love, expression, affection, understanding, confidence… All of these thoughts, words, and concepts communicate how intimate the embodiment of our art is within us.
Okay, so in our own little dream-world it's easy to meditate on this. We're free to think to whatever depths we like without the fear of intrusion or someone spying on us and possibly even judging us! The vulnerability that's a necessary part of intimacy is still somewhat protected. And for the most part we stay protected, whether it's in our little university silos or closed away in our studios somewhere - no one really steps on anyone else's creative toes. What I wonder though is do we spend enough time out in the real world thinking about all of this and being more active in our creative intimacy?
This is where the 'Intimacy of Creativity 2014' comes in. In Hong Kong we no longer had the luxury of hiding away in our own heads. Initially I thought the focus would be on developing a trustful bond with the performers in a collaborative kind of way (given the subtitle of the whole event: 'composers meet performers') and this would check off the 'intimacy' box in my short list of expectations. To my very pleasant surprise though, it ended up being a lot bigger than that.
The first breakaway from the norm was how we initially got to hear our pieces: in front of a full audience (the majority of which were non 'music-speaking' people). Any comments we wanted to make in confidence had to be done in front of everyone, all ears open, with hundreds of eyes burning into you.
The second juncture was that every composer, performer, and willing audience member were called on to tell us what they thought could make our music better. And then, finally, each composer was required to take these suggestions on board and, before the final concert, employ these changes in their pieces.
It sounds so simple when I write it all out like this, but the whole process was a lethal mixture of trying not to care, caring too much, taking things personally, staying cold and distant from opinions, blocking things out, taking things in, and every permutation of these otherwise… and most treacherous of all was trying to keep a calm and mature facade over your frustration while around everyone, whether inside the controlled environment of the discussion sessions, or after hours - walking relaxed through the neon-illuminated streets or drinking overpriced beer in the highest bar in the world.
The most incredible thing though is that while having my artistic soul prised open in public like that (and mostly having to admit that my 5-year old piece still wasn't quite finished), I witnessed each of the other composer fellows going through the exact same thing (some pinned down in worse cases than others), but by exposing those raw nerve endings so early in our time there, we were allowed to venture much more quickly to the central issue in a lot of our music (namely 'the structural climax', 'moment of arrival' or 'point of no return') and collectively solve the problems that we found there. And we were all in it together - the level of empathy and honesty was uncanny. Vulnerability didn't matter from then on.
So, did the Intimacy of Creativity live up to its name? It caught me by surprise, but, yes, it did. It all proved that a model based on scrupulous candidity can work fast and effectively at getting to the core of the young composers' concerns. Workshops, rehearsals, collaborations - these are the opportunities to be ruthless with yourself and get straight to the point, shove your vulnerability to the side and engage in a better understanding of your colleagues' ways - all art is collaboration after all.
Most of us are used to taking advice from just our teachers and professors, and, to be sure, eventually these remarkable people become our colleagues as well - but the composers and musicians of your own generation are connected to you in a way that is tied into culture, sociology, thought, and many other things - they're the artistic equivalent of the biological brothers and sisters that you grew up with. Trust them, and engage in some creative intimacy.
Collaboration is like a love affair; it segues from admiration to anxiety, rejection to rage, desire to envy, powerlessness to misunderstanding, from not getting what you want but maybe coming nearer to knowing what you thought that might be.'- Katherine Clarke (Jes Fernie, Two Minds: Artists and Architects in Collaboration, New York: Continuum, 2006, p. 52) .
Melody Eötvös - AMC profile
The Intimacy of Creativity 2014, Hong Kong - event website
© Australian Music Centre (2014) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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