So I’ve got a performance this evening. It’s a solo performance. It’s going to be the first installment of what I’m calling the Iton series. I’ve been preparing for it for several weeks. So what have I been preparing? I don’t know. I don’t have anything concrete at this point. So the prospect of tonight’s show is mildly terrifying.
So what have I been doing with this preparation time? Reading Walt Whitman and Samuel Beckett. And listening to pre-WWII blues and gospel. Reading back those sentences, I can see how these activities appear escapist. That’s all right, because I know that’s not what this is. I’ve found myself reading Whitman (the unabridged Leaves of Grass) and Beckett (the Complete Plays starting from the final ones) in an attempt to find some balance between two competing desires I’ve always had. On the one hand, there’s the need to ecstatically immerse myself in some kind of flow of life. To be in a place where things are in constant motion and always changing. I find this to be a pretty American-centered desire, a need for newness and abundance. But I also hear this same dynamic in German Baroque music. As formal as that music can be, it is a music that is always going somewhere.
On the other hand, I have a deep-seated need to just make the world stop. And to focus on and contemplate only the most essential. This act of distillation has become seductively comforting of late and I’ve even found myself reading small amounts of predicate calculus. Somehow the overuse of rationality keeps emotional demons at bay. Or at least reigns them in. It has a curious distancing effect that makes it easier to get through the day.
And the blues and gospel? Pure sonic comfort food. I’ve never understood it nor questioned it. I am not given over to nostalgia in the least, but for some odd reason this music (of Leadbelly, of Blind Willie Johnson, of Mahalia Jackson, of Sister Rosetta Tharpe) has always felt like ‘home’ to me. Like the place I came from.
What will happen tonight? I don’t have a clue. I wish I did because I often like to have something prepared for solo shows. I know that the show will have something to do with how I am ‘in’ this world and also ‘of’ this world. Some fundamentals of existence I suppose. Or maybe it will be a boring sequence of tones. I am nervously expectant.