Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stay tuned

I've been thinking a lot lately about Gurdjieff's Law of Three -- this whole idea of the creative/productive tension of opposites; that (as Cynthia Bourgeault says in her new book on the Trinity) the enemy is not a problem but an opportunity, and that if we can create a new field of possibility large enough to hold the tension of the opposites we can launch them in a whole new direction.

So I couldn't help relating that to the amazing music I heard in last night's concert.  We went because the lead musician was a local boy, a little older than my daughters: he'd grown up on the island, and his parents, grandmother, and brother were still in the area, but he'd gone off to New York to pursue a career in music.  

I'd been hearing about him for years, about his surprising collaborations with David Byrne, and about his being invited to compose a piece for the Kronos Quartet's Fortieth Anniversary performance at Lincoln Center, about the new album he just released, and about how "weird" he was.  So I thought -- given that my husband is a huge David Byrne fan and has always enjoyed what his roommates used to call "space music" -- that this concert might be something he would enjoy.

But in the end I was the one who was totally captivated -- because the music, like this picture, seemed to me a perfect and glorious fusion of opposites.  Up and down, light and dark, loud and soft, classical and rock, discordant and melodious -- it was all there, and always, it seemed, the result was melodious, moving, inspiring -- definitely out in that "new field of possibility."  

There were two violins, a viola and a cello, a bass clarinetist, and a rock drummer, and the composer himself, Jherek Bischoff, played ukelele, mandolin and guitar. The result was sort of a mix of David Byrne (who composed some of the lyrics and appears on Jherek's album, Composed), Bach, and Philip Glass.  Unlike much music, where one instrument takes the lead and the rest lay chords and rhythms behind it, each instrument had its own unique melody and rhythm to play -- occasionally cooperative and occasionally adversarial -- and all the melodies were interwoven to form one glorious, harmonious whole. Far from being weird it was deliciously accessible and filled with a merry and inviting creative spirit: for the last tune his brother, his nephew, and his dad arranged themselves around the packed auditorium and accompanied him on tiny bells, and when it was completed his grandmother presented him with a beautiful bouquet of garden vegetables. ("Perfect bouquet for a vegan!" said Jherek)

It was a marvelously uplifting evening, and I couldn't help but think that it was precisely because the music somehow followed this principle of the law of three, playing in the creative tension of opposites and creating a whole new field of sound by trusting in the possibility of resolution without ever losing the equal value of all the parts -- and I can't wait to see what happens if I try painting to this music!  

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