Routes

by pieces of moments

Teleportation would be handy on a day like today. My ankle is busted from a freak stairwell accident (not even something cool like a tennis injury), so it’s day two of being stuck in my apartment staring at the four walls with a cold compress nestled up against my impervious skin (I hate cold things…except ice cream, that’s okay). I could teleport to my office. How awesome would that be? Train pass? How terribly passé. What a money saver, too. Someone needs to make this happen for me statim.

I would also teleport to Bostonia. Symphony Hall to be exact, where From the Top will be presented in conjunction with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops. How fun is that? I’m so pumped for all my former colleagues there and for the students who will be featured performers, like Gabriel Cabezas, who I have known for years now. Way to go, Gabe! If you’re in Boston and you’re looking for a way to improve your mediocre Tuesday night, I think I just found your solution. Tickets are still available.

So as it turns out, my summer reading has taken a little bit of a u-turn. Anna Karenina has popped into my life. I don’t usually read Russian literature in the heat of a late spring day because Russian literature feels more like November to me. However, here she is, and I’m quite enjoying it. The contrast feels kind of chic and adventurous, like listening to Nirvana in Carnegie Hall, or dying your hair pitch black in July when all the other kids are sun-streaked. Welcome to the peculiarities of my mind. Now that we’ve got the seasonal thing out in the open, I have to say I do love Tolstoy. There is no way that this won’t sound painfully pompous, but I read War and Peace when I was 15-years-old and have been an ardent admirer of Tolstoy ever since. One day I’ll read it again. I’m convinced that it’s one of those books to be re-read periodically throughout a lifetime. I want to know how differently I’d perceive the motivations of each character now as an adult. As a teenager I related most to Natasha. Who would I relate most with now?

Interaction. That’s what I love most about the arts. It’s a dialogue between you, the viewer/reader/listener and the art/book/music. Anyone that thinks it’s all about art speaking to you is just dead wrong. It’s more like a mirror in which we can see truths about ourselves through our reactions. The responsive emotions reveal my own values. If, upon reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles I am repulsed when Angel leaves Tess, it unveils the value I place on forgiveness and faithfulness. We may get to know how things work through the sciences, but we get to know ourselves through art. The more fully we know ourselves, the more freely and fully we move about in the world. Beautiful.

So, I have this CD. It’s called “In C: Remixed,” and is distributed through that fabulously diverse record label, Naxos. Basically, the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble decided to record Terry Riley’s “In C.” Here’s the cool part: they decided to make it a dialogue and invited others to remix their performance. The remixers include Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad, composer Nico Muhly, Chicago Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence (one of them, anyway) Mason Bates, turntables-with-a-philosophical-bent Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky), and many more. It’s fascinating to hear how each individual translates the piece through the lens of their lives, experiences, and values. Really, it’s what any performer is doing at any moment. In principle, it’s not that different from listening to several different pianists interpret a Chopin Ballade. It may be subtler because the notes remain unchanged, but the focus, balance, and timing are completely dependent on the artist.

There is a moment in the movie Lost in Translation when Bill Murray’s character gets into an elevator in Japan. He stands out physically because he’s Caucasian and tall. You’re focused on him. Then the lens shifts and you notice that he’s not the only Caucasian in the elevator; you see Scarlett Johansson’s character in the other corner. She’s been there the whole time, but you only really take note of her presence halfway through the scene. Interpretation is like that. What I’m saying is, all the material is there, but the focus shifts depending on the viewpoint of the artist.

That’s what I love about this CD. Because every artist is remixing the same piece of music, you get a better grasp on the unique perspective of each artist, as well as the piece itself. Listening to all the remixes, and then finally hearing the piece in its original form, gives you new ears when confronted with the “unplugged” version, so to speak. My recommendation would be to listen to the original first (especially if you don’t know it) then cycle through all the remixes and finish with listening to the original again. It’s like a road trip for your ears.

Speaking of road trips, did you know that the very beginning of the legendary Route 66 begins in Chicago? Like, 100 feet from the steps of the Art Institute? I absolutely love road trips and always kinda dreamed of driving the length of Route 66. What an adventure. I don’t know when I’ll get around to it, but at least now I know where it begins.

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