Showing posts with label People. Show all posts
Showing posts with label People. Show all posts

Artists' View of Seattle

Visiting Seattle?

Here's a free brochure from Visit Seattle, where 24 Seattle artists share places of inspiration. As part of the Artists' View of Seattle (PDF), I tell where to get ice cream & play Ms. Pac-Man at the same time.

It's an honor to be alongside Spectrum Dance Theatre's artistic director Donald Byrd. For Donald, I composed & performed music on Farewell: A Fantastical Contemplation on America's Relationship with China + The Mother of Us All. I also remixed Stravinsky for their carnival girlie show in Petruchska.

Along with Donald talking about The Duck driving into Lake Union, check out favorite Seattle places & experiences from food writer Langdon Cook, trombonist/sound artist Stuart Dempster, Northwest band The Maldives, cartoonist Ellen Forney, sculptor John Grade, MC Thomas Gray, painter Fay Jones, media artist Susie J. Lee, poet Heather McHugh, artist Jeffry Mitchell, Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot, sculptor/printmaker Marvin Oliver, musician Jon Osebold, choreographer Zoe Scofield, filmmaker Lynn Shelton, author Garth Stein, photographer Rodrigo Valenzuela, playwright Cheryl West and glass artist Mark Zirpel.

Interviews by Jess van Nostrand, with location photos by Frank Huster. Below is a pull-out from the brochure.

Imagining a Future for Taiko

The first North American Taiko Conference was held in Los Angeles in 1997. At the time, I was a member of Seattle Kokon Taiko. I remember the excitement of performing in the Taiko Jam, as well as taking workshops from Kenny Endo (Tradition as the Basis of Innovation), Seiichi Tanaka (Masterclass) and Roy Hirabayashi (Creating New Songs).

I began studying taiko a few years earlier with Northwest Taiko, because I was a composition and ethnomusicology major, plus Northwest Taiko rehearsed in the Japanese language school a few blocks from where I lived. Little did I know that almost 20 years later, I would dedicate a significant amount of my energy and thought as a professional musician to taiko.

Portland Taiko welcomes RTG participants
Teaching the Composition Track at the 2012 Regional Taiko Gathering (RTG) hosted by Portland Taiko and Portland State University, I reflect on the 1997 conference as well as subsequent gatherings, conferences and summer taiko institutes. When Portland Taiko hosted the 2006 RTG, they lost more than $20,000. Along with being financially depleted, the amount of work coordinating drums and out-of-town guests proved exhausting. Portland Taiko's newly hired co-artistic director Michelle Fujii inherited a model that was unsustainable.

Even though 2011-2012, has been a challenging time for Portland Taiko (they have had a complete staff overhaul), Michelle wanted to try a new approach for RTG. Consulting with Stan Shikuma – long-time leader of Seattle Kokon Taiko and Kaze Daiko – Michelle proposed having four workshop tracks that lasted eight hours each, rather than having more than a dozen workshop leaders with concurrent sessions that lasted less than three hours. Stan said sure, let's try this.

The four taiko tracks were:
  • Foundation
  • Technique
  • Movement
  • Composition 
Along with these eight-hour taiko tracks, RTG 2012 included a low-key show-and-tell from seven groups, lunchtime discussion sessions with topics chosen by participants and an end-of-gathering happyokai sharing session.

Behind the scenes, Keiko Araki and a crew of volunteers gathered drums and equipment for the taiko tracks and sharing sessions. As a workshop leader, I was delighted to have drums for each of the composition participants. Teaching at previous conferences, I have had only one or two drums. I also remember when Toru Watanabe was scheduled to teach an afternoon workshop outside in Los Angeles. The organizers used a car stereo to play the music for his movement workshop. By having four taiko tracks at RTG 2012, equipment needs were more easily met and drum moving during the weekend was minimized.

After RTG 2012, Michelle and I laughed about past conference debacles. Out of curiosity, we dug out the 1997 booklet and read the Taiko Conference Goals:
  • Provide opportunities for networking
  • Document the History of Taiko in the United States and Canada
  • Deepen understanding of the connection of taiko in the United States and Canada with taiko in Japan and with Japanese cultural traditions
  • Encourage the continued growth and development of taiko groups in the United States and Canada 
  • Imagine a Future for Taiko in the United States and Canada
This last bullet point caused Michelle to gasp. "Imagine a future for taiko…" she exclaimed.

15 years later, taiko has made an impact around the world in venues that range from public schools to Australia's Got Talent. While amateur and professional taiko players have increased since 1997 – and the number of community groups has expanded exponentially – non-profit ensembles with paid artistic staff that have been formed can be counted on one hand. With this in mind, how can we imagine a future for taiko?

During one of her characteristic late-night creative outpourings, Michelle came up with the mission for RTG 2012:
  • Discover new taiko perspectives
  • Build meaningful relationships
  • Promote discussion, insight and innovation
  • Maintain an affordable and economically self-sustaining RTG
  • Foster the celebration of the art form of taiko 
Notice how the core values of the initial taiko conference are stream-lined. Idealism is tempered with pragmatism. When Portland State University's fire alarm resounded throughout the music building before the Sunday morning workshop, Michelle and Toru gathered RTG participants on the lawn outside for morning stretches. Breathing together in this impromptu exercise helped ground everyone. Similarly, as part of Eien Hunter-Ishikawa's Technique Track happyokai presentation, over two dozen taiko players from various groups played a super slow Don together. The quiet intensity that charged the musicians and open-eared audience reminded me how taiko has the potential to connect simply and directly.
Happyokai Presentation from the Composition Track
Innovation comes from sustainability. As a practicing artist in America, I applaud the courage of the RTG 2012 experiment where the "imagined future for taiko" happened and will continue resonating within individual taiko players and groups for years to come. Here's to continuing to imagine a future for taiko.

Kane Mathis

For The Mother of Us All, I am honored to work with Kane Mathis. Kane is a multi-instrumentalist specializing in plucked string instruments such as the oud and kora. These instruments are akin to the guitar and harp. For Spectrum Dance Theater's new production playing at The Moore Theatre from March 3-5, I invited him to participate. After our initial meeting in early November 2010, I knew that he would be perfect for this project. Here's a sample of his music.

Kane is one of those rare musicians with a solid sense of self. He is grounded in his studies and dedicated to exploring sonic possibilities informed by a rigor towards understanding the traditional as well as contemporary contexts of the instruments he performs. Beginning in the late 1990s, Kane traveled to West Africa to study kora, a 21-sting Mandika harp. He learned:
  • that the kora, an instrument over 1,000 years old, functions to accompany storytelling as well as serves to relay current news;
  • to speak Mandingo and listen to the inflections and pauses enable his playing to resonate with the tones and silences of speech;
  • that musical traditions powerfully connect to folks when used in everyday life.
Kane performs on kora
As a musician raised in Chicago, Kane also realized in his 10+ years of studying with Malamini Jobarteh and Moriba Kouyate, that he wasn't from a lineage of kora musicians; that even though he would have the opportunity to perform for audiences throughout The Gambia on national television and radio as well as earn him recognition by the Gambian president, he would need to incorporate his musical background as a classical, jazz and indie rock musician with his present life.

Kane moved to Seattle over five years ago to follow another teacher, Münir Nurttin Beken from Instanbul. Beken founded the State Turkish Music Ensemble, composes for orchestras and film and is known as an oud virtuoso.

As a kora and oud musician, Kane currently calls Seattle home. He performs with a half dozen local bands. Additionally, he performs as a soloist as well as with choreographers such as Catherine Cabeen, as composer and musician most notably for the upcoming performance Into the Void to premiere at On the Boards in late April.

I first heard Kane at a 4Culture Touring Arts Roster showcase three years ago. Little did I realize that I would have the opportunity to work on a show about Africa and that I would be blessed to work with him.

Free Showings: Degenerate Art Ensemble

Degenerate Art Ensemble presents free workshop showings this weekend in an office park in West Seattle. Called the Red Shoes Project, the showing features Seattle-based performance artist Haruko Nishimura and Korean-born Bay Area composer/performer Dohee Lee in their first in-depth collaboration. I attended the showing last night. Lee and Nishimura offer extended vocal techniques and a powerful presence together that offer exciting possibilities when further developed.

Dohee Lee
They performed a section based on Little Red Riding Hood with live music and film. The Red Shoes Project will premiere in May/June 2011, as part of the Degenerate Art Ensemble's Exhibition at the Frye Art Museum.

The Red Shoes Workshop Showing includes the talents of:
  • Haruko Nishimura (dance)
  • Jason Puccinelli (scenic design)
  • Ela Lamblin (sculptural instrument)
  • Leo Mayberry (video)
  • Dohee Lee (dance/percussion/voice)
  • Joshua Kohl (music)
  • Jherek Bischoff (music)
  • Christine Tschirgi (costumes)
They have two more free showings tonight and Saturday, January 28-29, 2011, from 7-8pm. Arrive early as seating is limited.

Commerce Center
2414 SW Andover St
Building F-105
Seattle WA 98106

Bright Idea

Last night I heard the Seattle Symphony perform Bright Sheng's Shanghai Overture composed in 2007. Shanghai Overture contains biting harmonies and textural shifts that titillated the ears of both the audience and orchestra. It was delightful to watch the smiling faces of symphony members acknowledge curious sounds travel through the percussion, strings, winds and brass. I was amazed at how gracefully the music continually transitioned throughout this 8+ minute work.


This reminded me that one of the most significant lessons Bright taught me was that western classical music is about transitions. In addition to my weekly composition lesson, Bright convened a few students to analyze classical music from a composer's perspective. I remember analyzing a Brahms Intermezzo with him and two other students. Bright sat at the piano and played the music, then pointed out ways the rhythmic and melodic motifs continually appeared in ingenious configurations throughout the work. The seamless transitions that Brahms was able to achieve is a compositional technique I continue to value.

While Shanghai Overture references Chinese melodies, rhythms and timbres, the composition is scored for symphony orchestra. Bright considers this work neo-Classical. He shows how the modularity of Chinese folk music and the developmental aspects of western classical music co-exist in a sophisticated and exciting way. I consider this a Bright Idea (!)

The Seattle Symphony reprises Shanghai Overture along with works by Gunther Schuller and Alexander Borodin, plus a stunning performance by Gil Shaham performing Béla Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2 this Saturday, January 08, 2011.

Learned from Shulamit Ran

Melia Watras

Tonight, violist Melia Watras performs the world premiere of Perfect Storm, by composer Shulamit Ran. I went to hear Ran speak this afternoon at the University of Washington's School of Music.

Here are two things I liked from her talk:
  • In the early 20th century, there was the emancipation of dissonance. Why not have an emancipation of consonance?
  • Every work must contain the seeds of its own destruction.
Listening to Ran play and discuss her music, I was reminded that composers should be mindful of both the abstract considerations of craft as well as an emotional connection with the organic. Watras' program shows both craft and emotion with two works by Luciano Berio along with music by George Rochberg and Atar Arad.

25 October 2010, 7:30PM
Meany Theater
4001 University Way NE
Seattle WA 98105

Remembering Kikuko


Check out Home Revealed opening at the renamed Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle. The show includes artwork by Kikuoko Dewa created for Ji Mo 寂寞: the Stillness of Solitude. Kikuko passed away in mid-February earlier this year.

Kikuko's 10-foot long shibori installation was a strong, silent presence throughout a work I created as composer-in-residence with Portland Taiko in 2007. Her art for Ji Mo 寂寞: The Stillness of Solitude floated above an incense burner to provide a connection between the performers, audience, stage and heaven. Towards the end of the show, I would touch the ball at the bottom of the bamboo shibori. It was a pleasure to spin the installation every night and feel it shimmer.

More about Kikuko can be read in A Way of Life: A Thread That Connects by Lorraine Pai.

Home Revealed opens Thursday and runs through April 17, 2011. Along with Kikuko, the artworks of Zuolie Deng, Andrew Hida, Meng Huang, Alan Lau, Amy Nikaitani and Dean Wong are featured.

Portland Taiko & SF Taiko Dojo



In 1997, I visited San Francisco for a lesson with Tanaka Sensei. For those who don't know, Tanaka Sensei is considered the Grand Master of taiko in North America. He started SF Taiko Dojo in 1968.

I had heard that Tanaka Sensei was a strict teacher. I arrived early and watched a class taught by the performing members. Sitting on the floor, I was surprised by all the egg cartons that lined the concrete walls of the dojo. I sat politely trying to watch the class and not think of eggs.

During my lesson, Tanaka Sensei sized me up. Upon realizing that I was Chinese American rather than Japanese, he told me that I must explore Chinese philosophy. He revealed his fascination with Qi Gong and acknowledged the influence of Chinese aesthetics on taiko. I left the lesson empowered, not realizing how significant taiko and the incorporation of Chinese thought would become on my music.

This weekend, Portland Taiko hosts joint performances with SF Taiko Dojo. Michelle Fujii, Kelsey Furuta and Toru Watanabe of Portland Taiko perform my composition News, for bamboo/paper/taiko. The work combines instruments common to both China and Japan within a structure that allows the trio to think about and explore sounds and movements that are both contemporary and classical. The performers use their bachi as writing utensils. The paper floats then flickers. Drum patterns morph from set rhythms into poetic ambiguity.

Both Tanaka Sensei and Portland Taiko have taught me the importance of having a unique contribution within a community.

Ideas from Mike Daisey

Here are tidbits from a conversation with Mike Daisey and director Jean-Michele Gregory, moderated by TBA Festival guest artistic director Cathy Edwards:
  • Labels (e.g.- storyteller, comedian, actor) are used to eliminate having to think. They provide a way to reduce and sell work as an object, yet because of this reduction and circulation in the marketplace, labels accumulate baggage. Labels must be unpacked and/or placed alongside each other to create hyper-terms that cause people to pause and think.
  • Daisey performs from a non-script. Each scene of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was marked by him turning a page. On this page are notes from which he improvises. Using a non-script allows for an experience rather than commodity to exchange between performer and audience member.
  • Rarefication in art is a lie. Daisey does not believe in "white wall art." To have an honest exchange, is to place the work within a living context. In his performance, I noticed how even though he was on a proscenium stage, he aligned himself with the audience through his words and actions.
  • During The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Daisey said that he can feel the waves of nausea throughout the audience as he alternates between speaking about Jobs with labor abuses in China.
  • Daisey doesn't believe in world premieres. He said that the idea of the premiere is akin to losing one's virginity. It can only happen once. Presenters do not necessarily want to have the world premiere, rather they do not want any other venue to have it.
  • Technology promises a utopian future where the object and body dissolve.
  • The hubris of Google is that we think we have access to knowledge when there are stories not on the network.
  • The through-line of Daisey's work is "the struggle to live an ethical life in the world."
  • The best storytelling is gossip because the stakes are clear.
While I don't care much for artist talks as they can be well-rehearsed-press-quotable-after-the-fact statements-about-work, these thoughts resonate with me. What do you think?

Anna Homler: Voices Carry

This Friday, I join Amy Denio, Lori Goldston, Doug Haire, Susie Kozawa, + other experimental musicians in a concert with Los Angeles-based Anna Homler at the Chapel Performance Space. Homler is a performance art vocalist who gestures with garbles and gurgles. I had a fantastic time recording with her at Jack Straw Productions last year. We sang in alternative languages and genres prompted by recording producer Steve Peters.

Here's what the Seattle Occultural Music Festival & Nonsequitur say about Homler:
Since 1982, she has performed throughout Europe and the United States, collaborating with composers and musicians Steve Moshier, David Moss, Steve Roden, David Moss, Viola Kramer, Voices of Kwahn, Axel Otto, Frank Schulte, Geert Waegerman and Pavel Fajt, among many others. As a visual artist, her ongoing performance/installation Pharmacia Poetica examines the symbolic and tonal qualities of words and objects.
Be prepared for voices to carry...

14 May 2010, 8PM
Chapel Performance Space
4649 Sunnyside Ave N
Seattle WA 98103
$5-15

Good-Bye Farewell

"A farewell is necessary before you can meet again." Richard Bach
Thinking about personal moments of leave-taking, I reflect on the meanings of good-bye. How do sounds and objects represent farewell? What are the everyday and magical feelings associated with departure? Where does imagination meet reality when we embark on a journey?

Here's a video response from Ying Zhou called Small Dance.

Ying Zhou is a Beijing-raised/Seattle-based dance artist. She recently performed For These Unclosings, a dance solo directed by new media artist Susie Lee. Zhou's video works are supported by 4Culture and Seattle's Mayor's Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. Her works have been shown in Brazil, China, and Japan as well as local festivals and venues. Some people leave to search for one place and find themselves in too many places. When Zhou relocated from Beijing to study geography in the United States, she found herself in multiple locations. Now a dancer and mother, Zhou feels her body stretched and floating, tensed and relaxed. The video work Small Dance juxtaposes Zhou's physical body with landscapes of Beijing, Yunnan, and Issaquah. When somebody leaves, there continue to be traces of all the places they have been and wish to go.

Pinpoints of Memory

The Farewell Exhibition ends at the Columbia City Gallery on March 07. Here is the inspiration behind Diem Chau's art work Object Memory.

dress that inspired Diem
Diem Chau combines everyday mediums such as paper and thread with simple means such as stitching to create delicate vignettes of memory, gesture, and form. Her work has been featured in exhibitions in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle. In addition, Chau's work graces the pages of Harpers, Fiberarts, Readymade, and American Craft Magazine. Honors include an Artist Trust Fellowship. She holds a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts.

With Object Memory, Chau continues her fascination with combining everyday mediums, such as paper and thread, to create tangible and textural vignettes of exile. A few years ago, Chau returned to her native Vietnam. She was surprised when a hand-me-down dress she wore as a child was returned to her. Stitching the form of this dress into paper, Chau reveals holes of separation that provide a glimpse into pinpoints of memory.

Walk through Art

Two more days to catch 保重 Farewell before it closes at the Columbia City Gallery. Today I write about Gatemouth a work by sculptor June Sekiguchi.

Sekiguchi was born and raised in Arkansas. She is represented by ArtXchange Gallery and is a member of Shift Collaborative Studio in Seattle and artEAST in Issaquah. Her work is in the collections of King County Portable Works, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, and Chefchaouen Municipality in Morocco. She recently exhibited her work in Chicago and Houston and will be showing in Stockholm, Sweden in 2010. She has a bachelors degree in Studio Art from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

In the doorway called Gatemouth, Sekiguchi incorporates patterns that cross cultures and reference points. Gatemouth is the literal translation of her surname and provides a place where past/present, life/death, and stillness/motion meet. The doorway's lintel, in the shape of a boat-like vessel, rides on the mouth of a river where we are sometimes sure and sometimes unsure, yet realize that to stand at the threshold forever is to never say good-bye.

Quick! If you find yourself stuck in life, indecisive, and shuffling, walk back and forth through Gatemouth. You will make a decision about your next step after crossing through Sekiguchi's work. If you can't decide and keep dilly-dallying, the gallery staff will call the cops to arrest you.

Imagine Unfinished Art


The exhibition 保重 Farewell ends at the Columbia City Gallery this Sunday at 4pm. Annie Han + Daniel Mihalyo: LEAD PENCIL STUDIO created an installation called Oregon.

With Oregon, Han + Mihalyo: LEAD PENCIL STUDIO continue their practice of "architecture in reverse" with photographs of unfinished works. Pictures mean nothing or are unresolved. They carry memories which are final and incomplete. The photographs of unfinished projects in Oregon float out of a wooden box onto a grey wall.

Korean-born Han and U.S.-born Mihalyo have collaborated as LEAD PENCIL STUDIO since 1997, working on projects at the architectural scale. Beginning in 2002 they began to exhibit their collaborative site-specific installation projects locations that include the San Francisco Exploratorium Museum, Center on Contemporary Art, Suyama Space, Emily Carr Institute of Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, and Boise Art Museum. They have been awarded an Artist Trust Fellowship, Stranger Genius Award, Rome Prize, Emerging Voice by Architecture League of New York, Creative Capital Visual Arts Grant, and the New York Prize by Van Alen Institute.

Decode the Art

photo by Michael Ryan
The Columbia City Gallery exhibition 保重 Farewell ends Saturday, March 06, 2010. At the show, you can stick your head in art by Tiffany Lin and play musical instruments by Paul Kikuchi. You can also decode art work by MalPina Chan.

Chan creates multidimensional collages that have been featured in exhibitions at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle City Hall, ArtXchange Gallery, Rosetta Hunter Gallery, and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago. Her work is in the public collections at the UW Medical Center, King County Courthouse, 4Culture King County Portable Works, Harborview Medical Center, Portland Regional Arts & Culture Council, and the Evergreen State College Rare Books Collection as well as the Women Beyond Borders: Art Expressing Life, an international community building project. Chan is represented by Patricia Cameron Gallery.

photo by Michael Ryan
In her three-dimensional work Aspects of the Journey, Chan gathers artifacts of passage with a nod to history. Paper unfurls from an antique Chinese writing desk to reveal images of citizenship documents, certificates of residence, and passport photographs. The swirling collage layers symbols such as 18 small scrolls for luck, rice for sustenance, and silk for fortune. Images on paper are fragile and arbitrary, yet in the stillness and anonymity of the names and photographs, hidden back stories reveal the strength of survival.

Play the Art

<5:5:3> by Paul Kikuchi
<5:5:3> by Paul Kikuchi
Paul Kikuchi is a percussionist, composer and instrument builder. As a musician, he performs in a number of different ensembles including the Empty Cage Quartet, Orkestar Zirkonium, and Paul Kikuchi’s Portable Sanctuary. Kikuchi runs Prefecture Records, a small record label specializing in experimental percussion music. His honors include an Artist Trust Fellowship and a Montalvo Arts Center Residency.

Kikuchi scours surplus stores, salvage yards, and street corners to find discarded metal he fashions into musical instruments. His work, both aurally and visually, signals an uneasy commingling of childhood play with machinistic violence. Kikuchi's two percussion sculptures -- Artillery Welcome Bell and <5:5:3> -- invite the visitor to play and reflect on the meaning of sounds made from detonated shells and saw blades.

Stick your Head in Art

Has Fallen in the Well by Tiffany Lin
Tiffany Lin's Has Fallen in the Well is included in the exhibition 保重 Farewell at the Columbia City Gallery through March 07, 2010.

Lin draws upon the solitude of childhood in her audio sculpture Has Fallen in the Well. Within a paper box, grass grows as if from suburban California. An audio remix from the story Tikki Tikki Tembo plays in the intimate one-person standing-room-only lantern, where one wants to both stay and exit. A too-close-for-comfort intimacy often leads to rushed good-byes.

Born in Taiwan and raised in California, Lin began studying piano at a young age. She continued piano studies at CalArts and completed a Bachelors in Music at the Cornish College of the Arts. Honors include an Artist Trust Grant, Jack Straw Residency and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship. Projects include music for prepared piano and percussion with Paul Kikuchi as well as performing in non-traditional spaces with the Toy Boats, a toy piano quartet featuring small and toy instruments.


What are you waiting for?!

Go to the Columbia City Gallery and stick your head in art.

Columbia City Gallery
4864 Rainier Ave S
Seattle WA 98118
(206) 760-9843

Bret's Amazing Mind

After meeting with writer/director/theatre-maker Bret Fetzer, I had insight on two matters:
  1. Violence as a Solution
  2. Celebrity as Politician
Bret and I discussed our fascination with the Fort Hood Shootings. He said that ever since the 90s in America, violence has become a solution.

We also spoke about the transfer of empire and how the state will increasingly be ruled by celebrity personas. The aura of the celebrity fuels feelings of inadequacy and encourages increased spending which oils capitalism and silences multiple voices.

I realized that advanced capitalism and social democracy are inherently at odds with each other. The day after Thanksgiving is known as both Black Friday and the National Day of Listening. Black Friday, a way to lubricate the capitalist economic and social system, had extensive media coverage while the National Day of Listening, more akin to a democratic forum, had only one article from the major press.

Perhaps with time this will change.

I now get Gary Snyder

Last night, I rode the bus with my neighbor and writing group compatriot, Wendy Call to Benaroya Hall to listen to poet Gary Snyder. Snyder is a beat poet who was raised in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. He lived in Japan for 10 years and is known for his connection to the environment and Buddhism. Snyder won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems Turtle Island. I never truly connected with Snyder's work until last night's event presented by Seattle Arts & Lectures.

After his reading, Snyder fielded questions from the sold-out (2,500 seat) house. These responses, paraphrased through my memory, stay with me.

Q. How do we increase cooperation?
A. Poverty. Having grown up during the Great Depression and working on oil riggers and as a logger, Snyder said that when people have little, they work together.

Q. What did Allen Ginsberg teach you?
A. That a poet's life should be an open book. When Snyder and Ginsberg were roommates, he found Ginsberg opening and reading his mail. When confronted, Ginsberg said that he wanted to know more about Snyder and that a poet must let their vulnerabilities be public. Ginsberg then added that Snyder should not be scared to be indecent.

Q. What does the Black Bear found in Ballard want?
A. Music. Snyder said that humans don't have much to offer, that animals think humans are cute. One time, as he was walking home, Snyder heard his daughter play the piano. As he approached, he noticed a cougar listening to the music. As another bit of evidence, Snyder talked about the Ainu in Northern Japan; how they sing to the meat on the table, because the animal's soul expects a human song in return for their food.

Listening to 79-year-old Snyder last night was an opportunity to hear wisdom from one of America's elders. Thanks Wendy for bringing me to this ear-opening event where I am now closer to the meaning of Turtle Island.

Why Joshua Bell has guts

Two years ago, violinist Joshua Bell performed as a street musician at the L'Enfant Plaza Subway Station in Washington D.C. Bell played Bach and Schubert on his Stradivarius violin for 43 minutes.

This was part of an experiment by Washington Post Magazine writer Gene Weingarten. The article called Pearls Before Breakfast, won Weingarten the Pulitzer Prize.

Bell's busking performance stats:
  • Over 1,000 people walked by Bell
  • 27 people stopped to listen
  • He made $32.17
  • $20 of the total came from someone who recognized him
I think about this study as I practice er-hu (Chinese fiddle) for Stuck Elevator, an operatic solo performance about an undocumented Chinese immigrant.

Er-hu players busk in the New York subways and Seattle's Pike Place Market. Their fiddles don't even come close to the $2 million-plus that Bell's Stradivarius violin costs. Nor does their playing command the usual $1,000/minute that Bell usually earns.

In the subway station, a soloist performs and I listen from afar awkward and embarrassed knowing I don't have the guts to busk. If music is played in a subway station, are there enough ears to listen?
Dedicated to intercultural collaboration, Byron Au Yong composes songs of dislocation, music for a changing world. He teaches in Performing Arts & Social Justice at the University of San Francisco.

Byron Au Yong & Christopher Yohmei Blasdel: BreathPlay
BreathPlay

Byron Au Yong: Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas
Kidnapping Water:
Bottled Operas
Byron Au Yong: Yiju
YIJU 移居