If you haven't yet read any of this blog, you won't know that the composer-performer-producer for FunnyMeanHappySad (Randall Davidson, me) hosted the "first" and maybe only one of the series of the concerts that invite audience members to feel, observe, analyze, document, and share their emotional responses to music.
The event took place yesterday afternoon at the Lakeville (MN) Area Arts Center in front of a full house and an assembly of online visitors. For the composer-performer-producer, it was a thrilling experience although the producer (me) had a number of ideas to improve the audience experience (see below).
In researching this approach, I found a number of disparate sources that provided guidance, precedent, and perspective but it was a matter of finding readings in unusually wide-spread places and authors. Here are just some of them:
I quoted the language in my dear friend's press release about the event a number of times:
"Music is about feelings –
obvious or implied,
coaxed or unleashed,
subtle or overwhelming."
The premise of the entire concert was based on the unqualified primacy of emotion as central to the experience of every audience member. But that feeling you have when you hear that thing that made you feel something is absolutely unique, powerful and personal. No one can discount or criticize or judge your feelings. And comparing your feelings is a little like calibrating two people's reactions to one another; seeing if it's possible to see the same color of green. Impossible, in my opinion.
For the FunnyMeanHappySad show, I've had to walk the lines between composer, performer, and performer. For the most part, the composer's work is done. This is the producer's time...the final preparations. Our first rehearsal was today (Wednesday, February 23).
The composer is elated, giddy, slap happy, proud, afraid.
The producer is excited, cautiously optimistic, apprehensive, guarded, afraid.
The performer is expectant because he hasn't had a chance to play with the other members of the ensemble yet. He is afraid.
Here's a combinations of the composer's and producer's perspective on today's work.
1. Mexico-Bolivar Tango: the extent that the musicians EXAGGERATE will determine the funny. They are really tasty players (Tom is a previously-unknown peach) but at first they erred on the tasteful side of things. The composer is insistent that they embarrass us with their exaggerations of accents, dynamics, articulations, silences, etc. After about an hour, they were playing it the way the composer likes it. Happy.
2. Audio recording: The producer has contracted with TJ ("Max") who was contracted for a previous show he produced for the Norway House/Greig/LEIF concert during the early stages of the pandemic. The producer is very, very pleased TJ has joined the merry band of FunnyMeanHappySad pirates.
3. Chamber music (for these…): Both the composer and producer recognize that this piece is the most difficult to perform and the most "out there" piece on the program. They both realize that it represents the spirit of adventure that is needed on this program. The players each inhabited the Out There quality of the piece. And it balances the program that we really needed; otherwise every thing else might be considered a “light” program. The producer says the piece is still an early, ROUGH stage but he's confident that we will get there. He is an intrepid producer of this foolish composer’s music. It will be good in the end. Hopeful.
4. As producer, the Walden Etude “Perpetual Motion” has been eliminated from the program. It ultimately did not fit although having a young person come up from the audience to make a surprise appearance would have been fun. Unfortunately, it was not Funny and that is the requirement for this program. You know what I’m talking about. Sad, sort of.
5. The emoticard is in design mode right now. The producer is pleased but withholding final judgment. The composer is thrilled about the look and feel. The miniature golf pencils are cute and come with little bitty erasers. Key-yute.
6. Producers use to-do lists. Composers do not know what a to-do list is.
I’ve not been nearly as faithful a blogger as I had intended. I believe this is the experience of most diarists unless they actually “get religion” and find it an essential element of their lives. I have not yet attained that level of commitment or ardor…but I am still working at the FunnyMeanHappySad production.
I’ve learned one thing, right off the top. I do not know how to use google drive. I uploaded most of the sheet music for the performers days and days ago and I’m just now learning with less than two weeks to go that they did not have access to the folders. Bad producer. Bad publisher. Bad composer. And I would have to say one thing in my defense: I learn something new every day.
Here is the press release shared with media, social media and individuals on my list. That list surprised me by its size: more than 700 individuals, so far, have received this notice. I post it here as another step in the process of “letting the world know” about my next concert.
Now the hard part.
Planning counts. Rehearsals really count. By the time you get to the performance, everything has already happened except: 1) screaming, 2) yelling, 3) paperwork. And the job is not over until all of the paperwork is completed. I hope I've found my religion enough to post again tomorrow. Stay tuned?
Late last night I got an email from the violist scheduled for the FunnyMadHappySad concert. The next sentence will deliver the bad news. Our intrepid violist fell while downhill skiing and fractured her arm to the extent that she won’t be able to join us on 2/27.
Sighs and deep breathing ensues.
And the emails, texts and phone calls follow in quick succession. I am talking to people I’ve known for decades, folks I’ve met in passing and folks who are new to me – all with the help of people who I trust because I don’t have time to audition or work with a roster of violists. Sighs and deep breathing again.
I recently saw a movie about being a producer which stars Robert De Niro. “What Just Happened” is the name and what it portrays puts my little problems into perspective.
20 February 2022
Focus is now on the final stages of FunnyMeanHappySad rehearsals, production and promotion.
What “shows” is the promotion. Hundreds of social media and personal email invitations and narrow but amount to 2,000+ individuals and their friends, partners, and families. Print and online media outlets have received the press release. And finally, the least likely to be successful, broadcast media members have been contacted.
The very nature of an interactive event (FunnyMeanHappySad) means that the quality and quantity of the live audience’s experience will be much better with folks that can be drawn into the conversation. If there are 200 people in the room, many folks will be sitting on the perimeter and have little chance to speak or be heard. What is the “ideal” in-person number of audience members? 30-50 people would be ideal, I think.
As invitations are sent out to the venn diagram of communities that I belong to, I realize my diagram’s geography ranges over both coasts with concentrations in California, Denver, Minnesota/Iowa/Missouri, and an area that circles 150 miles from Manhattan. Of course, it is thrilling to review where that venn diagram has seeped into Europe and Australia but that is the rarity and exception. I am grateful for the collegial, personal, familial and professional associations that have nourished me for the past 40 years. I would recommend each of us to review our own legacy venn diagram. It will encourage you, humble you, and clarify what relationships need strengthening. No one is an island.
Who knew skiing injuries could play such an important role in producing a chamber music program in a Twin Cities suburb? I am tearful as I think of my dearest viola friend and colleague who is now recovering from a skiing accident. The operative word is “recovering.” Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever deter Judy MacGibbon from playing viola and sharing stories and jokes. She is a valued person in my life; one of the people closest to the center of my little venn diagram. Not family – she’d never agree to hang with those people. I’m just glad she puts up with me and my shenanigans.
And the old adage that “whenever God shuts a door, She opens a window” seems to have been proven, again. And by God, I mean violists.
I emailed and called a dozen violists in the last week in search of a solution to my “viola emergency.” With each contact, I re-energized my friendships with long-time colleagues or widened my network within the viola “community.”
The viola is the brunt of thousands of jokes. I won’t recall them here in interest of getting to the point but every violist is in an amazing, invisible partnership with all other violists of the world.
Not one of them is too proud to think they are better than any other. And more instructive, once you enter into the hidden society of musicians who all play the viola, they pass you through their midst as one would pass the fishes and loaves at a picnic in Judea. I love violists. It’s like Woodstock without the volume.
So the "opening window" is Thomas Bandar sent from God, herself. He is new to the Twin Cities where he has invigorated the Lutheran Summer Music program, a summer camp for talented young Lutheran musicians.
I was inspired decades ago when I visited my wife at LSM at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD where she was teaching oboe. What I witnessed inspired a piece that I suggested to Garrison Keillor. We ended up collaborating on The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra.
Anyway, Thomas is a chronic and excellent violist and has agreed to jump in with both feet to join us in the program.