Recording project Light and Shadow: Avaloch Residency
After releasing a cricket rescued from my studio back into the grass to rejoin the chorus of chirping, I find myself in my favorite Avaloch spot, sipping a sweetened and milky cup of coffee on the large porch overlooking flowers and a field, in a luxurious rocking chair. I soak up those late summer smells of goldenrod, ripening apples and mown grass, admiring the echinacea flowers in several hues in their final bloom, their leaves touched with brown from the chilly mornings. The fall hovers in the near future and so does our recording date. But I linger, like this afternoon August sun, hoping that some still radiance will call forth an effortless ripening and mastery after hours of intensive rehearsal and practice.
I reflect on the residency so far. Its been 6 days of 6-8 hours of work on the recording project pieces. With some evenings eating pistachios with new friends on the Avaloch porch inventing sonnets and reciting poetry. Alys and I explored and debated each moment of music, studying the score, singing our parts, determining the pacing, the articulation. Sometimes we were on a fun adventure, and sometimes we found ourselves struggling against technical limitations. We compromised when we disagreed, recording and listening to different options then choosing one, both able to admit it when we were mistaken or misguided. We put on the metronome and slowly increased the speed in certain passage, one notch at a time. Some of the work arose from the particular challenges of the pieces, but the most profound growth arose as the rehearsals slowly revealed the inevitable differences in musical personality.
It takes incredible courage to allow the uncovering of the differences and edges of each others personalities and how they find their way into the music and may limit us. Its easy to want to blame or run and hide. Shining a light in the shadow can be very scary.
As the week unfolded, Alys and I did our best to be gentle, kind and patient navigating these tense places between us, using compromise, space, and compassion. I watched myself grow and change, in that achingly slow pace that real growth happens. I celebrated inside. Ive been asking for this, as a cellist, as a person. Craving that next step yet resisting it a bit too, as the sweetness of apples is brought forth by the frost, a certain letting go is required for ripening, a death of that same summers warmth that gave the fruit its form. Sometimes we wish for that eternal summer, but here in New England a crisp sweet apple, or even a tart one, and the vibrant colors of fall have taught us the value of frost.
After my afternoon coffee, more hard work, we reflect together with other ensembles over delicious plates of food made by Avalochs fabulous chef Will Gamble. The apple crisp sweetens away the hard work. It is also refreshing and a relief to hear others struggling in similar ways. Our conversation lightens and brings insight to our shared yet separate experiences. We plan a workshop after dinner. Alys and I perform several movements for our newly found friends and colleagues, to put our hard work to the test. We share an open discussion of suggestions and feedback, and gave feedback to our friends when the play. Acronym, a baroque ensemble also in residence, returns from a day of recording. The evening transforms into an improvisation jam session consisting of two harps, an electronic instrument, saxophone, myself on cello and Alys on piano. Others weave in and out. I feel all the hard work melting away as I throw myself into pure responsiveness and spontaneity to those around me, making all sorts of sounds and rhythms, being a support for others, then bursting forth with a melodic solo. Across our ensembles, without written notes or worries, we connect in a language we all know, with music that never has been heard before and will never be heard again. I feel completely free, and completely connected in each moment to those around me, to the music to my cello. A beautiful ending to our week at Avaloch.