About me

I am an active composer, music teacher, farmer, and organizer of music events. I share a monthly Music as Meditation concert with listeners and fellow musicians and I organize several concerts of new music each year. I use this blog to tell people about my musical endeavors. You can find pages about The Davis Hill Farm and The Davis Hill Studio on this blog. Look for the orange link on the right-hand side of the page.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Meditation on Spring

    The vernal equinox is past, and the days are beginning to get warmer. I've planted seeds in little containers and covered them with tents of plastic bags. I'm looking forward to the day I can get my hands dirty putting the plants into the ground outside. My effort, though, will not hurry or slow the progress of spring arriving around us.
    Last April I took the picture on my Music as Meditation card for this season. I was entranced by the beauty of the maple leaves as they emerged from the confinement of the winter bud. The form of the leaves, their perfection, and their ability to capture moisture as light drew me out into the woods many times last year. I expect that by the time the ground is bare again, I will wander through last summer's leaves taking more pictures.
    In the meantime, I've been sitting at the piano composing a short piece filled with complex patterns. I've enjoyed it both for its brevity and for its intricacy. I finished it the other day. The place from which the notes come offered finality instead of more notes. Now I just need to work them into fluency. I hope to share this piece with you all at Meditation on April 1. If not then, I will certainly play it on May 6.
    In this end-of-winter, not-yet spring time, I've also been writing music for a production of Shakespeare's Tempest that my daughter-in-law will be assistant directing this coming summer. My son will help the actors with the music. I have been as excited by this work as a toddler who has been given a big vat of mud to play in on a spring day. When I can carve out two or three hours, I get lost in the work and only find myself when the alarm rings to tell me to move on to some other task.
    The Tempest is full of reference to the world that was "new" to the Europeans of the 17th century. Think of Miranda's exclamation "Oh brave new world, that has such creatures in it." Shakespeare makes fun of his gullible fellow citizens by creating a man-fish named Caliban. Some scholars think that the name Caliban is an acronym for Cannibal. What's clear is that Shakespeare knew of travel accounts from "Brazil" and "Canada." He likely knew of Montaigne's essay Of Cannibals which recounts Montaigne's interaction with some Tupinamba people who had been "persuaded" to visit Europe.
    I spent some of my time playing in the mud vat of creation delving into what is known about the Tupinamba and their music. Several Europeans wrote down the music. Some Tupinamba still sing their music. They sing it while working toward the emancipation of their land. Here is a short documentary about contemporary Tupinamba people. Scholars don't quite agree, but it's possible that the Tupinamba gave the world the Maraca. I am incorporating Maracas into the music for the tempest. The Maraca was a sacred object to the Tupinamba. I'm hoping to get the actors to wear leg rattles as well.
      This is an image from Jean de Lerýs account of staying with the Tupinamba in 1557. The poses of the men are characteristic of their dancing postures. In his account de Lerý describes listening the the singing of the Tupinamba as a transcendant experience. I am so grateful that de Lery wrote down their music in a language accessible to me, even if I am not pleased with the result, these many centuries later, of colonization and extraction of resources.
       I mean to create a more detailed blog from what I've learned about this topic, so please stay posted. I will share what I know as I learn more. In the meantime, I hope you can join me for Music as Meditation on a first Sunday this spring.

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