There is no template. One of the satisfying things about putting together a fully original show is that there is no template. You have to make it all up. Every choice has to be made. Sure, gallery shows have templates, or a series of choices that can be tweaked so that it's only "mostly a copy" of something done before.
The “base” of an art gallery show is white walls, soccer stadium style lighting, MAYBE a bit of jazz or soft folk music in the background, and perhaps a bit of wine. And if you want to get really artistic, you can take those choices and plug in your own original ideas. What if there was – gasp – some “rock and roll” music playing? Perhaps some – eeek – graffiti on the walls? Theatrical shows are often similar. Do you build a realistic set or really shake things up with some symbolic structures? (Whoa... this box is both a chair AND a tree!?) Or maybe go full “black box” with no set... or maybe even a park? You get the choice of what song to play in the lobby before the show. That is, there is a slot in the template for that choice. You also get to choose what kind of music to play in the theater space before the curtain speech - if the script contract allows for that. And it's all extremely original and unique, and artists absolutely blow minds with the things they are allowed to plug into these templates. But there isn't much of a template for what we've decided to do. That's a little bit of a problem because templates, while they feel extremely long-in-the-tooth and exhausted, let people know what they are doing. What they might see. What they might experience.
You know what it's like to go to theater – even if it's outside a theater.
Is there music pre-show?
Do people sit? Stand? Move about? Is it loud and wild, or gentle? Poetic? Straightforward? Scary? Funny? This template (which doesn't exist) doesn't come with prescribed words.
We have to write and memorize them all. But not every part of this “show” is a “show.”
So we need to craft transitions from “show” to
“now we're just hanging out and discussing things.” Today is a music day. There is no template.
There is no ready-made music cue that comes with the script for the description of “he applies for art academy, is rejected because he's still a child, but he doesn't care because he has found love.” (That is literally the way that I “write music”)
So we get out the viola, the Odilon (our original instrument built to make music for this show) a garbage keyboard, some silverware to rattle together, a couple of guitars, and a Tonette from grade school. And we start piecing together the music. There is no template for music for this “show.” Certainly no template for “surround sound music” for this “show.”
No template that says to set the stereo microphones up in the center of the room and play different pieces from different areas so that, when played back, the audience will “feel” the music move around them. There is an infinite amount of choices to be made. Even the choices to create more choices... like “should a bit of haze creep into the room whenever the music turns somber?”
There is a set of cards that work well for when artists find themselves creating their own template to build something original from. A game of sorts that was created by an artist by the name of Brian Eno. This “game” is called “Oblique Strategies” and is simply a box of one-hundred-or-so cards with
statements or remarks meant as random suggestions for how to approach choices such as those mentioned above. As a side note about Brian Eno, if you're not yet familiar with him: Not very long ago, people used to own media. DVD's, CD's, Tapes, Records, even books. Brian Eno, while not “extremely popular” for his own works, has been insanely influential to other artists and his collaborative efforts are so widespread that it has been said that nearly every home in the modern world contains at least one piece of his work.
The cards have such things as:
Use an old idea. State the problem in words as clearly as possible. Only one element of each kind. What would your closest friend do? What to increase? What to reduce? Are there sections? Consider transitions. Try faking it! Honour thy error as a hidden intention. Ask your body. Work at a different speed.
When you come to a place where you feel a little jammed up and don't know what choice to make – or if there even should be a choice to make – you select a card and attempt to follow it's “suggestion.”
Should you care to play around with these Oblique Strategies, there is a website that serves as a online pack of cards (since none of us OWN any physical media any longer.) https://www.oblique-strategies.com/
As we were working on recording the music and soundscapes today, I found myself slightly stuck on how to exactly approach one of my musical notes of “sharp sound and then fade off and pitch bend down like in blade runner.” So I selected an Oblique Stratagies card. And it read, “Give the game away.” So here I am. Stepping away from my musical conundrum and posting a blog to share with you this game. And in doing so, I have been reminded of the interesting tape-loop techniques Brian Eno has employed for various projects.
Which reminded me that I have an old, crappy, reel-to-reel recorder sitting in the garage, covered in sawdust. And THAT seems like the perfect thing to record a sharp, harsh bit of tonette onto and then play back while holding one of the reels... slowing it... pitching it down... just like in blade runner. Find some time this day to work outside any ready-made template.