There’s a tension that exists between natural and artificial order. You can be creative by playing that tension as if it was a tuned string. If you continue to play, you will undergo a transformation that unifies art and nature. You merge with everything. I don’t understand it entirely, but I’ve been trying to find ways to facilitate the process.
The Seattle Symphony came to my little town for a concert. World-class orchestras play at a very high level of expertise. They consist of performers who have trained and practiced for many years, and they come from all over the world to be a part of these organizations. When a great orchestra plays, it’s as note-perfect as the best movie soundtrack you’ve ever heard in IMAX with Dolby Surround – but it’s more exciting. It’s live. The conductor is channeling the energy and attention of the thousand people watching and listening. He combines it with his own feelings about the music. The energy passes through his hands, directing and shaping the dynamics of how the orchestra plays. A meaningful story beyond the expression of words passes back and forth between the audience and the performers.
The template for this sharing is the music itself. The main grand work for the evening was Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, written in 1893. It’s a very popular work in the Romantic tradition, and it continues to inspire current composers. Here’s a bit from the fourth movement.
We sat close enough for the loud parts to make my sternum vibrate in resonance. A full orchestra playing as loud as an airplane taking off still won’t damage your hearing, because the individual instruments are (except for some percussion) made of organic materials. It’s natural frequency vibration, like the symphonies created by wild weather and oceans.
We got together on Independence Day with a group of neighbors. One of their houses was in sight of several fireworks displays. Fireworks on the Fourth close the circle of history. The beginning point may be viewed as an armed revolution against a tyrannical king, but it’s also the intentional separation of all children from parents in order to establish an independent adult life. At the end of the cycle, you get to sit together and view the explosive power of these past passionate conflicts with joy, OO-ing and AH-ing over the colors and loud noises.
After the fireworks, our host took me around the house to see his collection of tribal masks. My favorite was a transformation mask of Raven, a key character in the teaching stories of those who have lived here longest. Raven is the original organizer, playing roles of trickster, transformer, teacher, catalyst and chief spirit. He is also a relentless schemer and practical joker, lustful, impulsive, cunning, shameless and without remorse.
Raven could transform himself into anything at any time. He could live in the sea, ascend into the sky, and make things happen by willing them into being. His antics were often motivated by greed and he loved to tease, cheat, woo and trick. All too often, the tables turn on the hapless, impatient Raven. Is any of this behavior sounding familiar?
Transformation masks are used in dances symbolizing the truth that we project our own egos onto the other animals. Our understanding of them is limited to our own context, and encased in our concepts of motives and behavior. When we strip away their external form, we find ourselves. The external aspect of the creature is a darkly painted raven, with nostrils and mouth outlined in bright red paint. The masked dancer swings his head from one side to the other as the Raven’s face is thrown open to reveal the mask inside, the face of a man.
Raven was always able to become me. I’m trying to reverse-engineer that kind of transformation. I want to break out from this slow costume of human flesh, so I can fly as freely as my thoughts and dreams.