Living in the Music
Through the PAGES program at the Wexner Center for the Arts, students analyze art as a text, a form of communication. Painting, sculpture, photography, words- those are all fixedТ forms.Today, listening to the Kronos Quartet perform at Mershon Auditorium, I was reminded that music is a transitory text, which adds layers of experience. Students need this experience of trying to make sense of something that seems impossible to hold onto.
One of the musicians in the documentary compared music to perfume. Try describing your favorite perfume. Flowery? Pungent? Fragrant? How does this even begin to capture the essence of the scent?Т It’s difficult! How do you describe something that is invisible and constantly evolving?
My students are used to tangible, visible words- they can easily identify themes, figurative language, shifts, and tone. The real challenge is to have them do that with something intangible, invisible and ephemeral- music. Michael Torres, composer, saxophonist, and resident artist, tells my PAGES students to “live inside the music.” He tells them to stop and listen to the silence and listen to the everyday sounds of our experience. He shows us how.
In one exercise, students brought “found sound” recordings on their favorite devices- their phones. These are sounds that are part of their everyday experiences, but are neglected sounds. The tap tap tap of fingernails on a keyboard. The soft sounds of bubbles and running water in the sink. The swoosh swoosh zip of a thick winter coat. We more than heard the sounds, we listened. We identified tensions and layers and created a narrative. Our responses were grounded in the experience. We were living inside the sounds.
This practice will benefit them as they grow. They will be able to transfer these skills to different situations and different mediums. Their world is transitory and they will be better equipped to navigate it!