A 365-Day Project
"We Are All Mozart"
A project to create
Dreams. It's Sunday morning, and I've just awakened from a long, complex one that's dropping to the mental floor like floating shards of glass milkweed.
The high school degree, back to get it, the math class to finish. Yes, no, flash. It's a high school class but for the PhD. The registration area, like a cafeteria, but with a wall of office furniture. Carrying bottles of wine for later, must find the locker combination for them, 10-2-4. No car. Where is the car? No passport. No transcript. It's time to register, but classes are missed already. Why did that happen? Oh, yes, breakfast with someone very important, clearly, up that short walkway to the tables. The aromas of eggs frying. No, not a restaurant. Is that a yard sale? More like a farmer's market. The wine is to go there, but the plane is leaving soon. Oh, wait, it's a German street market and the wine shop is about to close. The triangular corner cabinet is heavily decorated, with cut glass in the door. Offer the wine. Homemade it is, in lustrous green bottles in a bouquet and it has dill blossoms in the bottle. And fish? There are fish swimming in the wine. No, it must be water, then. Yes, this is a sample of how the display looks. Aren't the fish clever? How did they get there? This really was wine. Close the cabinet; tomorrow for the real wine as the owners chatter in non-functional German. Where is the car? Must meet back at the school, and some old friends are there, all younger, much younger, but all adults. Adults in this high school? The thought fades for there's the car in the attached bedroom, near the wine shop, but the car's windshield is loose. No, not loose. It's come off and sits on the bed, and the car is a convertible. The windshield snaps back in place like a plastic model car. It's light. Two tab-and-slot combinations hold it lightly and two screws secure it on each side. The screws are stripped? How? And where will new ones come from? Far to drive, and fast, can't take the risk of it blowing off. Ah, a wooden drawer of screws. But none are quite right. Yes, metric sizes. Who is that in a hurry? The screws drop. The milkweed shatters and floats toward the floor...
However coldly sweaty they leave me, dreams are marvelous things. They are like compositions, improvisatory elaborations of seed ideas embedded in the background image of our lives for hours or days or years.
The seeds drawn from the real -- the class never finished, the PhD just received, the wine shop, vinegar with dill, fish in the pond yesterday, my car just recently sold -- but the imaginative weaving of a new story from them, however non-linear and full of parallel details, astonish. And that was just the end of the story. What was the rest of it like? Adventure dreams, travel dreams, terror dreams, memory dreams, dreams that fix older dreams, dream people (real and invented, alive and dead), all inhabit my sleeping hours. There is a familiar environment of pseudo-towns and Escheresque streets and houses that collapse ifth-of-oofthlike into themselves that I recognize each time, and whose location and behavior can be counted upon ... at least until they can't.
That is how art works. Ordinary seed materials we all share, experiential or genetic, inform how we work.
Or do they? Having faced the Adorno question again, paging through hand-me-down toilet-top New Yorkers that chronicle the U.S. Information Agency's interest in abstract impressionism, and considering the number of hands-off composers working (the algorithmic composers, from simple math through fractal and genetic algorithms), I begin to wonder how much art is truth.
Certainly I believe art should speak truth. But this belief is tarnished by composers who create by formula. No, it's not that algorithms, say, don't contribute to the development of ideas, and if they are experimental, so much the better. But if they are experiments, one would expect a result. If if they are not experiments, one would expect substance. In other words, the further an art travels along the line from concept to fruition to development to completion -- and this applies to an individual artwork as well -- the more each of its experiments would be validated and incorporated or invalidated and discarded. Experiment yields new information, new ideas, new manners of working. The results of experiment yield a something out of which can be made art with a wider reach, music that gathers more listeners into its bosom.
In 1999, this idea was presented at Dartmouth when I spoke about "eclecticism and mediocrity, and the purpose of music -- particularly experimental music. It's my ongoing internal debate over [its] validity or purpose." Much of it still makes sense. An excerpt:
The dream world has its own experiment, validates its own facts, draws its own conclusion, and manifests its own substance. The ordinary informs the illusory, the super-reality of our minds. That is what art touches.
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