September – December 2013 My certification program, while I didn’t exactly know it at the time, began in July with Pauline and the ensemble of 7 dancers and 7 singers I have gathered for a yearlong research project investigating the voice and the body through sound and movement. The project is titled “Voice/Movement Research: Inquiry into an improvisational, compositional practice.” During a break on the first or second day, I was having lunch with Pauline, I expressed the great connection I was feeling to the sessions she was facilitating and curious about how to integrate a Deep Listening practice more fully into my work and life. She told me about the certification program and I decided with great clarity “Yes! I will enroll.”
I enjoyed immensely reading the Anthology of Essays on Deep Listening. These different voices articulating their experiences in Deep Listening affirmed my own. I realize that I have been a Deep Listener of sorts since I was very young.
The intensive with Pauline in July was deeply inspiring and awakening. Suddenly, many connections were made in my body/mind and I felt very excited about this new (not unfamiliar )– but more deeply embodied practice. The body practice, the reflection time and journaling integrated into the sessions was very useful. I wrote this on the first day:
Hum study. Hearing others – support of other voices with mine. Liked that very much. Overtones in Pauline’s hum – visual image – earth tone base – movement above. Cupping ears to hear – accentuates listening – hearing – amazing amount of overtones – inspired me so much. Hearing my own voice – a little difficult to hear my own voice. Really listen and hear it. Feel aversion to this.
This is more significant than I realized at the time, what I wrote here. There is much to remember and integrate about this first weekend session.
Inclusive and exclusive listening. Sit like gorilla. Like a baby. Noticed the air conditioner- how many sounds are in that one sound. What was first one sound became very full complex combination of sounds.’ My mind left listening sometimes and started to dream a bit. Although one moment I heard trombones – Lucie (my niece) playing with others. Noticed sound of body. Pauline’s breath next to me. My breath. Very relaxed.
When I started my listening journal, immediately I was found the process very creative – almost as though through listening, I was composing my listening, or sound was responding to my listening and composing itself. What is that relationship between the Deep Listener and the environment of sound? It is always interesting to me.
Airplane jet carving the air – knife blade sounds – rounded scraping edges – rippling – My cat Colette’s tongue right here near my ears. Delicate light licks. Traffic in front of house. Voices. Snippets of conversations – passing my ears. During day, exclusive listening. Language. Notice voices – tones, timbres, rhythms, laughter.
Does listening change what I hear? Change the sounds? Perception as creative process. Perception creates connections.
In September I created a site-specific performance part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in a rambling old half-abandoned church in South Philadelphia. Part of our warm-up included “Reaction Time” exercises. The score was similar to the one Pauline shared with the ensemble including ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’, responding instantly to the beginning or ending of a sound. If you miss that instantaneous reaction, let it go. We tried this score with movement only. We tried it with our eyes closed as to not rely so heavily on the visual. This was very challenging. We tried sending and receiving with both sound and movement. This practice at every rehearsal was very instructive.
In this piece, I was interested in sound connected to its source (movement with objects or instruments) and then sound heard, but with the sound source not being visible. The structure of part of the piece included two simultaneous duets of sound and movement. The audience only saw one duet at a time, but heard the composite sound scores of both duets while watching only one at a time. This created an interesting relationship with memory and history. I was pleased with the how the piece culminated, inviting audience to sit with us, together, and simply be in the remarkable space. Dance writer Carolyn Merrit wrote a review of the performance for an online dance journal ThinkingDance.net. She concludes, talking about the final section:
“If places speak to us, they can also speak through us.
United on the first floor, Stein’s crew raise, turn, and reground curving mahogany pews before us. I see the work of establishing and resettling a congregation, the changing fabric of a neighborhood, cultural shifts in urban America. As the music fades, the performers invite us to the pews.
We sit, wait, and listen.”
* * * * * * *
I’d like to be a composer – or at least try composing. What does that mean? What does that look like?
It’s funny that I wrote ‘what does that look like’ and not what does that ‘sound’ like!
Two improvisational performances in the fall were directly influenced by DL practice. New patience, trusting my own responsiveness, integrating voice and movement without attention compromised.
Teaching at Drexel University this entire year as a Full-time Visiting Professor. The time demands are enormous. If it were not for the Voice/Movement Research Project, I think I would be struggling even more. This fall, in addition to two other courses, making a dance on the students, initiating an Open Studio informal performance series, I taught Dance Improvisation. I invited an improvisational music ensemble to join midway through the quarter. Many of the dancers had never danced with live music before. This was a treat for all. The focus naturally was listening, which united all levels of experience and training beautifully! It was a very mixed class in training and experience. We did an informal showing including all students in the class and the musicians. The students were authentic and present. It was very rewarding to see the brand new beginners who had never danced alongside the technical virtuosos each demonstrating great sensitivity, taking risks, built on a solid foundation of trusting the listening process.
Looking back in my journal, I found this quote from Pauline:
“Composing direction of attention allows many differently able people to participate.”
I think of how this applies also to my teaching young people. It was wonderful to connect with Leila in our group and hear about her approach to teaching music to kids and the “sticking” practice she developed. I purchased the boomwackers and my students responded incredibly well! We integrated movement with the rhythmic patterning. I invited the students to develop variations and create new rhythms. They instantly became engaged, even the reluctant ones took part.
* * * * * * * * *
In October, I was very challenged by one session with Pauline and the Voice/Movement ensemble where we did a score from Anthology of Text Scores. The ensemble was still forming as a collective and some still very new to Deep Listening practice. In hindsight, I know that I was beginning at that point to teeter under the weight of full-time teaching at Drexel. My experience was that I really wanted to the improvisation to end. I wanted everyone to find the finish. But this desire interrupted my attention to the point that I was trying to make something happen, far more than listening! In hindsight, I wonder if my experience during that one hour and 45 minute improvisation that Pauline allowed to go on as long as it needed, that my attention was distracted by something else (my work overload) that I really did want to end! Perhaps, I couldn’t separate from the feelings in my life, from the improvisation. I can see now that this distracted attention was influencing the ‘never-ending’ improvisation, perhaps, to go on even longer! I must say that I learned from this difficult moment in my own practice.
I am very interested in how the ‘observer’ or ‘listener’ changes what is happening.
My dream journal is more full than I can begin to describe! I have learned, that I need much more time than I give myself to ‘listen’, to transition, to integrate, to articulate.
The fall was so busy adjusting to teaching full-time, continuing to keep my dance company going, maintaining one outside teaching commitment with kids because I wanted to continue when my one year position at Drexel ended, and seeing 3 clients for healing energy work, I was more over extended than I ever remember. I dreamed one night that I was night driving and falling asleep. I tried so hard to stay awake, I could feel the pull of sleep, knew it was very dangerous. It was raining. I couldn’t see. My car must have drifted into the other lane. Huge splash. Realized in an instant that it must be a car in the opposite direction. I was going to hit straight on. I woke up.
This dream was right before the quarter finished and I enjoyed a much needed break.
I am learning to listen to my dreams, listen in my dreams.
Pauline said to us:
“If you listen to the space – you can find space in the space.”