Andy Clausen - August 21st, 2011
Context for the Piece:
On a recent trip to California I took a walk on a beach I know extremely well; a place I have experienced dozens of times in 18 years worth of holidays spent in this small community. An insomnia-fueled impulse brought me down to the beach around midnight, after my family had drifted to sleep. The experience of walking alone along the moonlit shore was one of profound personal significance. Never have I felt such exuberance, such childlike zeal from seeing this familiar sea, sand, and sky. As I watched the gentle August waves tumble into the sand, I was particularly touched by the wash of sound that flooded my ears with memories; nostalgia for my countless experiences in the area. I ended up pacing up and down the beach for about an hour, listening to the waves, looking at the stars, smelling the rotting seaweed that had washed ashore, all while the wet sand oozed through my toes. This beautifully new experience came to me in one of the most familiar of places.
As emotional beings, we live for these simple, poetic moments. They conjure up our most powerful feelings, and our most vivid memories. What fascinates me as an artist, and one who documents my experiences and emotions through the medium of sound, is how this experience was able to stimulate the exact same emotional response that I’ve felt while listening to a beautiful Mahler symphony, or talking with a close friend, or reading my favorite Wallace Stevens poem. So what is the underlying element that (hopefully) allows ALL of us to tap into in this same feeling through vastly different experiences?
In my own observation, when these rare moments do occur, it is in the meeting of the familiar with the unfamiliar. For instance, only when I experienced a very familiar place; the Carmel Beach, in a completely new light (or darkness); the solace of the night, was I able see the landscape in a way that made perfect sense to me. But perhaps by our human nature, we are culturally, or even biologically groomed to experience this feeling in seemingly unfamiliar situations. We can listen to a great Symphony for the first time and still fully experience “it” because we are psychologically in tune enough, even if unconsciously, with principles of melody, harmony, rhythm, architecture and maybe most importantly, the DRAMA in music, that a well composed piece can elicit physical and emotional reactions in a new listener. Similarly, in reading unfamiliar prose or poetry, we can explicitly comprehend the author’s message through language, but when emotions based on our past experiences are stirred up, we establish a much deeper connection with the text.
In grappling with these thoughts over the past few weeks I was compelled to create music which reflects this moment of profound beauty; the exuberance I felt on the familiar beach, or the joy of talking to a very good friend.
This Sunday I will present a new song cycle I have collaboratively developed with Corey Dansereau. One of my closest, and oldest musical associates, Corey has greatly shaped my identity, and understands my musical language better than anyone. For this project, I have assumed the very unfamiliar role as pianist and vocalist in the group, while Corey contributes his vocals and trumpet playing. The piece consists of numerous simple sketches, each reminiscent of a specific poetic moment Corey and I have shared. Instrumental sections are bridged by commentary and reflection in song. Also joining us will be Luke Bergman with his voice and acoustic bass.
See you all this Sunday!!