Yesterday Marked A Couple Nifty Firsts For Me
First of all I got to perform at Salon de Ning [one of three in the world, google that shit], which is one of the most beautiful venues I’d ever seen in my ever. And which is home to an entire ROOM filled with Imelda’s shoes. Clearly, i was enamored. The crowd was surprisingly receptive for such an upscale place, and it was all around a really brilliant experience. Also the management liked what we threw together so much they bought me a much-needed whiskey, so that was a splendid sign.
But more importantly, I had the opportunity to collaborate with this musical ensemble I’ve working with tangentially [also tour-managed by the illustrious BSide Productions] named Deoro and comprising Dave Eggar on cello and piano [though i’m not sure the buck stops there…], Chuck Palmer on percussion, Ariel dela Portia on the upright bass, and the insanely talented Jason Oremus, one of the best Irish step dancers in the world. I mean, these cats are just unreal. They’re absolutely engaging to watch and listen to, and they’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
So when after our joint performance at Carlos’ The Living Room last week, they asked me to collaborate a little more in-depth-ly, I said yes even though I had no idea what the fuck we were gonna do or how the fuck it would work out.
We ended up doing this: I read two short pieces from this here blog [Manila Under the Covers #s 3 & 5] as they underscored my words beautifully. BUT THEN, we tried this thing where I read a much longer, sort of rambling piece about my relationship to New York [kind of maybe a pre-break-up break-up letter?] while they played around, through, behind, and over me…
It… felt… magnificent. The piece is as close to stream-of-consciousness as my perfectionist ass can come, and what ended up becoming of it was that my words were sort of rendered into an instrument… I found a rhythm with them by the end, like a guitar taking solos then fading back, or playing with/off the bass or drums or cello. It took some easing into but by the third installment of the one and a half hour set, I feel like we were really grooving… it was as though the audience had a choice where I seldom leave them one: a choice to hear my words or not. I hadn’t really any control over it… I mean I pushed certain segments and there were clear moments when Chuck, Ariel, and Dave felt me rising and pulled back a tad to give my words more clarity, but on the whole, I was only as clear as they wanted to work for me to be.
For someone who clings to the failure of language, it was incredibly humbling. Because as hypocritical as it might sound, so much of my other pieces that I’ve read or performed have hinged on a captive audience… one that I wield and batter and coax and prod carefully as I myself experience language’s inevitable failings. But this was almost the reverse of that… I felt myself sliding into a comfort at having meaning absolutely dissolve from the words my mouth was spewing alongside the other voices of the instruments. There was this dissolution of, I guess, verbal meaning that gave way to the other languages being braided into mine.
The fallout was pretty fuckin’ awesome, I gotta say. I could see people’s heads turning from me to the cello, and see them tune in and out of my words that continued on steadily, picking up scraps of my poem the way you’d spot a salmon in a stream.
I’ve never played an instrument for shit. Never thought I had it in me, I guess. But last night I felt, more than anything, like a musician. And my instrument wasn’t my voice… it was my words. And the music wasn’t in my rhythm… it was in the vacillations of my coherency on the listener’s ear.
I fell head-over-heels… for the whole thing… for Deoro… for the tides in people’s attention… it was an incredible experience looking back on it, and I hope very badly that I can work with these guys again before they peace out and head back to Brooklyn.