All the way around is an intimate concert that you perform in different contexts and settings. One could also look at it as a dance performance. Why did you decide to frame it as a concert?
Doug: Originally, this work was created for a gallery space that primarily featured concerts. I was offered an evening by the curators, and the musicians I asked were all busy. So I decided to ask Meg if she might be interested in trying something. Of course, they were thrilled at the idea, because it was something new for them as well. And Meg’s reputation had preceded her! Since I am a jazz musician, I primarily deal in song forms, in the context of a set of music. My knowledge of and experience in Avant-Garde Theatre and Contemporary Dance was limited at that point to being an audience member. We both felt strongly that the Dance would not exist solely to support the Music and vice versa. In other words, we wanted to meet as equals. We settled on the idea of investigating songs, how they are played, and what they would stimulate in Meg’s imagination. We had some false starts and moments where we did not understand what the other was doing, but we also had trust, and were dedicated to investing time into the pieces so that we could create a cohesive set.
How did you work on this journey together?
We began by going to the studio and rolling out our Yoga mats. The bass was also there. We would warm up, and then I would eventually pick up the bass and start bowing long, slow notes just to warm up on the instrument. Meg would also start moving around the space. Somehow the first piece began, with Meg tapping into her archive and me just trying to be present with the notes and aware of her movement. It was very organic, really. The first ‘song’ had a beginning, some development, and an ending. From there we tried other things, some having to do with the sound of extended techniques on the bass, and others more concretely rooting in actual songs like “I’ll Remember April” and “Lonely Woman”. Once we had a dozen workable ideas we then tried different orders, to try to get a good flow of the overall work happening. We didn’t want too much ‘sameness’, rather we looked for a variety of intensities. I also realized that it would not do for me to simply stand there and play the bass; I eventually found my legs (or back) as a dancer.
In the announcement text, you write about memory. How is memory translated, written into the composition of music and movement, and both together? Could you elaborate on this?
Meg has spoken at length about bodily memory. Trauma, Joy, Fear, Exultation, Privation, Success and et cetera are not only experienced; They are also passed down from prior generations on a cellular level. Acknowledging these energies within us seems to be a starting point. Meg creates her movement language through many trials of improvisation, and then ‘sets’ it at a certain point. Still, within that set point, there is some wiggle room. The way the room feels, the audience, and of course the collaborators (in this case me) also affect each performance. We are not robots after all.
My early training in Jazz involved years of apprenticeship with Master Musicians who were sometimes 20 or 30 years my senior, as well as African Americans; I learned that to get the chance to play with them, I needed to gain their trust. In order to do that I had to speak the language of music in a way that they would be able to relate to. Then we could meet each other. My mentors also gained the advantage of playing with a younger musician and were therefore able to continue broadening their own spectrum of musical choices. We would meet in song forms, where there are certain unwritten rules of engagement. These ‘rules’, or formulas, have evolved over time and allowed musicians from around the world to gather and improvise together. They are the basis for Jazz Improvisation.
So, when Meg and I ‘play’ together, I am very much beginning in a place of memory, even including nostalgia, with the ultimate goal being to get to that place where the piece is just flowing within and out of and around us. In a way, we are erasing memory and nostalgia with new experiences. Or we transmute bodily and musical memories into the present, giving birth to a fresh dialogue between dance and music. To be able to experience this in this context is really quite special for both of us.