Archive for March, 2008

“Question reality” (The Mountain Astrologer)
“If the means is impure the result is impure” (Gandhi)
“Only two things are certain: death and taxes” (old saying)

To question reality one must first find reality. But where is reality? What is it? Reality is not one-dimensional – both quantum scientists and Buddhist monks have questioned even the reality of reality itself, as the observer is involved in the observed and therefore affecting it in some way. Reality could very well be a kind of slippery, elusive, subjective-objective continuum.

Reality in the expression “reality show” is actually a synonym for human experience – which is not, truth be told, the whole of reality.

Reality is sometimes a synonym of negativity: bursting your bubble, taking off the rosy-colored glasses. Reality hits when something suddenly disrupts your habitual sets of patterns. More often than not, reality is synonym of catastrophe or mishap.

With the life-through-screens we now enjoy thanks to the computerized (or other-ized) exciting colored displays, portables and other devices that blend the real and the imagined, the world we have built for ourselves is partially virtual, as news stories, invented characters and imaginary situations play a role, but where is our reality? There is a blending of the experienced and the imaginary; there is also the experienced-through-film, seen-on-film reality like the footage of ground zero after ‘it’ happened. Through our outlets on the internet we can be viewed through our writing, images, music, art, via our real persona or an invented one; this brings us closer to a continuum of creativity.

Reality is the change that takes place at every second, whether this change is tiny, gradual or revolutionary. Questioning reality is being aware of when the so-called “real world” offers a set of options that is too limited, too crushing, when the phoniness of the alternative screens and scenarios loses its charms. But it seems to me reality could very well be the whole Buddhist hot dog, the lived, the phony and the virtual as well.

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Recently perusing a Brooklyn newsleaf (actually, no other than the wonderful L Magazine, an illustrated listing of goings-on in New York, which I still cannot find in my Manhattan downtown neighborhood), I noticed on the cover something about the death of the ‘avant-garde’ in New York. Intrigued, I looked at the article inside went through a list of the names that would constitute the avant-garde in all different art forms (literature, art, music, theater, etc.) but in a ‘dude’ kind of style that makes everything appear cool and of-the-now. The article was a misnomer, as obviously the old avant-garde is not dead and remains a culture of interest even for the blasé new gen-X, Y and Zs.

Striving for a definition of avant-garde, I would tend to think it is a matter of spirit, and attitude, rather than an esthetic per se that defines avant-garde – I am aware that many of us hate the expression “avant-garde” as a synonym of old and stuffy. I can’t help recalling Stefania de Kennessey’s “derrière garde” festival a few years back: the funny thought was to replace “arrière” — which would be the opposite of “avant”— by “derrière” which means both behind and the corresponding body part.

But there is something deeper in this expression, which points to how the avant transforms into the arrière very quickly. Creative attitudes easily change. I don’t see young composers being even interested in being revolutionary. Maybe that is something from the past. Maybe there are just too many possible forms of expression and technological miracles, and it is now unnecessary to be revolutionary in art. And that’s all been done before. Even being original seems pointless or can even be a deterrent to audiences, funders or even performers – if your music does not identify itself as part of a style or trend by some element of commonality, if it is not readily understandable, it will easily be dismissed.

Avant-post synchronicity is basically the creative cycle that occurs when an idea is broken in by someone, and it may first come as a shock, and possibly be ignored or under-rated or even criticized for a while, until years later other creators recycle the idea more successfully that the initiator. The “avant” is an outburst but the “post” is what hits the target. I have on occasion been a victim of this avant-post phenomenon – and most true creators probably have. Coming up with a new idea, but doing too early for it to be a viable vehicle – until someone else picks it up and makes it into that award-winning film soundtrack. When the “post” hits, what are the original creators to do? Laugh or cry… but most of all not look back.

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