This year’s adventure is joining legendary guitarist Steve Vai on tour for 100 shows in nearly 30 different countries of North America & Europe.
That’s an energy I want to capture. And I’ve come up with a plan to do it.
Our last show is Dec. 17th in Spain, and four days later, on Fri. Dec. 21st I’ll play my first solo show in nearly 6 months, in my own hometown theatre. The timing was intentional, to capture what I call an “Experiential Resonance,” a performance scheduled and structured in a way to capture and release my own resonance to an outside experience.
How does that work?
- The timing needs to quickly follow the experience itself.
- The structure of the show needs to be strong enough to hold its own shape no matter what, but flexible enough – via areas for improvisation — to expand, contract and transform.
- The performance needs to be solo so that, as much as possible, I’m free to respond, resonate and riff off everything I’ve just experienced myself.
When all of that is in place, the show becomes a powerful vehicle for “Experiential Resonance.” The performance reveals the artist — in ways they would never allow or could never access when they’re just ‘being themselves’ – and also reflects the experience they’ve just had.
But wait — my other self says — don’t all performances, improvised or not, resonate a performer’s life experience?
Sure. But there are ways to heighten that effect. For me, it’s from the resonance of ideas.
I first saw what new ideas can do to my own playing when I was a presenter at the Boston Ideas conference, a TED-like conference sponsored by the Boston Globe and WGBH. I knew the conference would be filled with highly-condensed presentations from visionaries way outside my own field.
I specifically requested my own presentation be scheduled near the end of the 2-day conference, then I attended every single presentation.
I wanted to see what would happen to my mind from those presentations and how that mindframe would reflect in my performance.
I’d created a rough structure of my own 20-minute presentation, and when it was time to go on stage, I tried to leave myself as open as possible to the influence of the ideas I’d experienced in those two days, and to let them shape my performance. Which was risky. But worth it.
I allowed myself to talk and play simultaneously, to accompany my thoughts with music and to let both the music and the words erupt and be refracted by how I’d experienced the other presenter’s ideas.
The performance was explosive for me – and from the response, the audience had a similar response. I experienced myself as a resonator, as if the music I produced was created by the other presentations – each of which encapsulated major work of a visionary in a field very different from my own: science, prosthetics development, medicine, engineering, arts.
I became everything I’d experienced of their work for the space of that performance.
The music was still mine, and it still included all the elements of my own musical language: melody, rhythm, story, bombast, tenderness. I still expressed it through my own musical vocabulary: variants of Flamenco, Blues, percussion, lyricism …
But what I was playing resonated powerfully with my experience of their work, and I structured my own performance with enough room for improvisation that I could let myself be played by their ideas.
When people ask me what kind of music inspires me, it’s hard to explain that ideas are what inspire me, and the further those ideas are from the specifics of my own field, the more they seems to help reveal my own voice. As though in trying to translate something untranslatable to my own language, I find a voice that’s more true-to-the-me-I-didn’t-or-couldn’t-know-is-there.
And that is why I scheduled a solo show immediately after this intense, completely-other experience of touring as an electric-harpist with rock legend Steve Vai:
Knowing that I will have just been immersed for months in the work of a musical visionary from a world far from my own — Vai, the quintessental rock guitar ‘shredder’ — I was determined not to lose the moment of impact. I want to capture the moment, before I start to consciously ‘work on’ the ideas I see in his work, and capture myself while what I’ve experienced is ‘working on me.’
Which is why I was blown away that I could book this show the night of the Solstice – Dec. 21. ‘Solstice’ comes from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (stand), so represents our relationship to our own light source – making the Winter Solstice, literally the moment when greater enlightenment begins. That’s the moment I want to capture.
My Solstice Show is Fri. Dec. 21st at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA.
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