out there ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood
at this very moment, at this very time, with stacks and stacks of paintings and music, we both succumb to the realization that we are – indeed – under construction. the rests between the notes are there for a reason. space to breathe, to comprehend, to make the color and the music a part of your fiber.
the rests change you. they change how you see, how you hear. they give you pause. to re-appreciate what you have done and to wonder what will come. to be aware of the light.
it is the skill of an artist to learn how to sit in the rests without fidgeting. to just sit. it is an even higher level skill to create the rest. and then sit in it.
there was not room on island for my piano, sheets of blank score paper, baskets of notebooks of lyrics, melody smidges, chord progression fragments. they waited at home for my return.
consumed by many tasks and layers of work since we arrived back home, we are surrounded by boxes and bins still unpacked. there is much to do. we have many other things tugging at us and these packed boxes, although frustratingly in the way, have sunk to a lower rung on the list of things-to-do.
i have been in and out of my studio, grabbing music as i need it, playing through a piece here and there, reviewing music for work. i have added a few notes to notebooks, to my calendar, a line of lyric here and there to remember on scraps i hope not to lose.
the other day i pulled out cds, finding a few with pieces that didn’t get tracked. rough cuts of piano for under lyrics, rough cuts of piano instrumentals. every artist has them…the cuts that didn’t get finished, the cuts that didn’t make it to the album. scraps of paper, notebooks of ideas, rough cuts of beginnings. they all eventually lead somewhere. no idea, no melodic gesture, no lyric stands alone.
and so, my really beautiful big resounding piano waits for me as i am quiet. pencils i’ve saved from The Boy’s and The Girl’s pencilboxes sit atop, next to blank score paper, notebooks and pa pads. they all wait. the muse waits. the music waits.
WAIT A WHILE ROUGH CUT et al ©️ 1995-2019 kerri sherwood
as barney ages in our backyard, he clings to his original form – he is a piano, first and foremost.
barney has spent the last four years in our backyard. his presence is inspiring. rescued from the dark church basement boiler room he had been in, the light of the sun and weather he now endures have brought nuance to his life as a piano. no longer serving his original purpose, he has a new destiny.
but barney’s soul remains the same. you look at him and you know he is a piano. no ifs, ands or buts. and he is cherished.
there is a different kind of power in his spot in the backyard. it’s not one of crescendo-ing music. instead it is now one of steady quiet. it is one of a history of service and workhorse reliability. it is one of a history of the dawn of creative moments and the dusk of amens sung in sunday school classrooms or weekly meeting rooms of committees or choirs. his piano-soul now resounds in the chirp of every bird or chipmunk, the sound of the wind and the rain, the glint of the sunlight deepening the wrinkles of his keys.
barney is retired. but he is not silent.
“…a silence like thunder…”
“no distinction is made between the sacred and the everyday.”
“our attitude toward the world resonates in the objects around us. they reveal our intention.”
(from plain and simple, sue bender)
the first day i walked into the tiny lobby at TPAC i wondered why the table holding brochures was light blue. it matched nothing there and was a statement of a kind of thoughtless we-need-a-small-table-does-anyone-have-one thoughtfulness. all season long i kept thinking that it should be painted black. the very last day in the theatre, outside in the chill air, surrounded by golden and crimson leaves, i painted it. it dried fast and we placed it back in the lobby. still the same little table doing its job, but its new distinction mattered and it fit in the space. it did my heart good.
with multiple bags of old mayonnaise and mustard, an old container of kale and a moldy loaf of some kind of unidentifiable home-baked bread, i finished cleaning out the fridge, an appliance i had never opened for an entire season. clearly, others had, and the accumulation of old-ness was ripe. i scrubbed it out and stood back to look at how neat and tidy it was. the whole kitchen area looked neat and tidy, a new keurig replacing an old coffeemaker and broken carafe. shelves cleaned, toothpicks that had poured out swept up, a welcoming backstage entrance for staff and artists. moving that space up to sacred-everyday from messy-everyday did my heart good.
the last couple weeks have been nesting weeks at TPAC, moments when d and i have had the space to ourselves. having now passed through the shoulder season, it’s empty and it’s quiet. the 250 seats wait for the next event, the off-the-shoulders season, the next new high season. i can feel its curiosity, its expectation.
we sat in various seats around the theatre, talking about the dreams we had when we first saw it. getting mired in the muck of being the you-aren’t-from-here-newbies had slowed things down. it had paused our ownership of the actual space. eh, who am i kidding? it brought most of that to a screeching halt. drama, three board presidents and a reticence to consider change from people hired as change agents (us) brought the gate down before we could even start.
we discovered the word ‘glacial’ and applied it generously to the direction we were going. we didn’t try to change a space that didn’t feel like ours yet. we didn’t try to change too many processes. we stopped trying to change mindsets.
instead, we embraced people. we listened; we learned. we set out to weave relationships where they had eroded, where tattered feelings were wrung out, where we were told no relationship could work. we befriended those we were told would never like us. we struggled to understand allies who weren’t so much allies. with deep roots of experience, we led with intention, with the questions of what would be best for this space, what would be best for the artistry on this little island, what would be long-lasting and truly make the making of art – whatever the genre – foremost?
and so, it was in the last days, when it was quiet and empty that we were able to take the time to really listen to the thunder of the silence of that really beautiful space. we strove to honor the sanctity of this art-making place. and we intended, with every move of cleaning and straightening and re-arranging and planning and yes, dreaming, all the best things we could. it did my heart good.
yesterday, while i sketched moments on various keyboards, both pipe organ and piano, d sketched on paper. and he somehow captured how i was feeling. the lifting of eyes to the universe, the imploring of the heart. his scribblings on paper, my scribblings on keys. two artists, expressing.
the telling of the story – through music, through painting or drawing – does not demand complexity. sometimes it aches for simplicity. a pure line of melody, unadorned. a few fast pen-lines, unfinessed. the telling of the tale, honestly, pitch by pitch. not the skirting of the story, the fancified version sung by an vocal acrobat. instead, the straight-up carole-king-richard-diebenkorn-versions, sung note for note, painted line by brushed line, color by color. intense in their clean simplicity.
the more complicated things get, the more i list toward simple. less is more. my piano left hand has always been a virtual non-stop accompanist to my right hand, arpeggiating ad nauseum. in recent years, i’ve asked it to calm down, to allow room for the delivery of the right hand, to allow breath, to allow lift. together, they have given space for the real scribblings, the true expression.
if you have ever been to a taize service, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of repeated simplicity, a line of music that will take you to your knees. nothing advanced or embellished.
if you have ever held a child’s drawing in your hand, you will have experienced the wisdom and power of innocence, art that will take you to your knees. nothing advanced or embellished.
it’s the simple line. both ways.
we are living the contrast principle. the elementary-school-workbook-page-which-one-doesn’t-fit principle. that can actually serve you well or it can be the bane of your existence. i’ll allow you to decide which one you think it is for us.
we are not from here. we do not have roots that go back a generation, two or three generations, seven generations. we weren’t born here, nor have we been coming here for decades on vacation. this is a new place for us. we chose to come here. and we came here out of great and positive intention.
when i first saw the ad for the position we ultimately accepted, we got excited and were instantly full of ideas and possibility. with our backgrounds, our education, our professional experiences, it seemed a perfect fit. with our artistry, our passion, our zeal, our energy, our ability to facilitate positive change, it seemed a perfect fit. but that assumes a “fit” and it assumes trust and it assumes the best of the contrast principle.
we work to create relationship, to mend the crevasse between arts organizations and between groups of people, to structure and build community and let the arts rise. we brainstorm and read and study – new initiatives, data of the past, stories of success and stories of failure. we strive to re-commit each day, choosing to step past the rifts, past the dysfunction, past the you-don’t-belong-here-ness of it all.
because we did choose it. we chose to be the daisy in the field of black-eyed-susans. we chose to be the new in the old. we chose the contrast principle. it would just be nice for it to be a tad bit easier.
the daisy in the black-eyed-susans © 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson