Pianist Teresa McCollough, has developed an international reputation for her dynamic and expressive playing. As a leading interpreter and advocate for contemporary music, she has commissioned, premiered, and performed many new compositions by today’s emerging and established composers. On Thursday, November 17, Teresa will be joined by Wet Ink Ensemble for the premiere of new works by Alvin Singleton, Sally Mitchell, and Alex Shapiro.
Sally Mitchell’s new piece, Fool Proof, explores the concepts of the holy fool and crazy wisdom, as well as the meditative practice of absurdist mantras. The phrases “holy fool” and “crazy wisdom” refer to unconventional, outrageous, and unexpected forms of spiritual practice. Specifically, the holy fool notoriously employs seemingly unspiritual methods to awaken consciousness and deepen spiritual experiences.
The piece also explores absurdist mantras, implementing four primary ways of practicing mantras as Fool Proof’s movement structure: “Upamsu Japa”, (whispering and humming); “Manasika Japa”, (mental repetition); “Likhita Japa”, (writing); and “Vaikhari Japa”, (Speaking or chanting). Mantras historically developed before structured language; thus, their meaning originates from their raw vowel sounds. When language finally developed, people attempted to apply words to mantras with complementary vowel structure, which ultimately resulted in meaningless, or “absurdist” linguistic phrases. Thus, mantras are originally absurdist in nature, and the practice of composing coherent linguistic-based mantras did not develop until more recent history.
Employing video of solo choreography as the score for the performers, movement of the body implies musical parameters like articulation, dynamics, and register, and also suggests overall timbre and structure. Unlike a written score, the video is open for interpretation, allowing the players to decide how and which movements suggest the various musical parameters and structures. Specifically, movement occurs at different speeds, levels of height, and placement on the stage; these details may serve as suggestive tools for players in deciding these parameters and structures.
Employing improvisation, unconventional use of video and dance choreography as forms of notation, and finally requiring alternative performance methods and techniques from the players of this piece, Fool Proof enacts the unconventional practice of the holy fool through the use of absurdist mantras and outrageous processes toward focused meditation and enlightenment.