Anatomy of a work-in-progress.

March 25th, 2014, 8am

It was -16°C with broken clouds. The wind was light.

I started this piece in the fall. I wanted something simple to work on in the midst of the many collaborative performances and pieces I was working on. The process went something like this:

What is short and simple?


What shall I write haiku about?

I have those object collages featuring my son’s baby teeth….

So I chose seventeen photos from the 20 or so that I had in the series and began writing. Haiku is short, but not necessarily simple, and this took me a few weeks. Once that was done I was in the midst of a bunch of music projects and my brain came up with the idea that I could write a vocal line for each of the haiku. It was at this point my friend C said “I thought this was supposed to be simple?”

But my mind rarely works that way. I’ve never been able to do just one thing. In university while getting counseled by a professor on my indecision on whether to leave the classical section of my music degree and focus instead on composition, improvisation, world music, and being a dancing musician in the university’s dance ensemble he said, “You are one of those few individuals who is capable of doing interdisciplinary work. If you stay in the classical program I think you will regret it later.”

I took his advice and continued to branch out in my creative work. When I did my master’s degree ten years later I sent this same professor an email to thank him for that advice, and to tell him that I was in a program that valued interdisciplinary work. Perhaps I shall email him again…

Back to my current work-in-progress. The title is ossa ora (ossa=bones, ora=mouths). Photos of object collages, haiku, vocal lines. The vocal lines work in tandem with each other and I’ve played with a few different ways of combining them. I asked a violinist/singer friend of mine to come try a few things out with the music but her schedule was full.

Shortly after this a call for interdisciplinary literary-based performance work came through my inbox. This is not the sort of call I usually see. Artists are still put into genre- and practice-specific boxes. A half hour later one of the organizers of the festival contacted me directly and asked if I had anything. “Well,” I replied, “I’m working on this thing but it’s not done yet.” So I put together a proposal with a vague explanation of what this piece might look like in performance. I’m now booked to perform this at the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in Regina in May. Each time I’ve been in contact with him he asks if there will be movement in the piece. (Many many people assume I am a dancer. Though my work often involved physicality of some sort I am always a bit dumbfounded by this assumption.) First I told him “No.” Then I told him “Maybe.” Then a choreographer whose work I love and respect asked if I had any work-in-progress to show for her Blueprint series in Regina in mid-April. I told her there was image, text, and sound, but no movement and she still wanted me to show. Perhaps I need to take these assumptions and requests into consideration. Where might some movement occur in this piece?

So here is where the piece is at now:

On the left hand of my desk you can see the score for the vocal parts. Each part is 30-50 seconds long. I repeat some, I don’t repeat others.

On the screen you see one of the images with some text from its haiku. I was just going to mix text and image in stills but then, of course, decided to animate the text too. I need 17-20 minutes of animated text to have room for all the music. More if I add movement. I’m working in Power Point which has a surprising range of options for animating text. (Thank you Erin Robinsong for doing your power point piece at In(ter)ventions. Inspiring.) My friend Ellen told me Illustrator also has text animation options but I’ve got 14 minutes done so I’m sticking with Power Point.

To the right of my crazy trackball you see my open journal. This one is my PPP (process/practice/project) journal where I make lists, write down questions for myself, and sketch out ideas.

In front of my PPP journal is my iPad open in Reactable. While trying to time out the text animations with the vocal lines I realized I needed a pulse in the background. A day later I had seven piano ostinati (repeating phrases) and am using Reactable to mix them and add effects. The nice thing about Reactable is that I have the option to control it while performing without bulking up the stage with gear.

On the far right is the bare bones of the images and haiku on paper. This is my map. But the map in my head is much more complex than what is on paper.

What you can’t see is the costume I special-ordered from Smoking Lily. It’s in the mail. I usually make my own costumes but this was quicker and I think I’ll be happier with it. I certainly don’t know how to screen print bees and teeth on stretch linen but they do! This way I can spend my time with the piece instead of madly sewing the week before the show.

So in a few weeks I’ll be showing some version of this in Regina (which is three hours south of Saskatoon down the straightest highway you’ll ever see). A bit over a month later I’ll be performing the finished piece again in Regina. I’ve been thinking about organizing a performance of it in Saskatoon but a friend said, “Wait. You were asked to show it twice in Regina. Wait, and someone will ask you to show it in Saskatoon.” So I shall wait.

If you’d like to see bits of ossa ora I’ve been posting snippets on my Instagram account.

david, Craig, Paul, Victoria and 5 others said thanks.

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Lia Pas

inter-disciplinary creator/performer

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