An Illuminous New Year

In the redwoods. Photograph ©Kate Baker

Yesterday, Andrew and I retreated to the redwoods forest for our first Illuminous improvisation session for the year.  You can read about the Illuminous project here.

As well as trumpet,  Andrew played medicine drum and sang.  I was writing in my journal and caught up in a deeply incantatory state for much of the session.  At one point words were drizzling out like water from a tap.  I’m picturing one of the garden taps of my childhood in northern Victoria: all kinds of weird watery patterns came out of those wonky taps.

When we started the Illuminous project more than eighteen months ago, I wrote in my journal during our sessions for a long time before we started using a laptop and projector.  Nearly all our sessions were in the forest or next to pristinely lovely Cement Creek or the river.  Andrew didn’t read what I’d written until after the session or sometimes I could be convinced to read it to him, voice cracking in shyness. But an almost uncanny fusion almost always arose in the sessions.  An overlapping rawness between us.  The emerging of a shared space where it seemed possible to be truthful and authentic.  To be creative and expressive from deep in the heart and the guts.  For what arose in the moment to have permission to be there as precisely itself.

In our public performances so far we have used projection rather than having me writing in my journal.  Andrew can see what I’m writing, as the audience sees it.  Not that he’s looking all the time, just as I’m not consciously listening to every sound he plays.  I’m not ‘writing to the music’.  Andrew is not playing a response to the words.

We intend to experiment with taking projection into natural spaces such as the forest soon.  But I also like what happens in the work when I am writing in my journal and the creative fusion happens differently to when we use projection.

During yesterday’s session, I lay on the ground and wrote slowly, letting the words fall in their patterns from the tap while Andrew played his trumpet. After a while he sat down nearby and began playing softly, and I stopped writing altogether, listening some of the time but mostly trying to let myself drift, resisting the need to have to do anything in particular.  I was tuned in to the sounds down at the level of the forest floor and up through the branches of the trees, and our own sounds. I noticed tiny shifts in the light and the weather and how we seemed to respond to them sub- or un-consciously. Andrew put down the trumpet and took up the medicine drum and started playing it and improvising with his voice.  I was writing again, and having a deep sensory experience of us and what we were doing and where we were.

In the work, a kind of score is created, a three-dimensional score in words and music and less tangible elements.  Shapes and sounds.  Inscriptions in air.  The work is about everything that happens in the time and space of the session, and sometimes what’s outside the session too as it’s an ongoing work.  Bodily presences.   Movements, both small and expansive.  Met and avoided gazes.  I’m especially interested in the subtlest happenings.  The scratching of my pen’s nib on paper or the tapping of my fingertips on my keyboard. (I never realised how rhythmically I write and type until we began this project.)  The sounds of Andrew’s breathing as he plays, but my breathing too for my writing process is very much of the body. (In private I’m a noisy writer and very physical.  It’s a challenge for me to dare to be that writer while others are watching, even Andrew, despite the trust we have built up between us.)  Instants of transparency in facial expressions and body language.  Sometimes, a silence or a stillness.  And then there’s mood.  Thought.  Feeling.  The tacit occurrence of life taking place: you can’t necessarily sense it, name it, pin it down. But it is happening, in the moment, and this work is documenting those profoundly delicate instances of moments passing in the lives of us and the audience and the location and by extension the world.

I am interested in this: tracing the minutiae of emotional life in the body and in the world through creative improvisation.

In the redwoods. Photograph ©Kate Baker

In the redwoods. Photograph ©Kate Baker