Friday, May 15, 2009

Jumping the Stile

I encourage folks to check out (and support) The Interstitial Arts Foundation for its gathering of "across-the-grain," eclectic and innovative ideas.

For instance, I love Alma Alexander's essay, "...and being shelved in the wrong place...," in which she describes:

"...the fantasy cooties thing, something that apparently requires a warding off of the first order should its evil eye fall on your work – but as I keep telling everyone, ALL FICTION IS FANTASY. By definition. And if the currently accepted definition of fantasy spills over into the mainstream shelves, or the mainstream books suddenly start having a dash of the fantastic – this should not be something that alienates readers from a book, but rather it should be seen as an expanding of one’s horizons, an interstitial quest, a hunting for treasure in places you never thought to look in before".

Indeed! Yet so much vehement energy is spent defending this rampart and that barricade. Instead, let us bless Chabon, Oates, Eggers, and Lethem--among others--for their warm, candid, and ecumenical approaches. Bless Small Beer Press, the Ministry of Whimsy (come back!), Aqueduct Press and The New York Review of Science Fiction --to name just a few-- for helping readers to jump the stile.

I wonder why mutual recognition and exchange seem more common among musicians. I wonder if musicians perhaps have less fear of the "cooties thing," the (in)famous "anxiety of influence" so prevalent among writers. Instead, I recall jazz pianist Les McCann at a concert years ago where he mixed in a dash of Mozart and then some Funkadelic Parliament saying, "aw hell, everyone is always peeking over the fence to see what the other guy is doing."

Yo-Yo Ma (check out his Silk Road Project) is seemingly on a mission to collaborate with musicians from every possible genre on the planet, yet no one questions his authority on stage at Carnegie Hall. Anoushka Shankar happily debuts her father's Concerto Nr. 3 for Sitar and Orchestra with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and vice versa--and the musicians openly query and challenge one another's traditions on the way to creating fabulous art together. Watch the behind-the-scenes webisodes of A. Shankar and Orpheus rehearsing, for a great inside look at creative sharing,experimentation, re-styling, re-contextualizing without diluting or compromising the original:

Herbie Hancock, Jan Garbarek, Oregon, Angelique Kidjo, Paul D. Miller (a.k.a. DJ Spooky:: That Subliminal Kid), Peter Gabriel with Youssou N'Dour, MIDival PunditZ, Salif Keita, Bjoerk, Talvin Singh, Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder, David Byrne with just about everybody, L. Subramaniam with Jean-Luc Ponty, Karsh Kale, The Afro Celt Sound System, Regina Carter, Manu Katche, Branford Marsalis with Sally Beamish... my list of interstitial musicians has only begun with these names. They are happy to cross boundaries, to share and experiment, and don't seem to waste too much time apologizing or defending their actions.

Which is also the sense one gets over at the Interstitial Arts Foundation, for which, bravo.

Let's play cross-country, in that meadow over there, down the swale and wherever the track takes us, and to hell (respectfully, of course) with the fences.

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