Correspondence with an extremely creative Swedish woman
and thoughts about interdisciplinary work.
While in Stockholm to work with young composers and harp students, I went to Arkitekturmuseet (Museum of Architecture) and enjoyed a wonderful exhibition that turned out to be curated by Pernilla Glaser, whom I was lucky enough to meet later at Kulturhuset, where she is now the Coordinator of the Arts Library.
Besides being overwhelmed and inspired by the open mind I have generally observed in Swedish culture and society, I was fascinated as well by the many different influences in her current work, and discovered, while talking to her, that she is a writer and a theater person.
Her creativity immediately caught my attention. I do like creative people. Maybe that is why I enjoy so much to work with composers and participate closely in the process of writing music. Why is it that many instrumentalists don’t like this fantastic collaboration with composers? Maybe the risk is too high, or they feel it’s a waste of time and energy that nobody will pay for. Maybe they don’t realize how much there is to learn out there, from all sorts of creative people in all disciplines.
I will write a little more about what working with others has meant for me, which also has to do with why I felt interested in Pernilla’s work. Some cases of these influences between artists have been shown in previous posts on this blog, for example how poetry has inspired composers.
Talking about inspiration, I owe so much to the theater people I have worked with! They have taught me about stage presence, team work, creative risk and courage, as well as about focusing and concentration. These were issues that I did not learn about with this kind of open minded attitude when I was a music student on an old fashioned conservatory program that is gradually and slowly changing. Of course I had wonderful teachers there, but the general system then did not allow much new ideas about how to teach or create new projects.
Many years ago I joined a writing workshop. From our teacher as well as from my fellow writers, another strong team, I learned to focus my ideas and make better use of language. It is funny to remember now how, at the beginning of that new process, I felt a little guilty about not being only a musician, but a musician who also loves to write. Time has proven that the risk of dealing with this has been a great experience in many aspects, including of course, the one of being a musician!
Going back to fascinating people, and totally trapped by this new learning perspective and enjoying the new projects that I’m referring to, -what I have been doing in the last years and intend to keep working with-, I asked Pernilla how all the disciplines she has been in contact with have converted her into the extremely creative woman she is now, and how her talent has been nourished by them. Here are some of the thoughts she agreed to share on my blog.
Thanks to her open mind I now have her new idea/tool to explore and develop: creative muscularity. Wow! What a challenge, to begin with: to accept that one is never really an expert and it’s worthwhile to take risks in learning from others, as well as making mistakes from what could be catalogued as being too adventurous! This could be something addressable for the kind of people who at certain stages of their professional lives believe there is only one absolute truth.
Unfortunately, you find these attitudes in all disciplines and in all countries! Seen from a different perspective, I ought to thank them for pushing me away towards different directions in music making and thinking. I certainly would not have taken the exciting routes that writing, working with composers and with theater people have led me to otherwise, though still being a musician in search for open minds and more findings to learn from.
November 14, 2010. 03:03 a.m.
Dear Mercedes,I will try to answer your questions as honest as I can. Like you, I am multidisciplinary both in my profession but also as a sort of perspective or outlook. I try to understand why it is so hard for me to identify how different disciplines affect each other and where one begins and the other one ends. On one level I strongly feel that I am in an ongoing movement, a story retold over and over again, an archeological quest for what is untold, true and relevant – no matter if I am writing or directing or teaching. That said, I do discover a sort of…creative muscularity that I have developed. The first thing that my moving between disciplines and producing, well, a lot, has given me is absence of fear. This, in my experience, is not something that you can force or reason yourself to. It grows while you rub yourself against different kind of processes and make all the mistakes that you make. I am not afraid of people and I am not afraid of their power. I take great delight in people growing and developing their unique potential. I also see that I have developed a language for creativity that can reach anyone. I think that is because I have never identified myself totally with a single profession or task. I am deeply skeptical towards professionalism when it becomes the often misguided idea that you know everything about something. For me professionalism is the ability to stay open, use what comes to you any feed back with quality. I sincerely believe that there is a storyteller embedded in every person. To be a writer, musician, actor, artist is to give oneself permission to live dangerously with that ability. To ask uncomfortable questions, try silly things and relentlessly probe for pieces of genuine expression. It is deadly serious and extremely playful. My sources of inspirations are just about everyone I meet. But, I notice I come back to this, anyone who tries to express something deeply felt and truthful in unexpected and organic ways will get my attention. I very much recognize what you say about the gap between musical training and training in stage presence. I think this is what we are always up against: to move away from clichés of doing what is safe and under control, and instead, dare ourselves to let fall backwards into states of presence. Pieces of art that have touched me lately:
Shirin Neshat and her magical movie “Women without men”
Nam Le’s very poetic collection of short stories “The boat” Some of the present minds that interest me:
The architect and artist Vito Acconci
The sociologist Saskia Sassen
The writer Arundhati Roy
Sociologist and antropologist Bruno La Tour Hope this is an okay start. Please ask on if you miss something. All the best
“I am a writer. My last novel is “Minus 40”. This spring, my new novel, “Under
the sidewalk” will be published. It started as a blog-novel, where readers
could vote on how to continue the story.
schools, teachers, education centers, museums, etc. I have been a publisher of children’s books. I have studied architecture at the Royal collage of fine arts and curated
the exhibition “The shaggy city” at the Stockholm Museum of Architecture,
where I also have developed a method for working with children and adults
around experiences of space and urban landscapes. I am the coordinator for the library Plattan at the Stockholm Culture House.”
POST SCRIPTUM recommendation:
Find the comments about creativity on this other exhibition about how these Swedish artists are not afraid of using their old roots to express their meaningful art in a beautiful contemporary way: