See The Story [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Inosculation is a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together. ~ Wikipedia

I’m re-writing my Creatures of Prometheus script. Yaki, the conductor of the symphony, asked that I re-imagine it so the story-within-the-music might better speak to the issues of our day. The original performance was in 2008 and the world has changed mightily since the last time we performed it.

Beethoven wrote his ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus, as a creation story. Zeus ordered Prometheus to fashioned a human male and female. Zeus wanted them to be crudely made, their sole purpose, as he imagined them, was to worship the gods. Instead, Prometheus created something more powerful, more beautiful, more god-like. He knew Zeus would never allow something so beautiful to exist so Prometheus stole the spark of life so he might ignite the hearts of his creatures. That’s how the story begins; Prometheus steals fire to bring life to his beautiful creatures. The rest of the story is biblical. The creatures gain knowledge (separation). The gods corrupt the creatures and teach them division and the game of war, essentially booting them out of the garden. The gods like to watch war games like humans like to watch football on the weekends. It is a story of Prometheus’ punishment for daring to create something so beautiful, so capable, as human beings: he must watch them corrupt themselves for all eternity.

It’s a big story in a big ballet.

I take back what I wrote a paragraph ago. The world hasn’t changed so much. Our ancient and epic divisions and challenges have surfaced. They’ve bobbed to the top. The story Yaki asked me to specifically address is the black-white racial divide in these un-united-united-states. I have more thoughts on this story than I care to admit. And the story I will tell – so similar to the original – is a story of unity corrupted. The revision is a gift from Plato, a seed from The Symposium.

It was a common practice in colonial times, when the wealthy were vastly outnumbered by the locals and laborers – and the King’s army was an ocean away, to divide the commoners along some imaginary line. In the American colonies, the imaginary line was a color line. It’s explicit in our colonial logs and legislation. The fear. The solution. The cleaving. Any gain made by blacks is an automatic threat to white power. It’s a game the gods love to watch, like football on the weekends.

I have long thought that our division is impossible to heal when approached through a racial lens. It acts – and has always acted – as a trigger. Just as it was intended to do. The trigger is built into the system: approaching the racial divide as a racial divide will only serve to reinforce the divide. The division is knit firmly into our national DNA.

A systemic flaw must be addressed systemically. The division was designed in our colonial history because the colors united. For a brief moment the united colors were more powerful than the ruling class. The colors were cleaved and then knit back together through inequity. Keep ’em fighting. The dance of supremacy and suppression. United in discrimination. Unnatural inosculation.

Epic stories always end on a promise. There will be an awakening. The lost brothers will find each other. The Creatures of Prometheus, black and white, divided for the security and sport of the gods, will recognize that they are being used, distracted from their original state, and will join hands and together walk off the field. And only then will the natural inosculation, the branches and roots growing stronger together, become possible.

read Kerri’s blog post about INOSCULATED

Reach Back [on DR Thursday]

prometheus resurrection morsel copy

Artists are constantly reaching backward and forward through time. They daily pay visits to the work of the masters. They periodically revisit their own past creations. Their work sends ripples of inspiration and opportunity far into the future.

When Beethoven was young he wrote a ballet called The Creatures of Prometheus. It calls for a legion of dancers and is way too big for most contemporary ballet companies to attempt. Contemporary symphonies, on the other hand, desire to play the music because Beethoven, for the rest of his life, reached back into his ballet, mining for musical phrases, developing some of the phrases into his most famous work.

How to play the music from a ballet written in 1801 as a symphonic piece in 2009?

Yaacov Bergman, the visionary and laughter-filled director of the Portland Chamber Orchestra had an idea. Why not tell the story of the ballet. A storytelling would provide the connective tissue, weaving the music together into a cohesive symphonic performance. Because Beethoven wrote a ballet, 207 years later, I had the great good fortune to write and perform the story of The Creatures of Prometheus with the PCO.

And, since we were crossing time boundaries, why not cross a few artistic genres, too.  Yaki hired artist Liz Gil-Neilson to paint and produce a visual storytelling that was projected during the performance. Music, storytelling, contemporary visual art. Ripples, ripples, everywhere.

But, that was not enough. Since I am also a visual artist, Yaki asked that I translate my story into a visual statement. So, I painted three large canvases (Creation, Garden, Resurrection), one for each movement of the symphony, that hung with Liz’s original images during run of the symphony at the George Broderick Gallery in Portland.

Reaching forward. Reaching back. Today, more than a decade after our collaboration, I mine my experiences and paintings for inspiration. As new collaborations arise, as I stand at the base of a new series of seemingly impossible tasks, I’m fortunate to have my Creatures of Prometheus to remind me of the possibilities. They nudge me forward.  Like Beethoven, I reach back into my past work to find a path forward.

It makes me smile to know that in 1801 Beethoven, with a quill pen and ink, scribbled notes at his desk and those scribbles turned into dances and symphonies that inspired stories and paintings and a wacky multi-media collaboration (a phrase that did not exist during his lifetime). And more: a morsel image digitally altered for a blog post written on a computer keyboard. Pen and ink are hard to come by. Reaching backward. Reaching forward.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Prometheus morsel

 

arches shadows k&d website box copy

 

prometheus resurrection ©️ 2008 david robinson