This piece came into my life only because I happened to mention to Bob (my teacher) that I had always wanted to do a theater piece. He decided to throw me straight into that world by not only assigning me to learn the piece ...And Points North by Stuart Saunders Smith, but by also putting it into my recital. Doing a theater piece had always been an exciting idea for me--when I was in middle school, I loved participating in my school's theater program, and in high school I had a great time making stupid movies with my friends, such as this one.
No matter where my acting skill was before I began this project, I had no idea what was in store for me. Smith's compositional language can only best be described as "intuitive"--it's got an improvisatory feel to it, but it's very precisely written. Learning the notes was sort of like learning another language--except I had to be able to come up with a pretty convincing speech in that language pretty soon. I felt the same way about learning Franco Donatoni's Omar.
However, as I learned the notes, the piece began to make sense to me... maybe even become a little personal. I started to understand the story that I hoped to tell, which I couldn't begin to understand until after I had every single note learned. I also needed to acquire every "instrument" before I could do this, which was a feat in itself. I never thought finding an aluminum washtub or Christmas tree stand could be so difficult, and making the wind chimes was an absolute nightmare. I ended up using a bunch of one dollar bottles of Irish whiskey (which made for some nice parties), as well as a whole bunch of beads and decorative glassware I purchased from a nearby craft store, Beadazzled. I must have spent over two hundred dollars on this piece, at least.
Once again, it was all worth it in the end. I have to say, this piece was, for me, the most fun to perform. I got to do a lot of things I don't normally get to do when I perform, and it was nice to be more of an entertainer than a musician for a little bit. It's a very neat phenomenon when you half to walk around as much as I did, and even at one point into the audience. The stage goes wherever you go. It's a nice feeling.