Calling situations musical playgrounds means that whatever symbols, references and meanings are brought together, they don’t have to stay where they are. If there is one quality we may associate with newly composed or improvised music, then it is that we may experience unforeseen interactions and relations within that music. Instead of evaluating the output of such work, I believe it is more important today to reflect on its starting points. How to create a musical situation that has the potential to generate play, interaction, and unpredictable change?
One strategy might be to invite possible extensions to manifest or unfold themselves. Such extensions could be found in the way musicians come on stage, the way instruments are positioned, the participation of the audience, the lighting, the programme notes, or associations evoked by objects and instruments.
A few weeks ago, I discovered In Paradisum, a recent performance piece by a dear colleague, Cathy van Eck, in which she creates a very familiar situation: she starts her performance by eating an apple, with its typical sound amplified. Here I need to share that I suffer from a light form of misophonia, which means that I am easily irritated by noises like this. Of course, I immediately expected that Cathy would do something with this sound. The invitation to transform the bite into a musical element is clear from the start. This is also precisely what happens, albeit in playful and unpredictable ways. After having watched the video, I had to send Cathy a message, saying that she had partly solved my problem. From now on, when I hear a person eating an apple behind me on the train, I will always think of her piece and the possibility of turning this sound - one that is highly irritating to my ears - into enjoyable music in my imagination.
This may be a light-hearted and anecdotal example, but it shows something of the real power of art, namely the fact that it can change our relationship with the world within the course of a performance, even if it is in subtle or implicit ways.