One night snow befell New York City. I had a rehearsal planned that night. I did not expect anyone to show. The company came to this event in the middle of a blizzard. Nine would-be actors/actresses, one writer/observer, not knowing what the result of their efforts would be other than a theme, which was creating a ceremony for the nuclear age. Ice was the name of this ritual. The night froze. Twelve inches of snow would fall.
One was a former nun who just knew she was an actress. The other was a former model, assured of her abilities. Still another would go onto the Yale School of Drama - full scholarship when he hadn't even finished high school. Another would one day bring three children into the world and begin an exchange in African villages of crafts for moneys for health services that were so urgently needed. There were others with their own exceptional stories. The long, tall, writer, was someone with whom I discovered our mutual love of Lord Buckley. We came together that night because we needed to know within our depths how we use could our voices to transform night into light. We rehearsed in the East Village of Manhattan in a loft organized by a jazz saxophonist who thought his place was a University of the Streets and thus named it such. The space was lit with fluorescents. Spare, unwashed walls. Rough linoleum floors. Maybe 2000 square feet, cavernous, with lots of echo. Little heat as the proprietor did not believe in luxuries. We began with our coats on; goose feathers, wool, draped our bones.
I asked them to divide themselves into two opposite lines facing each other, 20-30 feet apart. The future Yale graduate, Patrick, was asked to stand in the middle of these two lines, with his eyes closed. I asked the soon to be African queen to begin singing a theme as she was the one professional vocalist in the group. I asked each person to take that theme, echo it and then seamlessly transform it into something else. I challenged them to pay attention to pitch, rhythm and length of tone. Patrick, in the middle, stood with his eyes closed. One by one I whispered in their ear to focus their sound on a specific part of Patrick's body. Patrick did not hear what I said, nor did anyone else in the group hear what I said to each one individually. I told Patrick to imagine the sound permeating his body at different points and to respond to it with only his movement. And so he did. I asked the group to respond to his movement with their sound, always paying attention to each other's tone, rhythm, etc. And so they did. The writer wrote. As sounds took off, thrusting and gliding, hovering and swooping, harmonies colliding with cacophony, then ultimately triumphant, the coats were slowly and inevitably discarded. Down feathers flying, wool falling to the linoleum floor. Our song heated our blood.
We did this for about an hour and a half. I recorded that exercise and have it at this very moment. The ensemble transformed space and time. I thought we had created an original soundtrack for images that were yet to be conjured which would take its audience through the aforementioned ceremony for a nuclear age: Ice.
The exercise ended on its own account. I did not tell anyone to stop. People stopped creating music when they thought they had come to its organic end. They finished together and I remember Patrick breathing into the form of a fetus.
When it was over, we all just stood in place. The ambient sounds of the building slowly crept into our consciousness. The doors opening and closing below (we were on the 5th floor); the wind howling through the unprotected windows, even the snow softly landing on concrete and glass. Coats were repossessed from the linoleum, regaining their welcomed function. We did not say anything. We only looked at each other not knowing that this ensemble would soon lose members. A core would remain. Language in its present form ceased at the tone where our soul's vibration began.
We walked out of the building that night, all of us together. Some had no idea how they would get home as all public transportation had come to a halt and try getting a cab! Yet, we all had these goofy expressions on our faces in the middle of a foot of snow. We had been torched by the fire in our soul, throwing a translucent blanket of light over our exposed bodies that guided us home in the center of a white night.
Open your mouth my love.
Open your heart as I float in your breath.
Exhale your journey
so we may sail
above angels who inhale our pain.
As I sat there listening to the sounds that bathed in the air, currents of color and rhythm, I knew that my soul spark was an essential melodic line resonating with my Being striving to see.