The Music of Ambiguous Space
Yvonne Wu, Assistant Professor of Music and director of the InterArts Ensemble, gave singer Juliet Schmidt’22, guitarist Mauricio Penn’21, and writer Hannah Flanders’21 a personalized prompt for their first collaborative project of the semester: “Create and explore an ambiguous space in which words, sound, and movement are blurred and become one another.” The three decided to stage an improvised performance in the stairwell of the Powerhouse. The reading of Hannah’s poem “Where Am I,” Mauricio’s electric guitar, and Juliet’s vocalizations reverberated up and down the stairwell, blurring and vibrating together, with sound and space shaping each other.
Juliet reflected on the experience, “In working with Mau and Hannah, I felt validated as an artist in ways I hadn’t in quite some time. I think in part that came from the fact that I wasn’t confined to a set of rules that my discipline typically conforms to. (My portion…was entirely improv, so I wasn’t as worried about technique or specific phrasing.)” The trio decided to develop the project for the class’s final (virtual) concert, hoping to expand the “feeling of connectedness” to a larger group.
The entire class ended up joining the expanded project, which included Hannah’s poem translated into Spanish by Emilia Roman’23 and Mandarin by Weining Wang’21, Nick Schmidt’s (’21) music production skills, Kalyn Vences’s (’23) paintings, Galen Alaks’s (’21) animation, and video footage of outdoor and “ambiguous spaces.” The resulting video project plays with ambiguity while feeling purposeful and embraces the mundane while being uplifting. Though COVID-19 kept the ensemble physically separated, the team members came together figuratively and digitally to create something that resonated as one body.