Since 1989 I have been performing and collaborating with composers, musicians and artists on the e-cello and computer. I have worked to create a unique and wide spectrum of repertoire for the instrument. My main concern and goal has always been to integrate technology in such a way as to make it performer friendly, and to foster this relationship of performer and technology in a seamless and compatible way. The ease created by the performer combined with the complexities of the computer, software and electronics has always been and continues to be one of my biggest challenges.
INSPIRATION AND COLLABORATION
Inspiration I receive from collaborative projects with technology, composers, choreographers, video artists and other instrumentalists, my practical experiences and other influences such as my teachers, are hopefully represented in my performances. The following article printed prior to a concert at MOBIUS, Boston's artist-run center for experimental work in all media, should illustrate the breadth of one such collaboration.
It is difficult to describe the experience a performer gets when collaborating with other artists on a new project, especially when so many unknown parameters come into play. Every collaboration is different and unique. On one such project the circumstances which guided the work through its premiere and subsequent performances greatly influence how I now approach and feel about the work.
Shadows and Light for electronic cello by Ken Steen is part of a larger collaborative work involving two other composers, two choreographers, dancers, a storyteller and other designers in the Hartford area. It was commissioned by the AIDS Ministries Program of Connecticut for Works Contemporary Dance Fall 1989 Season. The AIDS Ministries is comprised of people who want to respond artistically to the impact the AIDS crisis has had on individuals and communities.
The electronic cello interlude to date has not been choreographed. One week before the premiere last fall, artistic director and solo dancer for the work, Rob Kowalski, was unable to finish the choreography for the music when a family tragedy occurred. While a dance piece about AIDS seemed at the time to be quite effective without a dancer, little did I know that this work was destined to be jinxed twice. When I called the composer to let him know that I would be programming it again on a summer concert, he told me that I might be performing it sooner then I'd thought. Rob Kowalski had AIDS and was dying. Arrangements were being made for a memorial service that I would play. After the phone call I thought back about the performance last fall, about how at the dress rehearsal, when I played through the electronic cello portion of Shadows and Light, the dancers, co-artistic director, Ted Hershey and composer Ken Steen , who were all seated on the floor, seemed suspended in time with their silent thoughts about Rob. They had known about Rob. I was to learn later how much this project meant to them at the time.
At the memorial service, close friends and family members graphically detailed Rob's final days. Members of the arts community spoke about his dedication and incredible energy toward his work and how he inspired people beyond their capabilities. I'm not really sure if Rob knew how many hearts his work touched when that hall was filled to standing room only. The music itself progresses through the emotional stages associated with dying-first the initial reaction of denial and then the realization of the love for life, the savoring of every minute, till the music moves toward acceptance and then peace. The music is a reflection of an individual's own experience with the disease. The idea behind Shadows and Light was to transcend words and educate people to pull together and stop all the sadness and hardship in dying. Shadows and Light is dedicated to the memory of Rob Kowalski.