Since announcing this new project, I’ve gotten some mixed responses. Most have been very supportive, a few have been, “Are you crazy?! What happens when you go on tour or get sick?!” To those latter people, I will say to you: I have no idea. But, I’m heading into this process with an open mind. Now, I realize that, realistically, I may not be able to post a song every single day (given internet access, recording conditions or a huge monsoon), however, I will make an effort to at least post an update every day. In any case, I’m incredibly excited with what the project has already done for me: a realization that I can create anything. With so many days and opportunities to create something new, how can I possibly hesitate or over-edit? And I suppose that’s what I want to teach myself: there are no limits and sometimes you just have to let things be what they’re going to be. And those out there listening and reading, thank you for participating in this experience with me. So, here we go…
In 2004, I completed my master’s degree in cello performance at a private college in Pittsburgh named Carnegie Mellon. During the winter semester of my first year there, I signed up for a class called something like, The Sink Drips Dry. It was a sound art class taught by an adjunct professor and artist named Rick Gribenas. It was mind-altering for me as I stepped into a totally different kind of thinking and observing. Learning to listen differently and see differently, I started composing and improvising in a whole new way. At the end of my two years in the program, a master’s recital was required. The program I had devised with my teacher was entirely from the standard cello repetoire: Bach, Beethoven, and now, sadly, I don’t recall the 20th century piece. Debussy? I really wanted to do something different that expressed the things Rick had taught me. So I approached Rick, being an active and incredible installation and multi-media artist, about collaborating with me on a piece for my recital. He agreed enthusiastically, and we met one night to brainstorm ideas. I recorded the entire evening on my mini-disc player. As I recall, the evening was a difficult one for me because I felt totally out of my league brought on my insecurity and intimidation. Rick was warm, friendly and totally open to new thoughts, but, still, I remained petrified! Oh, how I wish I hadn’t been so reserved! This guy, even at the ripe-old-age of 27, was totally beyond my artistic experience. I felt I couldn’t think of anything interesting or remarkable to play or express musically. He sat at a table of knobs, boxes and tape recorders, blipping and bleeping, quiet and focused. He was kind and patient as I stumbled around and requested different sounds from him, looking for something that might inspire an idea. As my recital came closer, I unfortunately concluded that the collaboration wasn’t going to happen in time. I now think this happening was more driven by my insecurity than fact. In its place, however, I performed the 4 movement Four Stages, a piece about the four stages of Hodgekins Disease which I wrote and dedicated to Rick.
On March 17th 2009, Rick passed away at the age of 31. As I start this 365 Project, I really wanted to have Rick there from the beginning.
This first piece for the 365 Project includes sections from the recording I made the night Rick and I brainstormed. A collaboration! Tomorrow, I’ll get into how I’m putting things together and my general frustrations about the production process, but for now, I’ll just keep it at this.
At the very end you’ll hear a sound byte of Rick’s voice that might be difficult to hear. I included it anyway because I felt like it described things perfectly. At one point in the recording, I requested a sonic change from him, and you can hear him reply, “I get you. I guess I was just trying to listen.”
See you tomorrow
1. Rick Gribenas/365
Rick’s wife Charissa has started a (soon to be non-profit) organization in Pittsburgh, PA called BRICKS that aims to connect Young Adult cancer patients to people and resources that may be useful to them as they undergo treatment and beyond. They also hope to raise awareness about Young Adult cancers, and impact survival rates through education and activism. She is a fine, fine lady. Read her incredibly moving personal accounts and how she is changing lives at http://brickspgh.blogspot.com.
Rick’s website: www.gribenas.com
“We must be lofty and emotional; there must be risk if systems are to be shifted and rearranged. It is necessary to transmit and receive.” – Rick Gribenas