In praise of struggle…

I’m thinking today about struggle and good art. The collaboration with the theatre company that the Orchestra’s outreach program is working with is one of the most challenging things I have done, artistically. It has hit a couple of snags recently. That’s mild language – in fact, in the last 8 days we have had two major dramas and each time, I feel myself sigh a bit more heavily inside.

The director and I spoke today and vented some frustrations – not towards each other, but towards these snags (as I shall call them). Her more than me – I had the advantage of a couple of days’ stewing time, and a visit to the Japanese Bath House yesterday evening to help me calm down and take my mind off it all. We both agree it could well be an amazing show that we are in the middle of creating, and we both feel that in a way, these challenges that keep arising are part of that amazing-ness. They are the grit that is forcing us to keep digging away at the material that we devise, to be demanding of it, and challenge it.

We need the musicians to feel this too though, and to keep trusting us.

The research project last semester was for me a similar thing – with a huge element of trust in myself, that even if I didn’t feel like I had a clue if what I was doing was right or not, I had to keep ploughing on regardless, and trust that my instincts were good. As indeed they proved to be.

Tonight I went to the cinema, and saw “Shut Up and Sing”, a documentary film following the Dixie Chicks as they respond to and recover from the fall-out of the “ashamed that George Bush is from Texas” comment. I was struck by the strong faith they had to have in themselves, in each other, in the people around them, and in the integrity of the music. Great film, by the way. I’m so glad I saw it.

Back to struggle… maybe it is a constant rule for living – that challenge and adversity are what ensure we grow, and live a full life that can have an inspiring impact on others. And what we live by in life is what we should strive for in art-making (even though it is not much fun sometimes, and makes us wonder why we didn’t choose to do something more straightforward, with nice, easy templates or guidelines to follow).

On more humble and mundane topics, today was a ‘weekend’ day for me. I started with a swim – boy it was frosty out there this morning! My fingers were numb by the time I parked my bike at Fitzroy pool. But gorgeous in the water, where I felt my body just start to melt as I took the first few strokes. Then coffee with swim buddy SK (the usual posse of four or five was somewhat deplete this morning), then home to organise a tow for my car, which mysteriously and suddenly conked out yesterday morning.

Once that was done, and I had had breakfast (porridge – healthy – followed by crumpets and honey – indulgent), I got stuck into the latest bit of reading – “More than words can say – A view of literacies through the arts”. I am making notes in my journal of all the phrases and paragraphs that I find impenetrable, accompanied by notes in red reminding me to ask someone else. I’m hoping it will be like the Methodologies reading I did first off, on starting this Masters, which for the first week was a matter of ploughing through, despite feeling like I had no idea what I had just read. And little by little, it all started to make sense, and I started to really enjoy it!

One of my impenetrable sentences:

The single most important set of cultural skills today is the critical examination of the interconnections between words, pictures, performance and music to produce meaning…

“What does this look like in a practical sense?” I asked myself at the time. Hmmm. It doesn’t seem so impenetrable now that I type it here. You see? It is already starting to sink in.

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2 comments so far

  1. Sarah Gulish on

    Gillian, I have so enjoyed reading this blog!! Thank you for sharing your work. It is continually inspiring and encouraging. I hope our paths can cross again :). [Sarah Gulish- ISME Corfu 2012]

    • Gillian Howell on

      Well Hello Sarah! Nice to hear from you, I hope you are going very well. Thanks for stopping by my blog – I am in the (slow, painful) process of going through all my posts one by one from the very beginning and re-tagging and re-categorising them, so it is interesting for me that you are commenting on one that I have completed this process on. Did you find it by chance, or by following a particularly category?

      I hope your research is going well. I will be starting my PhD this year, have resigned from my schools… I can’t wait to be a student again 🙂 All best to you and yes, hopefully our paths will cross again soon, either in person or via the worldwide web.


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