Homeless, SMEE suffers

Amelia Perron

SMEE was born in a bathroom, grew up in a house, died a little in front of the housing committee, and will be resurrected in the chapel this Friday.
Spontaneous Musical Enlightenment and Education came about spontaneously one night when a half-dozen musicians became intrigued with bathroom acoustics. We weren’t singers, but we were creating our very own music in the most unlikely place – we were having a jam session in the women’s bathroom.
It quickly moved to a darkened Chapel, and became more than improvising crunchy harmonies with our voices or even instruments. “By the end,” SMEE co-founder Elise Butler-Pinkham reminisces, “I think I was laying on the floor drumming on my stomach.”
She wasn’t the only one getting unconventional. “I think it’s really significant that words and movement were involved, not just music,” she continues. “We gave up our regular instruments and got to the root of music, of creativity. The more you let your training go, the more creative the process.”
Nobody who experienced the first “SMEE moment” wanted it to be the last. Then-freshmen Butler-Pinkham and Ellen Frisbie decided the campus needed a place where that level of spontaneity would always be possible, and the idea of the SMEE theme house was born. Wanting to do more, the group was expanded to include educational outreach.
At the end of its first year, however, SMEE was denied another year in 203 N. Union on the grounds that we didn’t need the space to achieve our group’s goal. One only need look at the now-barren living room of the yellow house and remember back to its glory days strewn with guitars, cellos, deconstructed pianos, and composition majors to question the validity of that judgment.
Without a home base for spontaneous creativity, SMEE is suffering. “In a house, the group ‘vibe’ is flowing all the time, which is necessary for random creativity,” says Frisbie. “To be truly visible without a house is difficult because there needs to be even more activities to make up for the lost house vibe, which, in they eyes of the group members, can never be truly made up for.”
“We’ve actually had to change our theme,” Butler-Pinkham admits – being artistically spontaneous Friday at midnight isn’t the same as being spontaneous, well, spontaneously.
Compromised though we may be, we’re not giving up. This Friday’s “Midnight in the Chapel” is our attempt to replicate the naissance of SMEE.
“This is for us to remember how beautiful it was,” says Butler-Pinkham, “And to introduce other people to it.” This event, an open improvisation session of music, movement and speech, is for anyone with creative inclinations, regardless of any training in the arts.
“I love the idea of everyone getting together to make music in a relaxed setting,” says freshman Catrina Poor. Too bad there can’t be a place that’s always a relaxed setting for music-making. In the meantime, here’s to spontaneity wherever we can find it.