Meditations on Music: 2125 Stanley Street

As soon as I walked into the Wriston Art Center, I was soothed by the calming clicks and whirs from a small slide projector producing faded patches of light on a small tin square. Walking farther in to the next section, I approached two rotary phones placed on a table with an invitation to listen to their contents: filtered cello and abstract vocals on a loop. The slides and phones were the perfect gateway to the rest of the art, and helped me feel at ease almost immediately.

“2125 Stanley Street” is a mesh of dance, sound, music, installation, performance and other mediums that all deal with the concept of home in moving, pleasant ways. Created by visiting artist Dahlia Nayar, Instructor of Dance Margaret Sunghe Paek and creator of sound/cellist Loren Dempster, the piece reached out to the audience in ways I had not experienced before but loved dearly and gratefully.

The main gallery of Wriston greeted the audience with crisp white fabric draped over a clothesline, Nayar and Paek silently moving in front. They floated in space in unison next to each other, calmness pervading their faces and motion. Their score was the audience curiously filing in and adjusting chairs, which echoed in the reverberant gallery. As their repetitive dance continued, Dempster began playing field recordings of nature and birds, multiple layers of spoken word sneaking in, creating an indecipherable but rich texture over the nature sounds. The elongated moment of the patient raising of arms and legs, gliding across the floor and quietness — in both sound and movement — was broken by the reflection dissolving as Nayar and Paek looked at each other for the first time during the performance. Time felt frozen before they both returned to reflecting each other’s movements, spinning quickly but gracefully from in front of the audience to the background, hidden behind the clothesline.

The trio of visual, sonic and emotional stimulation — the emotions being both the performers’ and mine — left so many memories to reside peacefully in my mind. The way Nayar shook as she rose, her dark hair blacking out her face like drawn, thick scribbles; the sound of a child reciting “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe”; a recent recording of Paek and her father talking, beginning with a simple and cheery “Hello Papa,” “Hello Margaret”; dancing while smiling, a cello melody sneaking in — these moments and more had so much weight to them. The artists let the audience into these moments but still maintained nostalgia and privacy for themselves to relish in the memories on their own.

Despite my experience in movement and dance with Paek through the Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU), I am significantly more well-versed in music, and this performance made it all click together. The way movement and sound relate can be hard to appreciate at first, but its importance is intrinsic, the sum of the parts creating powerful moments that are unique simply to that moment. The senses are way more engaged than they would be just listening, and thus the mind, soul — everything — are as well.

When thinking about and describing the performance, it is clear that there was a lot going on — sonically, visually, conceptually and in more ways, some known and some not. There was acting, travelling back to a memory, electronic music, found sounds, choreography, improvisation, documentation, creation — the list is infinite. But in the moment and recalling how I felt now, there was a beautiful quietness to it — a sincerity that defied sensory overload — and I experienced everything in a simple, effortless way. I did not feel like I was attending a performance, but instead experiencing the concept of home at its essence. One of the intentions of “2125 Stanley Street” was to make the performance space, no matter the location, a home for the audience. I certainly felt that, but was also at my past homes, present homes and future homes — homes created by people, structures, ideas and love. The desire to be in past, present and future homes was an indescribable feeling I will forever cherish. To create with that in mind, in conjunction with a strong relationship between visual and sonic, will undoubtedly inform and inspire my future creations. I cannot thank “2125 Stanley Street,” and the three artists that created it, enough for that feeling.