Last month, I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Spring Green, WI, as their musician in residence. Those two weeks felt like a gift, time spent making new friends, refreshing some weary bones, and rediscovering the simple joy of being creative.
One of the goals of the residency was to collaborate with other artists in their community…which is a challenge to pull off in the midst of a pandemic.
One morning while I was there, I woke up with an idea in my head—to create a piece of performance art that drew together local musicians, local actors, and local architecture, in a region known for all three. With the help of a couple actors from American Players Theater, a musician, a videographer, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate (Taliesin), that’s exactly what we did.
Berry, Wright, and…me.
I started by pulling together some passages from Wendell Berry that add some shape and context to my song “Our Love Is Whatever.” One of the themes from his decades of writing is the necessary difficulties that come with committing yourself to the people around you, starting with your own family.
And Frank Lloyd Wright, as probably the most well-known American architect of the 20th century, has had a massive impact on the way many of us (whether consciously or subconsciously) view and inhabit the spaces we call home.
So to meld these artists’ work with my own song about the pain inherent in making a lasting home and family, well it felt like a special combination:
We filmed this inside the drafting studio at Taliesin’s Hillside Home School II, where Wright taught his apprentices. From what I understand, this is the primary spot Wright worked out of after World War II when he was in Wisconsin, the very room where he worked on plans for the Guggenheim, the Mile High building, and other iconic designs.
Taliesin is actively in use, but we were able to secure a 2-hour window between visitor tours to load in, set up, sound check, film, tear down, and get out of the way. A challenging time-frame, for sure, but I’m proud of what we ended up capturing.
I need to give a huge thank-you to my new friends Alys Dickerson, Marcus Truschinski, Ben Feiner, and Asa Derks who helped bring this to life, and to Caroline Hamblen at Taliesin for being ridiculously kind to a stranger with a weird idea.
The Peace of Wild Things
There’s no shortage of despair in the world these days, and in my own heart most days. So with that, I’ll leave you with this Wendell Berry poem that’s been a balm to me for several years:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.