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Ring Composition and Quodia

I have been putting the Quodia performance “The Arrow” back together these last two weeks. We have been offered a show in Mexico City at an international poetry festival called “Poetry Out Loud”.

Not having performed this piece for a few years means I have my work cut out for me. My shortlist:

1.    Re-image the entire story

2.    Re-memorize the text

3.    Re-program all the sounds

4.    Rehearse all the music

5.    Re-visit the entire vision

It was tempting to dive right into the text and began the process of preparing to deliver it for the performance. But then I quickly realized I was working only with the outside of the text and not with the inside. What I had to do first was to re-image the story again. From scratch, for myself. Much like what the performance asks of the audience.

So I began working my way, again, through the story. Working with, and building up the imagery. From the outside in. Which is, of course, very different form the original moments of discovery and creation: from the inside to the outside – taking the original sparks and turning them into a form. Now, I am taking the form and working it open towards the original sparks.

This is extremely cool, not to mentioned super vitalizing. I think, at this point, I have most of the images in place and am now putting the words/text in order. And, of course, the playing. Which has it’s own challenges being that I am speaking at the same time.

- - -

Two very interesting things have come up with this re-visiting process. The first is I am finding some of the text needs changing. Part of this change is noticing how some of it could be clearer for a non-English speaking audience. For example with I use the phrase “sitting by the bank”, the phrase “sitting by the river bank” is probably going to convey something closer to what is intended. In English it is fun having the vagueness of our language suggest odd variations. But in an ‘on-the-fly translation moment in performance’, I don’t think bringing up the possible interpretation of “place for putting your money” is going to be very helpful in bringing people into the story!

Another text change that I am tinkering with is with the tenses. Parts of “The Arrow” are in present tense, parts in past, and one section in the future. I am trying out altering some of the past tense sections to be in the present tense. It gives such a different flavor to everything to make this seemingly small change.

The second big thing that has appeared with re-working this piece is a discovery about its big form. At the time Joe and I were putting it together, we were working with the form as a spiral. Each of the individual stories being a node on the spiral. I can’t completely say why I wanted to do this; it just felt like the right way to envision it. And the right way to “form” it.

One of the intriguing things about the piece, as whole, is that parts of the stories are mirrors of other parts. (And this is a deep theme throughout.) Two of the sections are even retellings of the same event but with a different approach.

And, lo and behold, this last week I was reading in Tony Blake’s book about Creative Intelligence where he makes reference to ‘ring composition.’ Ring composition is a kind of form where the front and back halves of a story mirror each other.

Here is Tony’s short description:

First, when we read a text like that of the Iliad we follow it along step by step, episode by episode, carried by the momentum that makes for a compelling story. But, reflection leads us to step outside the linear order of one thing after another and to have what is called a synoptic vision of the whole, where sequence is no longer primary, but correspondences and relationships of meaning prevail. The text is no longer a ‘line’ of episodes but a ‘circle’; a circle because it is the simplest form in which we can contemplate wholeness. Once we see the circle, a great deal follows.

This is exactly what is going on in this Quodia piece “The Arrow”. At least in terms of form. In terms of content, I am in no position to judge. I can only just follow along and made the thing as best I can!

If your Mexico City next weekend, please stop on by. We will be joined by two Mexico poets, Julián Herbert and Jorge Rangel, who also use video and music in their performance.

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Reader Comments (3)

an unfinished symphony, how remarkable! under leonard,s mona lisa there are elements of a work that was progressing to what it is today. or was he finished? and will you ever be? my wife, who is asian, and i,m black,hates quodia" the aroow" she just does not get it. at first i was frustrated in trying to explain it to her,but now that i know it,s not finished, i can try to do it all over again when the new version comes out!lol ,bless you man....!just a passing note.. if you are having trouble getting strings for your warr,contact the owner of sit strings, he will make up sets of 12 for you.... i,m going to do that for my warr as soon as i get some more cash...

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreggie

Trey: this is fascinating. I have been starting to play with poetry, or should I say, poetic form, as I am dipping my toes for the second first time (the first first time was a long time ago) in songwriting. I am exploring poetry in a way that I never really thought about previously. So, reading about Quodia, working spirally, or bringing the back to the front, is sort of how I have been organizing my thoughts.

I am so very glad that you have the opportunity to revisit this work. Sometimes, you shelve a work, thinking it complete, only to dust it off and find there is so much more to envision, a whole different treatment. And that you are considering your translation to the audience. Bravo---some phrases really would sound odd. I hope either you speak Spanish well or that you have an excellent speaker for your work.

Enjoy Mexico City,


September 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermary

Hi Trey, Hope the performance goes well for You.Sorry I can`t be there-I`m tied up in Oz.If you release the new envisioning of Quodia, sign me up for a copy please.(Oh thats so old-lol)
On a separate note.We had a performance of a Charles Ives piece here in Melbourne a few years ago.The piece was a palindrome played on hand bells.I wouldn`t say I could whistle the tune afterwards but for a first time public performance it was performed and received well.It was a first time public performance of that piece which was about eighty years old.(!) Is there hope? lol
The idea of a circular story has sparks interest/resonance for me so thanks for that. I`ll look into it some more.Take care Mistah....Keep flying the flag

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob Gillon

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