Whilst watching the presentations of Dr. Paul Norman and Dr. Sean Clancy at the Practice Research Symposium, November 2020, I was forced to think in much more detail about what it means to be translating a subject or experience, into a piece of music or art. And naturally I started to do this in the context of my own work.
Translation appears to be a difficult term to use. There was a lot of confusion over which term should be used to define the compositional work of Sean Clancy – transform, transpose, transliterate? The following comment from John Thwaites expresses the lineage of the debate in hand:
“No question from me…but just reminded of Isaac Stern confronting Jonathan Miller. Stern was obviously communicating, and trying to get Miller to accept that Music is a Language. Miller wasn’t having it, because when you translate out of music, and then back in, nothing recognisable from the original survives the process. Semantically I’m with miller, but then Cooke’s “The Language of Music” is one of my favourite books! Endlessly fascinating stuff… ”John Thwaites at the Practice Research Sypmosium for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, 2020
Can music really be a translation if it isn’t really a language that is immediately recognisable? After all we mostly do not hear in geometry, or in some kind of synesthetic visualisation of an alphabet (unless we are lucky enough to have this extra way of seeing sound). Taking this out of music and then into text and performance, could it be possible that I am translating the subjects I choose into some kind of performance language. This is definitely not what I am doing. In fact to me the original object/concept/subject matter is a very distinct and separate object to the work that I make. The work I am making is an adaptation, reflection or representation. It is similar to Aristotle’s art as “imitation” of nature.
“. . . anthropophagic theatricality is . . . a transformation that results in the meeting of two philosophical thinkings about life: the indigenous . . . and the European . . . Out of this encounter came the idea of mixing influences and ‘devouring’: taking over the properties of a source’s arts or culture and making them your own. The theatre of anthropophagy is simultaneously both processes of an intercultural appropriation and collaborative creative creation.”Aleksandar Dundjerović & Luiz Fernando Ramos [eds] (2019) Brazilian Performing Arts, Abada Editores: Madrid (pp. 81-82)
Through using “anthropophagy” as a theoretical underpinning for the work I can say that my work is pushing anthropophagic practice by not only devouring a subject but devouring and empathising with it at the same time. This creates a mutualistic relationship with the subject where not only is it giving me space for creativity and imagination, but also I am giving it space to have a renewed existence through a new empathetic representation. I am not translating the subject but recreating it in a new form. It is important that I chose subjects which are related and have meaning to both myself and universally to others. This way the representations I create will be embued with my own emotional and philosophical reflections, as well as those which would be held in common with my audience.