The Art of Collaborative Art

Reflections on Reflections

I came across this writing that I had been inspired to do about collaborative art that I never shared out while we were in the midst of making the “Breathe” video  and releasing the “Upside Down” Moondrop.  This would make things June-ish in the AL1CE world.  Though time has passed and we are now creating and working on different things, the relevance of the collaborative dynamic is still very much there and holds steady.  I thought I’d share this out and share out a part of what I’m deeply grateful for in getting to be a part of AL1CE.  I’ve included one of the lyric sheets that I started with Gordon markings, as well as a little edited video of Gordon, Sash, Scott and I figuring out “Frequency.”  It’s a snippet of what takes place in a creative day in the life of that we thought would be fun to share. 😉

This week is a very special week.  I say that about many weeks.  Birthday weeks, the week before a tour, the week of beginning a new resolution.  But today we release our 12th moondrop, and this particular week marks the week in which we round a corner of creating our 13th and final AL1CE moondrop for our full-length album.  A year and change of creativity, growth, life, evolution.  We each have notches on our life chapters from this past year.

Original lyric sheet for “Frequency”

Yesterday, Sasha, Gordon, Scott, and I sat in a room, each in our individual work flows.  Gordon, Sash, and I first worked out harmonies for this song before the two of them went into the closet to have Scott record them.  I then worked on booking our upcoming Pacific Northwest tour while Gordon edited the video for this one, Sash worked on the upcoming video for the next one, and Scott mixed the music.  As we sat together in companionable silence as we often do, I was struck with the fact that we have each fallen into various roles in the band that complement each other and also that we all know how to be alone together.  The latter fact is one that makes us get along remarkably well on tours.  We all are pretty introverted individuals, and yet we know how to travel in small spaces for long periods of time and still truly enjoy the company of the group.

This particular week is going to be a week filled with rehearsals, prep, meetings, and all kinds of construction. 

We are building the song, building the performance, even physically building the stage that we’re going to be filming.  It’s a lot of work and a lot of hours, but it’s a week that I know I’m going to treasure.  I moved to LA for this very reason.  To find a family tribe and to make things together.  I happen to have fallen into a fold of particularly kind and talented artists…and for that reason I have found that I have been fortunate to find a creative health that feels healthy.

Behind the scenes action from the songwriting session for “Frequency”.

I originally moved to LA from Texas with the desire to meet like-minded individuals who wanted to make art together.  I dreamed of a collaborative group of multi-talented people who shared the same kind of ethos and passion to create.  LA, as it turns out, was the perfect place for me to move to.  My first experience with a group collaboration was in a band situation.  From there, I moved on to being a part of opera companies, choral groups, dance theatre, theatre, event productions, and performance art groups.  I’ve been in many bands, whether as creator or player.  Each paradigm has a great deal of juice to offer.  Even if my parts are laid out for me in classical situations or pre-written music, I find that I can still have a voice and a voice that is usually valued.  This is unfortunately not always the case, but I can happily say that for the most part I’ve had very positive experiences. 

In taking a step back from our group dynamic, I think some of the keys to our success as a cohesive group are the following:

  1. We listen to each other.  Yes, I know this seems like a total gimme, but listening during collaboration is really pretty difficult.  I’ve been in many different collaborative situations with various artists and mediums, and I’ve found that when we artists are inspired and excited that it’s pretty easy to spout out our own ideas instead of listening to others.  As well, having a strong vision for a creation can make it especially difficult to hear other people’s ideas.  While this may work well for solo projects to have a strong vision, in a collaborative situation, it’s pretty deflating to feel that your ideas are not heard.  In our group, we’ve naturally fallen into a dynamic in which when one person has an idea, the group falls silent and listens to the other person complete the idea.  We may not always use these ideas…in fact, there have been innumerable ideas that have been tossed aside, but we do give the person speaking the respect of hearing the entirety of the idea.  At first, I was a bit intimidated by everyone’s rapt attention when I spoke myself, but over time, I’ve found that this aspect of group dynamic has actually inspired me to come to the table with ideas that I can fully flush out and express.
  2. We give each other the freedom to fail.  As mentioned earlier, there have been many ideas that have been tossed aside.  And I can’t begin to tell you how many demos and initial song ideas that are floating in the nethers that contain pretty awful vocal performances.  Again, I have to remind myself that these are IDEAS and DEMOS.  Nothing is concrete.  And in the midst of this particular self-acceptance, my group of creators have offered me the carte blanche acceptance as well, letting me know that they hear what I’m going for.  They don’t judge me because I don’t execute things technically perfectly.  And for this reason, I never feel blocked in sharing very rough ideas in raw form.  Thus, I don’t waste time in attempting to create something “perfect” while I’m still figuring out what exactly I’m going for.
  3. We honor our deadlines.  Yes, these can definitely suck.  Our moondrops have definitely given us a very different relationship with the moon.  As it gets larger, all of us have a tendency now to look up and go….uh oh….tick tock, tick tock.  However, it’s forced us to put out content because of a commitment we made to ourselves.  This particular deadline has personally taught me that, yes, it is actually possible to create something, even when I feel completely and totally blocked and out of ideas.  I have learned from this experiment of ours that I am capable of creation, even if I don’t believe in myself.  Julia Cameron from The Artist’s Way has definitely been an influence in this regard.  My inner mantra has been that I simply need to show up at the page.
  4. We have a heck of a lot of fun.  I can say that I’m pretty serious and intense when it comes to music, but my group of artist collaborators have taught me that creating can be laced with joy, even in the midst of making art that delves into darker topics.  One of my vocal mentors, the brilliant choral director Donald Brinegar, has told me that laughing not only “loosens the diaphragm, but also loosens the body,” which is conducive to better singing.  I think this can be said of many activities in life…that finding the enjoyment within the moment helps things simply flow better.

I think part of human nature is to find and focus on conflict and that when we do find stasis in a sense that we sometimes have a tendency to muck things up. 

After different incarnations of band-dom, our group dynamic has reached a settled state for quite some time, and it’s been really interesting for me to witness how the lack of internal conflict has allowed for creative growth.  I never know what chapters will be laid out for us from year to year, from tour to tour, from album to album and if people will connect to what we put out into the world…we have no control over that sort of thing.  However, I can say that while we excavate our internal landscapes, explore expression, and create in various mediums, that we have the power to enjoy all these moments and processes and not succumb to the stereotypical “suffering artist.”  My dear reader, I hope that today you too can can find joy and flow, whether by yourself or in a group, even if it’s just for a moment. xoxo

The final product: “Frequency”, moondrop #11

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