17 December 2014

Childlike Wonder

Something clicked for me the other day. Why I do this. Why I want to do this -- this art thing. Creating things.

I was listening to Michael W. Smith's brilliant orchestral piece Glory Battle. I have wanted to choreograph this since I first heard it this past summer. I have blocking and theme all figured out -- all I'm lacking is time to flesh out the actual steps. But that day I was listening to it, trying to wake myself up so I could study. I never realised before how consistently that piece gives me chills. I swear I listened to it twenty times. I sat there on my bed for literally forty-five minutes and just kept hitting the back button every time it finished. I couldn't stop. I kept thinking, Okay, one more time. Okay now, last time. Now this really is the last time. But I kept hitting that button like an addict. I wanted to hear it again, see the dance in my mind's eye again, feel that orchestra again. Like a little kid watching his favourite film or playing his favourite song over and over and over again because it's so captivating and big and can't be experienced all in one go.

Once that little kid was me. And the song was David Meece's This Time. I could not get enough of it. It wasn't a 'kids' song,' but it absolutely captured my four-year-old mind. Perhaps it was because it wasn't a kids' song, deliberately dumbed down to pander to a younger mind. It made me feel happy and sad all the same time, and one listen could not sort through it all. I distinctly remember even as a child trying to articulate why I liked it so much, what exactly it made me feel -- but I couldn't. In a way I still can't. You can analyse the song structure and the theory and production all you like, but it doesn't explain why my soul seems to get bigger and simultaneously smaller when I hear it. It doesn't explain why the world shrinks and expands before me, why snowflakes seem to glitter brighter and yet so do the stars.

This is why -- or at least part of it. I want to give a little kid that moment -- that moment where the soul is simultaneously crushed and flying. Even if the old people don't care, if there can be a little kid that will watch this choreography on YouTube obsessively not because it's my work, but because it awakes in him a wonder and awe he can't explain away, that will be satisfactory. Emotionally, at least. (I do still need to put food on the table somehow. I don't know how that works yet.) I want to give them the same experience I had -- that sense of awe and wonder, as I build on the foundation of those who gave me that same experience. And then may the child go out and do the same for the next little child.

But is it art for art's sake? Wonder does fade. But that path back to the great artists of history that started with David Meece turned out to be a good one. From there I ended up largely in the hands of artists who knew that the wonder they create is elusive and fleeting and that it fades. They had already found -- and directed me to -- the source of the awe and the wonder that never fades. May I build on their foundation and direct the next generation of artists the way that those before have guided me.

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