Artist Statement

My research focuses on the physical nature of art—that is, the ways in which our physical presence/bodies are necessary components of the arts, much more integrally than cerebral aspects of performing, creating, or appreciating. My bias is that the sound of an orchestra or the two-dimensional visual representation of a painting is not as important as the literal movement that it implies. Here I am defining “movement” as both an actual expression of the body through space (gesture), as well as the sensations such as heaviness or loft that can be physically experienced in stillness or in motion.

I hold that there are tangible sensations of lightness and heaviness that are the root outcomes of an artful experience (true for artists and spectators alike). Whether in the painting gallery, the opera stage, the Shakespeare play, walking through a thoughtful landscape design, or even walking through an inner-city alley, the root experience of creating, performing, or appreciating is wrapped up in the physical. Response to our environment is at base a physical endeavor and the gradations of acclaim/satisfaction are directly proportional to this “movement” factor.

I have worked with every undergraduate music performance and composition major at Carnegie Mellon University since 1999 to explore and test this theory. The inclination in traditional music instruction is to focus a majority of students’ effort on the individual notes, the individual moments in time, the micro-analysis. As students become more accomplished, they are given more opportunities to strive for the larger pictures, the macro-analysis. In my work and in the complementary work of my peers, we have found that the most efficient model for aesthetics instruction is to build the larger pictures into the curriculum as early as possible.

With authentic movement as an expressed goal from early stages, the actor is able to proceed with efficiency. The goal of authentic movement will guide the other many decisions that can make for a successful interaction. It is a tool for efficient and impactful communication. Communication can take the form of a discussion between 2 people, or a lecture to 200, or a painting, or an architectural design… We have done the research in music. When the performance follows the gesture of authentic movement, the experience is rich, and can push into the realm of catharsis. When the performance lacks the underlying impetus, it is deemed shallow, stagnant, of little consequence.