The UltraSound Village Festival May 9, 2012
A magical, mysterious, multisensory experience from artist Keren Rosenbaum.
Keren developed an extraordinary event in Demarest, New Jersey. Demarest is a lovely place filled with trees, birds, flowers, an historical train station next to a brook, a town gazebo in a park - a tranquil, harmonious small town in America. A revolution of sound, sight, and touch... a banquet of new excitement, entitled the UltraSound Village Festival occurred on a quiet overcast Saturday afternoon in this town of Demarest. So what happened at the Festival? Just from observation one could see a community brought together... from the town’s marching band, the Fire Department, the Police Department, guest artists from around the world performing all types of new music, an interactive workshop for children designed to explore art, music and sound with their parents and friends with crowds gathering asking many questions. All of these people were volunteers, collaborators and curious guests in this new historical event opening their hearts and minds with trust and joy for new ideas in their beautiful small town.
All of the performers donned the Reflex Ensemble red jumpsuits for the day. There were STOP signs (part of Keren’s score...visit reflexensemble.org for more information) that lined the streets and guided the marching band, led by Keren, in a new experimental parade from the gazebo to the Demarest Train station where the collaborative creative events began. I want to share a short anecdote about the parade here. Keren called the parade, “The March Goes Off” and while watching along with the community, I listened to two gentleman discuss the criteria for what makes a parade correctly done. I found this conversation too intriguing to mind my own business. One gentleman said, and I loosely paraphrase, “A parade must always be in the street, while those that watch are always on the sidewalk. This is just the rule for parades!” The other man replied, “But maybe there is a reason why this parade leaves the street and goes onto the pavement and mixes with the watchers...you know, the parade is called, “The March Goes OFF!” The other man paused, and calmly replied, “Aahhh... now, that makes sense to me. I like this going off idea.” People were talking, thinking and wondering... This was very exciting to me. Conversations like these were all around me.
At the now defunct, renovated station decorated with stunning stained glass windows, the people gathered to hear Keren introduce the beginning of the first event. I was talking to many people that day, instead of just eavesdropping, listening to their thoughts and questions. There were many questions. Why do you all wear the red jumpsuits? Why experimental music in a small town like Demarest? What does this all mean? Please explain all of this to us? What can we learn from this? We never experienced anything like this before. Is sound music? Is noise music? What is music? How can music be interpreted this way? I am having a great time here today as my children are playing and listening but what does this all mean? Is this an art installation? How can we hear more?
So many questions unanswered....
I spoke with Keren after the event and told her about the questions. She was happy about the questions. She replied that when people ask questions, they are engaged in the process of a living piece of art. From this event some will be changed forever. I agreed. The purpose of art is to change and to encourage thought in a new way. How can we keep music alive for all people if not to ask questions? We can become set in our thought patterns and assume that we have it all figured out. But it takes courage for the artist to take that risk that will elicit the questions, to stir the thoughts about sound, our environment, our existence and our humanity. To make us think again outside the ubiquitous “box.” Do new ideas in the arts always belong in the so-called appropriate setting for those who are already “in the know”? What if these new concepts were brought forth right down the block from you for your neighbors, schools, parents, and children?
I realized when the event was over, that this experience was one that changed me. During the process, I admit confusion, even fear that this event would not be accepted by the townspeople. But, in the end, they stayed, not for a few minutes but for the entire event, many with questions...and amazing questions.
I have been to many experimental concerts in my life, as this is my field of research, and never have I heard so many questions. Isn’t this the responsibility of an artist to reach out in some way to excite or even incite people enough that they care enough to once again ask questions? I congratulate you Keren for your courage and urge you to continue on. Thank you for your incredible spirit and your continued gifts of generosity through your artistic brilliance!