Questions and Answers

Miguel Frasconi’s adapation of ‘Things You Should Know,’ by AM Homes is one of the featured operas on May’s Flash Operas at Symphony Space.   As he sees it, his piece is in the lineage of experimental music stretching back to some of the very founders of this tradition in the US.  Questions, he says in his blogpost below, are the foundation of all art-making.  We couldn’t agree more!

If there was just one thing I took away from my many visits with John Cage it would be how every creative act can be thought of as nothing more than a series of questions. A painter could ask,”what colors will I use?” A composer could ask, “how does this piece start?” Then there is of course the “meta” question, which made Cage who he was and influenced anyone who came in contact with him: “Once I know what type of questions I’ll be asking, how do I then determine the answers to these questions?” That question beckons the essential experiment in “experimental music.” As an example, what we now call “minimalist” music started out being a wing of the experimental tradition called “process music,” where one could clearly hear the structural evolution that determined the answers to the more detailed compositional questions. It turned structure into a list of audible steps taken to complete the composition. Sometimes these steps involved an interaction with the performer. But still, they were all simply a list of steps to take to get to the final question, “how does this end?”

Excerpt from ‘Things You Should Know.’

I found this idea of how to determine the answer to these questions at the heart of the story, Things You Should Know. A man imagines a list. He knows that he does not in fact know what is on this list, but, still, he knows there is one. This, to me, is the essence of any art worth making. It’s the not knowing that draws me into the creative process. The more I don’t know, the more I can discover things I didn’t expect. This is the process I take when I play my glass instruments, and this is the process I took in composing my personal version of this story as an opera. I didn’t want things to simply be presented to the audience, but wanted to create a situation in which the audience experienced this need to make lists for themselves. Now, I’m not going to reveal how this happens but please come to the performance in May and let me know if I succeeded.