Ah, evening of charm and delight! I’m a bit of a train wreck this morning but so much the better for being so. What’s coffee for anyway? It all began with Andrea and me sitting in the café bar and chatting about actors and stuff. It was hot outside, 34°C in the shade even at 6pm, and the world through my dewy bottle of litchi Bionade could well have been a movie. There’s the girl with the pit-bull and the chrysanthamum tattoo. There’s Bogart across the street, tipping his hat low against the sun. There’s the shadow of the killer. Then Andrea said this word – Schaffensdrang – the burning urge, necessity, imperative, to create. That’s it. It’s possible you get it or maybe not. No matter. Enough that it’s 5.30 am now and I am awake just to put that down. Schaffensdrang.
We went to Andrea’s favourite Italian restaurant for dinner. The garden was full so we sat inside and ordered antipasti and fish and a flacon of cool Italian white. We drank to the Ramayana, to great scripts, to music, to trying, to failing. But always in pursuit of the great Kunst God. Which is much the same as the pursuit of craft or sex or love. Or bliss.
My bedside reading is Richard Schechner’s The Future of Ritual. He’s got a big bone to pick, has Schechner. And though I sometimes lose my way through his crazy extrapolations on events (53 pages on the Ramlila in Varnasi) and obsessions with spatial details (45 pages mapping the Waehma rituals on the Yaqui reservation) I dig what he says fundamentally. That real performance (as against what Peter Brook calls Theater of the Dead) is by definition dynamic and responsive to societal changes and resists scholarly pigeon holing. Also, interesting is his deep analysis of the long time Occidental fascination for and therefore support and perpetuation of what are considered “traditional” eastern arts. The development of a “normative expectation” usually by an establishment of some sort - colonial powers, royal patronage, government, foreign funders - of what constitutes the pure and the subsequent rejection of anything “modern”, experimental. The acceptance of form regardless of context. Schechner writes using the example of the Indonesian Wayang Kulit but he could be speaking about Carnatic music, Bharatnatyam or almost anything in India.
Over Prosecco and Zuppa Inglese, Andrea speaks about how the European arts tradition is based on constant rule breaking. About medieval German music. About how opera has evolved to fill large houses, the instruments changing, the pianoforte disappearing, the very technique of singing growing larger. And how there is now a revival of opera for small spaces, listened to in lamp light so the senses are more aware and able to respond to the softest singing, the warm, personal, acoustic notes of instruments that are strung with gut not metal and so on.
And then it’s late and suddenly we’re singing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and thinking that here we have found Sita – she’s Lucy in the Sky for sure.