I didn’t know Reznikoff’s work before Every House Has a Door approached us about collaborating. Lin and Matthew are the two core members of EHHAD and they teach at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.
Bobby and I had both studied with them – Bobby in the late 90’s and me just a couple years ago. We had Matthew’s first book in our van library for a long time before I ever met them, so almost everyone involved with JOA has probably looked through it at some point.
Since they are my neighbors, we’d run into each other pretty frequently and keep up with what one another had been up to. Of course we were all always aware of certain sensibilities and modes of operating that EHHAD and JOA have in common.
All bands are obviously collaborative to some degree and each band develops its own internal language or codes. In many ways, though it might not seem as though to any nostalgic outsider, JOA is currently a vastly better band than we’ve ever been before. We’ve all deepened and expanded not only our common goals, but with our communication and means of collaborating.
We’ve been learning so much from EHHAD about every dimension of the creative process, i.e. conception, execution, political and social. They always operate collaboratively. One of their typical strategies for beginning a new collaboration is choosing an obscure and often overlooked artist from the past that they feel deserves reconsideration and using that as a departure point.
What they appreciated about Reznikoff’s work seemed to appropriately embody the potential overlap in JOA and EHHAD’s sensibilities.
That said, people coming to the Testimonium performances certainly should not expect to see or hear Reznikoff’s poems, just set to music. In fact, his estate denied us the rights to use his poems.
Creating the multi-trans-cross-disiplinary piece as a big group, along with Bryan Saner as the orator and Stephen Fiehn as the movement-guy, Reznikoff has been much more of a point of departure than a destination. Testimony was the prompt. It will be two years of layering and contorting our responses to this prompt by the time it premiers in October, so the source material itself is now just a deeply embedded seed.
Though we did not address these poems directly, we began with the poems of The West from Testimony. I personally feel if anyone wanted to get a great introduction to his work, The West poems would be the place to start.
An excerpt from ‘The West’ from Testimony by Charles Reznikoff