Today in the subway as I was packing up a guy gave me a $20 and wanted change. As I was fumbling around trying to give him a big wad of ones he asked me what everyone always asks me "where do you study?" I suppose to most people I look like a young music school student. Then I explained that I attended Tufts University and the University of California at Berkeley. I don't usually go into too much detail about the fact that I studied composition and not violin performance or the fact that I am actually way older than I look or that I have had a wide range of musical experiences outside of the school setting. Lately I have felt a bit adrift playing and writing in such a vast and often contradictory set of genres- country, rock, musical theater, experimental, classical, etc. Many of us wear these multiple musical hats. But I have been feeling the need to narrow it down and decide which musics (because it could be more than one) are my true voice. So I am presenting a concert of my own music called The Real (?) Me. See my myspace site for a slideshow of the very talented Gelsey Bell rehearsing the centerpiece of the show: This is the Real Me. I like the fact that this slide show appears in the "About Tom Swafford" section. The reality is I'm not sure how much the piece is about me, or if it is about Gelsey, if it is about everybody or if it's about nothing. It will mean different things to different people. I did a workshop performance of it in August and in that situation it was definitely about me. As I looked at the pictures of Gelsey I thought "Do I actually do any of these gestures?" I think there may be a few that I do. The piece consists of musical material (various styles of singing, extended techniques like grunting, etc.) and mime, gestures, facial expressions and audience participation. All of these are indicated in the score, although I have made it less and less specific realizing that it works far better to give the performer a general indication and have her run with it.
We all form opinions of people based on what we see. And everyone has different sides of them that they show in different situations. In every musical situation I'm in - playing pop string arrangements, playing in a bluegrass band, playing in a rowdy Irish punk band, busking, playing at a wedding, writing a musical, playing free improv- part of me wants to show the sides that people aren't seeing. This concert will provide me with the opportunity to show the sides of my musical self that I most want to show. It will be what is, at least for now, closest to my true musical/artistic soul.
Go to http://www.tomswafford.com/news.html for more information about the concert, including links to some of the other performers.