Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fulbrighty Thoughts about Iceland

The Fulbright requests an end-of-term grant report online, which has many question and answer fields. I thought I'd share with you some working versions of my responses.

What was your project? My original proposal for the Fulbright was to create a 'multi-media installation combining live performances and found sounds gathered throughout Iceland, exploring the connections between Iceland's people and their landscape. This was a little high-falootin', and the first section about the multi-media part ended up being nearly impossible due to funding and resources. The second section was easier, as it just involved watching a lot of people and how they live in a city or in the country, and the things that people do on a day-to-day basis. Multi-media installations aside, I was still able to write and perform new works live, as well as record music which will be released shortly as a full-length album of works from Iceland. My projects also included choral works, and I had two of them performed. One piece was professionally recorded.

What did the Fulbright provide for me in general? The Fulbright afforded me the time to meet and get to know many artists and musicians, as well as the time to travel, write, read, collect materials and recordings, and experience what being a full-time artist is like. I was able to work more closely with the ProTools recording software. I discovered that Sibelius software isn't all that much better than Finale. I took a lot of pictures, made some jewelry, made some collages. I learned a lot of a new language! I interviewed many composers, I attended concerts, and participated in events. And first and foremost it was time to be able to absorb another culture and get to know its inner workings.

What kinds of public speaking did I do? I gave a series of short concerts at the National Gallery of Iceland, which allowed me to interact with visitors and guests to the gallery. I also spoke to a young girls' choir, and to my own choir of local amateur singers. I was invited to perform in an 'artist's salon' evening and met many people in the performance-art field, which was very enlightening and they were very receptive to my work. I also wrote a review article for the English-language newspaper Grapevine, about the classical music festival 'Dark Music Days'.

What about affiliations?
Unfortunately the Academy of the Arts in Iceland provided me with little assistance other than a key to access practice rooms. My requests to do a guest lecture there went unreplied, and requests to borrow equipment which is available to students was denied. This being said, other orgz (I didn't say orgz of course in the official report) were more helpful. I was able to take away many Icelandic scores from the Music Information Center at a super awesome 'composer discount'. The Music Museum of Iceland was a dark horse; they offered me lots of creative resources, gave me a long personal tour, and they even interviewed me! In the future I'd have them be my affiliate. If only I'd had discovered them months earlier in my grant!

How does one get the best access to research in Iceland?
Much information here is held in the brains of only several individuals and you have to get to know these heads of 'power'. Most work and communication is done on a personal and mouth-to-mouth basis; email is rarely used and a phone call is often essential to remind people about outstanding requests.

How did I adjust to a new culture? What were difficulties?
One of the best ways I adjusted to Icelandic culture was to join a choir shortly after moving here. It helped to have a handful of other American colleagues around to share these comments with as well. Being forced to interact in a choir also helped me adjust to a different speed of working, the long days or long nights, and the lack of communication from many professionals in my field that I had hoped would be more helpful. Most of my problems arose due to my lack of patience with the slow pace of response of Icelanders in general, music colleagues, or businesses. However, I personally grew (and learned to relax) with every trip outside of Reykjavík, seeing new things and recording new sounds. Every day there seemed to be at least one thing that I was impressed and very moved by, not ever having seen anything like this waterfall, art object, sunset, style of music, land formation, etc. before. And then without doing anything, friends popped up in unexpected places and in unexpected ways, surprising me with generosity.

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