How’d You Get a Gig Like That? - Part I

Music at a photo festival
With two collaborators I did a live music set at FotoweekDC. We live-scored a projection of photography from New World Voyage, my music-photo hybrid project that came out over the summer (see It’s a story of sorts of the first space colonists at the moment of leaving Earth, knowing they won’t come back. It was interesting how the balance of photo and music components jostled for attention and importance. Is it a slideshow, a concert, an art project? The album download comes with a PDF booklet of images, but in some ways the live format better integrated both elements into an immersive whole.

Hey, that sounds cool, how does one get a gig like that?
Well, in my case, doing the hard work over an extended period of time, against all odds and battling through all kinds of uncertainty and limitations. Doing things and building on them to do other things. I recommend remaining flexible, open, and yet stubborn in your creative approach. Have ideas and chase them, but don’t be afraid to go where the path takes you. I’ve always played music in bands, but this is material that is totally new for me, ideas I didn’t have twenty years or five years ago. I left a good and successful indie band, Dot Dash, to pursue those ideas. And yet for a fair stretch of time it really wasn’t working, until finally it was. So that’s what I mean by stubborn.

Bringing it to the micro-local level
The next night we had a cool listening/watching party in my DC neighborhood, Petworth, in the small venue called Third Floor above a diner. This was a different 40-minute video version (that I finished editing and exporting about 30 mins before doors opened, I think I got a ticket on the way back to the venue...) accompanying the full recorded album, plus Q&A at the end. Nice little turnout and very grass roots, some people lying on the floor on pillows for the screening. The event again made me realize (along with the live version) that the material is most powerful when all the elements are together - the music, photos, and even the writing I did to flesh out the story, in the form of the crew’s communications back to Earth. Now I’m thinking where else to take both formats, live and prerecorded. I’m thinking the whole spectrum from living-room listening parties to theater-scale projections with live score. Some new possibilities are already in the works.

How did you hook that up?
By being active both in my work and in the community, and a bit of karma. I’d become friendly with the guy that owns the Third Floor and a number of other local establishments. A while back I took some photos when his family closed their long-running art space downtown and moved their various businesses to Petworth. I took them for myself, but gave them the photos gratis as I knew how momentous it was for the family. Recently he offered the Third Floor as a venue for a listening party so I came up with ideas on how to do it. Not really a quid pro quo in the sense of either side expecting anything, more like what goes around comes around. Which might not get you ‘into the art world’ but is not a bad approach to building *your* art world.

You work for months and even years on projects that have no guarantee of coming to fruition. But then suddenly, sometimes they do. I can remember asking for creative advice in the past and would often hear, 'stick with it, do the work’. Now I'm seeing why that's the best advice of all.

Bill Crandall