Wednesday, September 19, 2007
RAIN WORTHINGTON: “NORTH MOORE STREET LOFT—2ND CONCERT”
Rain Worthington is an accomplished composer, with an MFA in music composition.
But back in the 1970s, she was a sculptor, who decided there were enough things in the world, cluttering it up, so she gave up working with wood and string and sand and other materials and bought an old upright piano, deciding the best art to make was music, because it didn’t contribute to the clutter of “things” in the world.
She began to slowly pick out notes that appealed to her, that said what she was trying to say, that expressed the deep desire in her to create art that was as truly her own as her sculptures had been (I saw some back then; they were unique).
Since she didn’t read or write music, she laboriously tried different combinations of notes until she found a phrase that suited what she was trying to say musically, and then she repeated it until she had it memorized. Then she’d do the same thing over again with another combination of notes.
We lived together, with my children, in a succession of lofts in what was becoming known as Tribeca at the time (see “The Rain Trilogy” in IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE), and I got to hear her putting her compositions together with such intense focus it sometimes overwhelmed me with admiration and appreciation.
And the music that resulted was unlike anything else. It was evocative of other so-called “primitives” like some critics had characterized Satie and his “furniture music” as he called it, and it had the serial, minimalist, repetitive effect that some of the other “downtown” composers were experimenting with at the time. But it was her own—more sensuous, more romantic, more mesmerizing—and ultimately unlike anyone else’s music.
As the only unschooled one among the downtown new music scene, she felt the impact of that, not getting the same kind of media attention etc. But, like so much else that I cherish in the arts, her music embodied the independent experimental spirit of a certain time and place much more so than the more famous creations from the more famous creators.
It was an especially productive time for so many artists in so many art forms, people you’ve probably never heard of, and Rain’s music of that time evokes everything that was meaningful and inspiring about those days. What it meant to be an artist then and there, trying to make something new.
She has long since gone to college and gotten her degrees and established herself as an important composer, whose music is performed by serious musicians. But this CD of her performing one of her early works for solo piano, on Charlemagne Palestine’s (another incredible composer, performer, artist, etc. who has not been given the props he deserves for being one of the most original creators of that time and place, or any time and place for that matter) Bersendorfer (or however you spell the name of the most incredible piano ever manufactured) in his loft on North Moore Street in 1977.
When I recently got this recording in the mail from CD Baby, (I bought several, to give to my grown kids and friends) it took only a few bars of “Part 1” to take me back to the origins of my own creative urges and the kinds of striving to express myself that I first felt in my youth and experienced in my early work and the work of others attempting their own creative breakthroughs.
But within minutes I was mesmerized once more by Rain’s artistry, and before “Part 1” was over, I was somewhere else, no longer here, no longer back in the 1970s, no longer anywhere material. It’s as if her music not only doesn’t add to the clutter in the world with more material “things,” but dissolves what things there are, including my material self, into musical imagery that transcends the dailiness of this life and world.
Ah, you have to hear it yourself. But don’t just listen to a small excerpt, surrender to the entire piece, and you’ll see.
I think I took this photo in one of our lofts.