Childhood Dreams

Maybe it’s all these great diary posts Van has been doing on her grad school performances, but I’ve been thinking a lot (and missing) the creativity of my more creative years. Don’t get me wrong, I love the academic path I’ve taken, but sometimes I feel like there are way too many rules to obey and at the end of the day, I just want to break them all. While I trained as a classic violinist, then cellist, since I was 5 years old, my real passion was in performance, and in breaking the strict rules of classical music. Perhaps that is why I love avant-garde composers such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen so much. But beyond the music, I also wanted to take the performance aspect of playing classical music one step further.

While I’ve always had a soft spot for Jacqueline du Pré, I always thought that her music might be a little more exciting if, for example, she performed on top of a mountain, in an elevator, or wearing a yellow unitard. There was just something too “tame” about her that made me love Charlotte Moorman all the more. My dream performance, don’t ask me why, has always been to play Stockhausen’s In Freundschaft  in a Porta Potty – I always thought that the confined space would make for great acoustics, not to mention the contrast of aesthetic between the portable toilet and the refinement of the instrument. I also attempted once to play the violin upside down, hanging from a tree. I basically climbed up a tree, tied my feet in a noose and threw myself over the branch. I don’t know if what came out could be considered music, but it was quite a performance!

In that respect, I have tremendous admiration for bands like Arcade Fire that have managed to combine classical and pop music with avant-garde performance stunts. Their elevator rendition of Neon Bible (see below) is everything I could ever ask from pop music.

When I think about it, maybe it is the performance, almost theatrical aspect of virtual worlds that has caught my attention and has yet to let go. No matter what people think about virtual worlds, or even how frustrated I can become when the inevitable technical issues raise their ugly heads, there is something that keeps drawing me in. Maybe it is the possibility of realizing these childhood dreams, of becoming something or someone you’re not or perhaps simply the possibility of being the person you really are. What is it about virtual worlds that keep you coming back?

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Categories: Performance Art

Author:katcool

I am a graduate student studying how people experience informal education, particularly art, in virtual worlds such as Second Life. My background is in both Art History and Computer Science. Please feel free to email me or IM me in SL (Kathleen Koolhoven) if you have any questions regarding my current research or want to participate in my study.

15 Comments on “Childhood Dreams”

  1. Wednesday, 22 August 2012 at 17:50 UTC #

    Wow Kathleen, I loved your post… then I watched the video… and was so mesmerized that I had to read the post again!

    Fantastic! Exciting! Wow!

    Well, of course, we should do “this”.

    What is “this”? haha, isn’t “that” the fundamental question of Life, Creativity, and Everything!? 🙂

    Anyway, whatever “this” is… let’s do it.

    First, you brought up the yellow unitard again, so I think we should do that. Childhood Kat meets virtual Kat at the nexus of time and space.

    Dressing a bunch of avatars in yellow unitards, letting them accessorize as they like, and hanging them from trees in a pastoral landscape… or some other landscape… actually we’re pretty good at that part, I don’t think it will be too hard to pull off.

    The sonic component however could be trickier. I feel like you should be the Music Director on this, of course, but that might put a lot of both producing and technical responsibility on you that could be challenging to either perform all yourself, or find other locals, or reach out to an online network of artists… You totally can if you want… but…

    What about reaching out to one of the many Laptop Orchestras / Laptop Ensembles that have sprung up all over the place in recent years? Doing it with Arcade Fire would be amazing (and you’re totally welcome to pitch it to them) but I assume they’re too famous and it’d be hard to pull off… but if we pitched a few of these Laptop Ensembles, I’d think we’d get one to work with us.

    What do you think?

    Or maybe it should be YOU doing Stockhausen in a Porta Potty… or maybe we should reach out online… and, for example, say:

    On Saturday 20 October at 16:00 GMT we are looking for soloists to perform In Freundschaft live and stream it to… uh, yeah… the person who volunteers to aggregate all that sound for us! 🙂 You know the Eric Whitacre story for his 1st virtual choir project right? It *could* work…
    http://irez.me/2012/04/29/eric-whitacre-virtual-choir/

    • katcool
      Wednesday, 22 August 2012 at 19:54 UTC #

      One thing that I love about you, Van, is that everything seems possible with you LOL! I would definitely be down for another collaboration! I love the idea of possibly collaborating with a laptop orchestra – the concept has always fascinating me. Let me see what I can come up with!!!!!

  2. katcool
    Wednesday, 22 August 2012 at 20:26 UTC #

    I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with the work of avant garde cellist Zoe Keating. She always manages to blend technology and art so well… in my opinion, she’s definitely one of the most remarkable musicians of our time!!!!

    • Wednesday, 22 August 2012 at 22:31 UTC #

      Wow Kat — Zoe Keating is pretty much your alternate life! 😀

      kk – so friend of VB/CO, the latex designer Kai Heideman makes unitards, both hooded and not. He’d probably be happy to do wardrobe for the piece. He already makes the not hooded one in yellow, and he might do a hooded yellow for us if we wanted it
      http://irez.me/tag/kai-heideman/

      Vaneeesa Blaylock wearing 2 versions of a red unitard from Kai Heideman / Powers of Creation - a hooded and footed version, and one with open feet that ends at the neckline

      As for sound… well, you can try contacting Zoe Keating to perform with us!

      Beyond that… what is your preference?

      • You doing Stockhausen in a Porta Potty?
      • A Laptop Orchestra from somewhere working with us?
      • Soliciting soloists to all perform at the same time?
      • Or… ?

  3. katcool
    Wednesday, 22 August 2012 at 22:50 UTC #


    Isn’t she amazing? I love when she says that she finds it very difficult to describe what she does, because she doesn’t only play the cello and work with technology, but also creates a world – isn’t that what we all do, or should strive to do, even if our world is a virtual one?
    I love the unitards, although that’s not what I looked like in mine LOL! Given the nature of the project, I think it would be awesome if we could enlist a laptop orchestra to work with us. What do you think?

    • Thursday, 23 August 2012 at 17:39 UTC #

      Wow, Kat, I had no idea. Missed this whole conversation! I play the cello myself and knew about Zoe Keating. I love how she says (something along the lines of) “Each time I play something, it’s different because I am different each time. Sometimes it’s beautiful, but it will also be sad by only having been there once.” I think every musician will recognize that feeling (and especially so when improvising).

    • Thursday, 23 August 2012 at 17:53 UTC #

      And because you cannot have enough videos in a post, here some of one of my favorite dutch cellists: Ernst Reijseger. Not virtual, but very much “not Jacqueline du Pré” (she was amazing, of course, but I know what you mean):

      And a more happy one, perhaps it’s not hanging upside down from a tree, but certainly open for consideration:

      (If I post the link, will it automatically include the movies?)

      • Thursday, 23 August 2012 at 19:10 UTC #

        Tech Note:

        Ravanel, obviously you DID figure the video thing out! 🙂
        But just to state it explicitly for you or anyone else, to post a YouTube video In a Post, OR in a Comment, use the “youtu.be” URL, not the “youtube.com” url, so:
        • NO: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro5K93CkLO0”
        • YES: “http://youtu.be/Ro5K93CkLO0”

        And then, if you just paste that youtu.be URL on a line by itself, no other formatting necessary, it’ll be a video in your post or comment.

        Interestingly, with Vimeo you CAN do about the same in Posts, but I can’t find a way to post Vimeo in comments. Also, in posts, you just take the Vimeo URL: “https://vimeo.com/27586323” and put it on a single line, but you have to take the “S” out, if your Vimeo URL is “https” WordPress won’t take it, but if you just remove the S, “http” then it’ll embed fine and go to the Vimeo https when you click it.

        There! That’s not confusing at all, is it? 😀

      • katcool
        Thursday, 23 August 2012 at 19:52 UTC #

        That’s so awesome, Ravanel!!!! Thanks for posting! We should play the cello together in SL sometimes 🙂

        • Friday, 24 August 2012 at 12:40 UTC #

          Haha, that’s the weirdest cello proposal I’ve ever heard. I’m totally in for that if you show me around in SL (I’ve never been in SL yet) – if SL cellos aren’t as expensive as they are in RL, that is. 😛

          • Monday, 27 August 2012 at 15:44 UTC #

            Great stuff Ravanel / Kathleen!

            So… for “our” In Freundschaft (“In Friendship”) we could have:

            a) Kathleen & Ravanel on cello (and play Stockhausen’s composition)
            b) Hook up with one of these many Laptop Orchestra’s out there (they could do something related to Stockhausen… or not… it could be a new “In Friendship” (or maybe they wouldn’t want the weight/responsibility of the Stockhausen title if they’re not doing Stockhausen… but since it’s where Kathleen’s idea began, it seems like a nice title for us.

            a) is probably more work for us… since we’d have to hook both of you up with someone with a microphone… who’d either have to stream you both at the same time… or record it and someone else somewhere puts the 2 together… but it’s also more “us”… born & evolved on iRez and all that… pretty cool…

            b) has the 2 advantages of us reaching out to another really contemporary, innovative group of peeps… and while it might have its own logistics issues, it would have us inventing / manufacturing less tech stuff that we’ve never done before.

            On the unitards… Kathleen, you said they were pretty different from your infamous childhood unitard? We don’t have to use Kai’s if they’re too different or not right… we can look for other designers… did yours have stirrup feet? Or did the material feel different? Cotton? Lycra?

            I really only picked Kai’s because we already know him and he makes them and he’d give them to us. So again, it’s a lot of convenience, which is good… but not if you think it’s the wrong feeling…

            LMK! Yay!

            • Wednesday, 29 August 2012 at 15:18 UTC #

              That sounds amazing! I’m in :). As for the unitard, I just meant that I didn’t look as good in it as you do in your pic… Let’s just say I didn’t have certain womanly parts at the time lol! I think it’s fine for this purpose, but if we want to get historical about it (which I don’t see any reason why… a unitard is a unitard right?) it was one of those lycra gymnastics unitards – aka the bottom was more like a swimsuit, but it had long sleeves. Like I said before, it was quite a look!

              • Wednesday, 29 August 2012 at 20:15 UTC #

                oh oh, like a Long Sleeve Leotard?

                And which version do you want to try for the music?

                • katcool
                  Wednesday, 29 August 2012 at 22:48 UTC #

                  YES! Sorry, I guess I used the wrong terminology. It was actually a leftover piece from a past ballet recital (if you can call it that!).
                  If Ravanel is down with participating, I’m all for that. If not, I like the laptop orchestra route. Besides, I’ve always wanted to talk with someone who’s in one 🙂

                  • Sunday, 02 September 2012 at 01:07 UTC #

                    I’m totally in for this sort of stuff, although I don’t see exactly how we want this to turn out. Stockhausen – oops! Do we want an SL avatar too then, to dance to it? 😀 I’ve experimented with playing together over the internet in the past, but it’s very bothersome. You always have a tad of lag, so you can’t play together while letting it sound nice for both. The only things that’s really possible is what Vaneeesa said: record it and then play together. Still could be pretty cool (I have an okay microphone).

                    The laptop orchestra sounds amazing too, though, and is probably easier. So I think you should definitely go for that, too!

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