The Circle of Light: A Ceremony for solo flute and eight lumanists (2016)
by Stuart Saunders Smith
I’m going to say something, and I’m going to ask for your feedback, but I still haven’t decided what I think the “right” answer should be. Here it is:
I can’t decide what it is that this music is saying to me. And, I mean, is that okay?
As an artist, a creator, a producer, a photographer, a musician, a cinematographer, a whatever you want to call it… this is one of the toughest ideas that I contend with, and it still bothers me even months after production.
Let me also clarify that I’m not suggesting i lack understanding of the music or its choreography. I’m not saying that I don’t get it. The problem for me is that I’ve heard it so many times while I was experiencing different emotions, I don’t really know if there is a version of this piece that I can accept as my “final interpretation.”
So, I’m going to guess that many of you (if you’ve even read this far) won’t have the listening stamina or the patience to hear this music to the end. And do you know what? That’s completely okay! To me, listening to music is not at all like running a marathon, though that cliche might seem valid at first. I really feel like long-term hearing is much more akin to the art of meditation, which can be very freeing.
When I engage in meditation, I feel like I have a zone or a target sensation that I’d like to reach. It’s not about accomplishing a goal, but more like gaining a sense of balance in my mind. And when I hear this piece, I feel like I want to resolve the concept of the “Circle of Light” as a beacon of unity. I want to hear the flute as a conversationalist, an inner dialogue that can speak different things to different people.
What actually happens, for me, is that I finish hearing the piece with an overwhelming sense that I did not arrive in my zone of meditative balance with the speakers at the end. I feel as though I should be looking around the audience to verify if, in fact, there is some hidden meaning or text that would place me inside the circle. And, I can’t. I can’t decide if my hearing is valid - if it’s okay that the piece seems to arrive at the end, unified, but without me.
I believe that the answer says a lot more about me than it does about the music, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d love to know how you feel about what the music says to you. It’s not an invitation to criticize the music, but rather I’d like to begin with the premise that the music is valid and worth hearing. Let me know in the comments, and thanks for taking the time to think it through!