Creating Songs for Community by Bea Goodwin
Claire McCahan, mezzo-soprano and Brendon Shapiro, piano perform 'she conjures' by Lisa Neher and Bea Goodwin from FUSE: Collaborations in Song
In my moments of creative frustration—the block, the late nights, the millionth outline draft with a lousy resolution— I return to a quote from the great Paula Vogel in her masterpiece, Indecent:
When I write a play, I am not alone.
Collaboration is an essential, but often neglected, element of our craft. Its strange. In my experience, commissioners make pains to differentiate the contributions and timelines of the librettist; front loading their efforts to manufacture a product then directed to sit in a corner as the composer, well, composes. Sure, we enter the scene to substitute a word for musical scansion here and there, omit a stanza so the music can say what can’t be spoken, but it’s not so much a discussion as an instruction. There always seems to be an unspoken echelon of roles, thus muddying the field of team play.
FUSE : Collaborations in Song is the first commissioning cohort that broke all barriers. This program honors the desires and artistic shaping of the writer, the composer and the performer in tandem. Three artists with different, yet overlapping skillsets, coming together to build from the group up.
First and foremost, each artist is thoughtfully selected and paired by interest and work samples (over awards, resume, past programs, etc.) My team— and I use that word in utmost sincerity— was curated based on our application forms where we were encouraged to list the types of stories we wanted to tell. Lisa, Claire and I each hold artistic needs to craft strong narratives for female identifying artists by female identifying artists. We met on Day 1 in a breakout Zoom Room after a fascinating, uplifting discussion with Matthew Aucoin, and it felt as if we had been collaborating for years.
As we began to discuss what our creation process would look like, a window formed into one another’s lives. This informed how we each saw the moral of our story; examining the intricacies of femme history, reproductive rights, the male gaze. This also imbued how we crafted a character in narrative, sound, and performance. The portrayal of scorn and redemption, as well as regret.
Our deadlines and expectations were not only realistic but provided comfortable parameters for team check ins. We had ample time to edit and further tailor the sonic
garment to Claire; adding the element of a drum, a costume, even light blocking. Our piece, she conjures, was so special because we made it, all of it, together.
And that’s what brought us to this field, no? A life of service to:
Storytelling. Making. Play. Community.
This program provides every tool necessary for the artist to safely do the work which we were made to do. I look back, yearning to be part of such a positive, inspiring group again, but I leave that slot to you, curious creative. Apply. Be a part of something that honors your need for storytelling. For making and play. For community.