At the speed of light

The speed of light is the same for all observers, no matter what their relative speeds.  Einstein

Tonight the air is crisp and cold and the sky is bright with winter stars and a growing half moon. Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper float over the roof of the house and Orion the Hunter is rising in the southern sky.

image of moon and garden

The “more than half” moon is bright enough to cast shadows across the dark tangle of the garden and thread between the almost leafless trees. The four seasons seem an inadequate description for the ongoing flow of changes that I notice in the garden; it morphs from moment to moment each time I step outside. As I set up my camera for a long exposure, I think of a card that a friend sent describing the thirteen moons of the native American tribes. What is this moon tonight? Harvest is over and winter will arrive soon; perhaps this is a liminal moon, a threshold between the season that has ended and the one yet to arrive.

The lyrics and melody to “Light” (See blog post Fire and Light) run through my head and keep me out in the cold night gazing up at the sky. “Gathered on the waters, reflected by the moon, even once removed, its power streams into the night. Light . . .” The piece is being premiered in ten days and I am preparing the visual media that is part of the performance. Solar flares, clouds across the moon and the water, light sifting through trees and clouds – the images and the music are inextricably intertwined and indeed, this piece was born from nights spent just like this, in the quiet of the garden filled with light.

Here is a sneak preview of part of the piece, with a MIDI soundtrack sans sung lyrics.  The lyrics to the clip shown above:

Light, Light, Light. . .
Gathered on the waters,
reflected by the moon.
Even once removed, its power
streams into the night,
Light,  Light, Light . . .

Words and music by Lynn Emberg Purse, ©2011, All Rights Reserved
Text and images/media of “At the Speed of Light” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved 

Fire and Light: when the idea is too big

Only light – not things – strikes the retina.
                 Derek Doeffinger, “The Art of Seeing”

Sometimes an idea is just too big to handle.  I’ve been struggling for a few weeks with the last piece in “The Four Elements” – a musical exploration of earth, air, water, and fire.  The first three pieces are written and came fairly easily, two have been performed, but I struggled with the final “element” – fire.  Water, air and earth – these are the stuff of making gardens and seem like old friends.  But fire?  I felt stuck and overwhelmed until I realized that the pieces already written are about specific manifestations of the elements – earth as “Clay,” water as “Rain,” air as “Breath.”  Eureka!  Fire as “Light” – the essential element for growth and life.  It made me reflect that I made the classic mistake of creative folk – I picked a subject too big, too broad.  A point worth remembering for my self, for my students. Pick a particular manifestation of a concept that seems unapproachable and focus on your experience of it.  Discover the power and meaning it holds for you personally – there is less chance of being trapped by pre-conceived notions  and more chance of translating your particular experience into something universal that resonates with others.

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When I made the connection between the big idea and the microcosm of my own life, I had something to explore and everything changed. Fire – too big for me to handle, even after exploring videos of of everything from molten lava flows to forest fires. The sudden realization of “fire equals light” gave me the personal, the particular.  As a photographer and a gardener, light is everything, defines everything.  While it may still seem a big idea, it is very specific for me: the light sifting between trees, light breaking through clouds, that peculiar moment of diffused light at the end of the day when the garden takes on an otherworldly glow.  The light I try to capture with my camera, the reflected light of the moon that keeps me awake at night, the odd non-directional light in my dreams when I do fall asleep.

Now, ironically, I am “on fire” with the idea of light.  Lyrics and sound flood my imagination, photos and video present themselves for the performance media. The gate is open; I can’t wait to begin.

All photos and text of “Fire and Light: When the Idea is Too BIg” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved