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April 29, 2019
Singers Andy Maize and Suzie Ungerlieder sing in Art of Time Ensemble’s Doghouse Roses: The Words and Music of Steve Earle.
The classic image of the lone author typing away in an attic is far from the reality of most writers today. You’re more likely to find them tweeting about their pets, sharing favourite writing playlists, or commiserating over word count goals. But some have taken the social aspect of creative life to a whole new level, combining art, music, poetry, prose, dance and video to present a wholly new and original experience.
In this new series on creative collaborations, we’ll be looking at authors, artists and musicians who create multi-disciplinary masterpieces.
Hi Andrew! The Art of Time Ensemble will be performing the music and writing of Steve Earle on May 3 at Koerner Hall. What drew you to his work and what sparked the idea to develop this show?
I’ve been a fan for many years. I was initially drawn to Steve Earle’s remarkable words and the poetry of his lyrics – the directness and power – his ability to communicate so much with so few words. In that respect, he always reminded me of John Prine. Of course they are very different. Earle’s social and political commentary is much more jarring and provocative.
The idea for this show actually came from Michael Ondaatje. When he first suggested it, I didn’t think I could do it justice. His music is so simple, in the best sense of the word. I thought that tampering with it, complicating it in any way would not do it justice – like dressing up Woody Guthrie in a three-piece suit or a powdered wig and silk stockings. I’m a strong believer in authenticity. But then, the longer I lived with the idea, the more I began to imagine how it might be possible. Some songs on the program are almost identical to the way he conceived them. Others, allow for a completely different approach.
How do art & music & writing intersect for you?
They all intersect when they attempt to communicate the same emotions and ideas – the same expressions of the human condition.
You’ve worked with many notable artists & creators for these shows. How do you develop these multi-disciplinary collaborations and ensure its a good fit? Do you begin with a specific artist or piece of writing in mind?
Everything begins with the subject or theme; it might be a specific composer, a style of music, or an historical moment. I then choose material to present as many different perspectives on that theme as possible. It might be dance, theatre, literature, film, pop music, classical music, and so forth, depending on what is available, what’s appropriate to the composition of the whole, and what makes for a memorable show.
Who would be one of your dream collaborators for future projects?
I think Tom Waits would be at the top of my list, but there are many others. Crystal Pite and William Kentridge are right up there as well.
What can audiences who are unfamiliar with your work expect at one of your shows?
They can expect to be moved by the material and by the remarkable artists on stage. They can also expect to be surprised – to hear and see things in a new way.
On May 3, the Royal Conservatory presents the Art of Time Ensemble: Doghouse Roses, The Music of Steve Earle featuring Michael Ondaatje, Oh Susanna, Tom Wilson, and More at Koerner Hall. And don’t miss the grand finale of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s 20th season, Best of Words and Music, a highlight reel of their best music, poetry, and theatre performances.