The Juilliard Journal
San Francisco Chronicle
Blog by Tie It Into My Hand teacher Tennessee Loveless
When Paul had originally approached me about the subject, I fought with myself on how to exactly work with him, because the idea was so ethereal, that my brain wrestled with itself on how to create something solid enough to use.
It dawned on me that synesthesia was a common denominator in our communication. Because I can't see color correctly, the only way I've determined to really communicate is in crossing the senses. I paint to feel cold, or taste sweet...so I determined that music was much the same...in that each note could in fact feel sweaty or frozen...or taste like cherries, or smell like cotton, and therefore .. I would have him play in a way that would communicate EXACTLY what Tchaikovsky was trying to say in his piece. .. by detecting the right temperature of color through Paul's sound.
And that technically was what was SUPPOSED to happen, but when the filming actually happened in my apartment in Los Feliz, something else decided to take form instead. When trying to teach Paul how to play via a color scale, my direction suddenly backfired into my head. And while we achieved communication in him playing hotter and more yellow, patterns started forming in my head that I had never seen before or even attempted to understand.
The more Paul played, the more shapes and codes formed in my head. It was as if someone was writing a novel furiously without words, but just pages and pages of different bars, and squares, and combinations of geometric ballet in my head. My hand tried to scribble the pigment codes through his music, but I was seized with pattern.
And when Paul Festa left my apartment that night, I sat there blankly looking at this clean white 24 x 24 canvas for hours. The smell of the neighborhood skunk wafted in the air, and the sounds of helicopters dizzily kissed the sky in this endless dragonfly hum...and I just sat there, looking at this white square...wondering when I was going to start painting the music piece he played. .. dumbfounded and realizing that in me teaching Paul Festa how to play the violin better by painting, that Paul Festa taught me how to paint better by playing the violin.
Learning what it means to lead an artistic life (excerpt)
Festa is a San Francisco-based violinist-turned-writer and critically-acclaimed filmmaker, whose award-winning essays have appeared in The Daily Beast, Nerve and Salon.com. As a violinist, Festa studied at Juilliard and toured as a soloist with the California Youth Symphony before a repetitive strain injury silenced his music-making. But in 2006, Festa found a unique loophole through the muse of film with, "Apparition of the Eternal Church." It documented the response of 31 artists and writers to the manic music of composer Olivier Messiaen.
His latest endeavor sought out several Dubuquers of all creative walks to "teach" an improvised violin lesson to Festa, while under the watchful and intimidating eye of a rolling camera. Each would use the knowledge and wisdom of their artistic outlet to teach the lesson and to explore the pressing quandaries of creativity and what it meant to live an artistic life.
As I sat perched atop a small stool in front of a black back drop, blinded by bright lights, I again struggled to articulate this notion, much like one would attempt to explain the meaning of life -- until it struck me -- art was life. More than that, it had become my life.
Nearly every important, defining moment for me has come through writing or music. Nearly every great experience I've had or moments which have challenged me in new ways to grow have come from this. And, my deepest and most meaningful friendships -- including my relationship with my best friend and boyfriend of five years, Keith -- have come from artistic outlets.
Music and theater have taken me around the world and have given me the voice to channel the work of the world's most influential composers and playwrights. And, writing has enabled me to tell the touching stories of my community and beyond.
Often, we find something we love and twist it and torture it to make a living until it no longer resembles the thing we were once so passionate about. We look for ways for it to support us financially, with little regard to how it silently supports us emotionally, intellectually and even spiritually.
I believe I came to terms with that in my brief interaction with Festa. And, for my new understanding of what living an artistic life means, I am eternally grateful to him.
May we all be so lucky as to be called "artists."