“Language is the house of being. In its home man dwells.” (Martin Heidegger, as quoted in Richard Rorty’s “A Master from Germany 1998)
Language lies at the heart of who we are. We live in language. We are “we” because of language. You are “you” and I am “I” because of language. Language creates concepts, relationships, separations and connections and it is what makes us human. Whether dialect, idiom, jargon, slang, it’s held together through the structures of grammar. (Grammar is the system of word structures and word arrangements of a given language at a given time.)
We know that the structuring of language has power. We are the subjects of it. “We” is a creation, an idea, an abstraction. And, how we speak is vitally important. “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” (George Orwell).
During this time of political and cultural turmoil, where even our pronouns have become politicized, recognizing that our speaking is key to who we are, is consequential. Recognizing this and seeing ourselves as our language and grammar would awaken us to the “we” we are. Then separately and together we would generate more compassion among us, which is my hope.
The project, Pronoun Emergencies, will be a 10 minute choreomusical song, addressing separation, connection and power through language, communal singing and dance. It will address this separation/connection through a text of pronouns. It will open with separation, danger, alarm, pass through a development and close with connection, unity, safety. The preliminary text, Pronoun Emergency, is written and was performed as a theater piece by six actor/dancers in 2015. To connect vocal sound, language and movement more deeply, the piece will become a work for a specialized group of singers and movers.
Key to the project is Toby Twining who will be an ideal composer for this project. Thoroughly versed in dance, theater and ensemble vocal music, and familiar with my work, Toby will bring his sense of humor and songwriting expertise to Pronoun Emergencies. We should make a great team.
Also, on the project is Susan Thomasson, who has collaborated with me on many dance/text pieces, including Pronoun Emergency, generously providing valuable feedback during the process.
Pronoun Emergencies is part of the longer work, GRAMMAR GLAMOUR, a celebration of parts of speech. Focusing on the structure of language itself, revealing it as constructed and malleable, would, I hope affect our behavior. Included are Falling for Prepositions (music by Mary Ellen Childs, performed by opera singer Marla Berg and myself, supported by NewMusicUSA in 2011 and NewMusicUSA in 2015 for pianist, Alan Johnson. Last performed in 2018 at the Modern Language Association Conference NYC.), Sentenced to Sentences, solo, Witnessing Adverbs duet, Having Conjunctions, A Horserace of Nouns are others.
Pronoun Emergencies will bring a different element to GRAMMAR GLAMOUR. It will have the music throughout the piece, with the choreography supporting the music, opposite to the other pieces.
Due to an emergency situation (flood), six strangers scurry about to prepare to evacuate their building. Through intertwining tangles of movement and pronouns we find that you and I and we and us and them and everybody, are together as… a collective us. Yes, behind the fun what is revealed is that pronouns R us. And we’re really all in the same boat, all in this together.
Start and End Dates
09/01/2019 — 03/01/2020
Teaneck, New Jersey