What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
I think I'm a junkie for the insight and epiphanies implied by the phrase “life-changing art.” What I mean is, I'm always searching for books, films, paintings, or music that will knock me in the head and make me a different person on some foundational level. And so there have been dozens of such pieces of art. Seek and ye shall find, of course. But at the moment your question is making me think of Maria Schneider's jazz orchestral work Concert in the Garden (2004). I had recently abandoned my novelist ambitions and was on the cusp of a new career in music, although very unclear about its direction. I had also just become a mother, and I felt in some ways that I had already missed my calling. I loved my child but feared he represented the end of my creativity. (This was histrionic and 100 percent wrong, in retrospect.) I had only heard a little bit about composer/bandleader Maria Schneider, a protege of the mighty Gil Evans, and was intrigued and fascinated. This young female (only about 5 years older than me) was considered a heavyweight in the male-dominated arena of large-scale composition. At a jazz conference in NYC in early 2004, I heard her 20-something-piece band play her lush, majestic music. It was so beautiful and innovative and powerful, and she was this petite blonde woman—a cheerful and grounded Midwesterner, expertly directing a huge band in some of the freshest and most memorable sounds I'd ever heard. I carry around this remembrance—of the stunning, ambitious music and its non-stereotypical creator—and it makes me hopeful and spurs my own ambitions. Years later, I'm certain I mustered the nerve for a big project like Mobtown Moon in part because I know Maria's example. I even got Brian Simms to play a little accordion on our record, inspired by Maria's beautiful use of that instrument in her work.
Sandy Asirvatham and Ellen Cherry spearheaded the wildly ambitious Mobtown Moon project, which features lots of great locals reinterpreting Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Tomorrow night, Asirvatham, Cherry, and crew perform Dark Side at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium. It figures to be quite a show.