The Center for Hellenic Studies
Dear Greg,
A few words of explanation about the video, although I hope it can stand on its own.
Needless to say, the video is a visual “transcript” of a performance that deals with performance, with all of its inherent spontaneity and unexpectedness (and a couple of goofy jokes!), but it also, I hope, conveys a sense of fun and creative energy. My young Korean collaborator and I practiced hard and enjoyed playing together.
The audience comprises a group of my colleagues and students at Gordon College, along with a few friends. One or two know some Greek, and perhaps three or four are familiar with techniques of jazz improvisation. Hence my challenge to speak clearly to a diverse audience!
One of my primary goals is to draw connections between jazz improvisation and Homeric oral formulaic poetry, along the way hopefully clarifying what precisely improvisation is in the area of jazz. As I say in my performance, I think the concept of improvisation is often misunderstood, which can lead to a resistance to seeing these points of contact with Homeric poetry. In fact, I would venture to say that, just as the system of Homeric poetics does not rule out its creativity, so the creativity of jazz improvisation does not negate the existence of a system. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
I weave into the performance the ideas of multitextuality and intertextuality, before briefly trying also to bring in hypertextuality, with particular reference to Venetus A. As I say towards the end, I am still thinking through how hypertextuality might apply to improvisation in a live performance, although currently they seem to me somewhat contradictory concepts.
I offer this little performance “transcript” to you in honor of your birthday this year, and in deep gratitude for the many years of encouragement and support you have given me. And as I say in my greeting, the wonderful humanity and graciousness you have shown to me over the years are things that I constantly strive to share in turn with my own students. Your influence, both scholarly – in terms of clarity of thought, precision of argument, and creativity of ideas, and also personal – in terms of friendship, loyalty, and encouragement, have meant and continue to mean so much to me.
Thank you for your wonderful generosity of spirit, and I wish you a very happy birthday!
With deep affection and gratitude,
Graeme Bird.