(CARP Conference 2)
Passion is a word I hear often in Canada. It was genuinely awe inspiring to feel an un-abating wave of passion from speakers in their 60s and 70s as they talked about their lives and work.
Tod Machover projects the energy of a much younger man. ‘Wired composer’ that he is, his most recent opera, Death and the Powers, addresses issues of mortality amid an animated stage, musical chandelier and a chorus of robots.
He has also made the composition and scoring of music accessible as never before with his Hyperscore, encouraging a deeply creative and exciting relationship with music. Seeing a young man, Dan Ellesy, who is profoundly affected by cerebral palsy, performing his own music on stage using this software moved me to tears. (I would urge you to catch this performance as part of a TED Talk by Tod Machover – it is at around 13 minutes into the talk, all of which is fascinating!)
This links into another area of Tod’s work, Music, Mind and Health, a project in partnership with MIT that is exploring and developing musical activities to measure and respond to a variety of medical conditions and enhance lifelong mental and physical acuity.
Similarly, Charles Pachter, one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, seems possessed of a youthful irreverence and zest. The whole audience sat enthralled as he significantly over-ran his time slot with a presentation of his life (so far) in images. Many of his paintings are dominated by the moose, the queen of the north, which in childhood became inter-twined with the confusing existence of a Queen with dominion over Canada but who does not live here. Nearing 70, this witty, challenging man shows no signs of renouncing this strand of irreverence or of stopping questioning the social order.
I have, as yet, little knowledge of Canadian actors – we do not watch much television and have as yet to fully embrace the wonderfully rich theatre culture here. If Eric Peterson’s virtuoso performance as Crankius Farticus (his own term for himself) is anything to go by, we have much to look forward to! I was snorting with laughter at his pitch of a TV series based around a Zoomer superhero. (For those who don’t know, a Zoomer is a ‘Boomer with zip’, a term that people seem either to love or loathe!)
William Friedman offered a rather different awareness. This intelligent, thoughtful lawyer found the need in his fifties to reshape aspects of his life. Perhaps surprisingly, this took the form of competitive bodybuilding and led to his son Bryan’s film, The Bodybuilder and I (Best Canadian Feature Documentary 2007). The transformation of his body (and, believe me, there are few men of 60 plus who can boast abs like his!) seems also to have re-shaped his relationships and sense of himself . The film was at one stage described to him as being about how much his son hated him – and has led to the odd inappropriate smile from a judge unable to banish the image of the bodybuilder in posing pouch. I have to admit to some difficulty reconciling the reflective speaker with the polished poser, yet the fundamental message of continuing to embrace life and self-exploration with passion and in whatever way is right for you was inescapably positive and valid.