I feel compelled to probe the unspoken assumptions underlying the day-to-day choices we make. These are the stories we unknowingly tell ourselves about ourselves and the ways we relate to what surrounds us. I am fascinated by these stories and feel driven to explore them in an effort to pinpoint the values they transmit. As with the air we breathe, these values normally go undetected. We notice them when we find ourselves in the bewildering midst of value systems different from our own, when we see others interpreting the same events and actions we experience in fundamentally different ways, making choices that contrast with our intuition.
To explore these values, I combine stories from distant perspectives/times, music that resonates with our inner landscape today, and captivating visual imagery. By sweeping an audience up in an emotional experience, I aim to create a space to engage with stories/perspectives/values different from our mainstream in a more full-bodied way — not just intellectually, but emotionally as well.
My aim is not to deliver answers but, rather, to use these integrated experiences to add to an ongoing conversation. Coloured by the emotional palette of the music and sand, these stories tap into the feeling shared by so many of us today, that something is deeply wrong about where we are and where we’re headed as a society. The combination of stories, music and sand offer an opportunity to add a visceral humanity to histories we may otherwise only know intellectually. And this personal engagement fosters greater empathy as well as new perspective from which we can both question and understand our own moment. — Guy Mendilow
Broadly speaking, GME projects synthesize
Reflection/examination of resonant personal themes/current events/tensions
Historical research focusing on ordinary people’s experiences in times that relate to these current themes/events/tensions. The relationships may be of similarities or differences
Musical study/practice and composition focused on articulating the emotional nuance and contradictions that arise in the juxtaposition of these historical stories and modern themes
Initial solitary research and writing periods produce drafts shared for feedback from a small advisory group (artists, authors, academic specialists, industry professionals).
As an illustration, here are some of the steps that result in The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories:
Research WWI/WWII history/fascist philosophy. Study academic models/primary materials/artistic representations
Research archival photos for accurate imagery
Study current events/political theory in modern US, pinpointing fundamental differences/similarities with early 20th-century
Research ethnomusicological field recordings of Ottoman Sephardic women’s song from early 20th century alongside traditional contexts
Arrange piece, motivated by story/thematic questions normally resulting in radical reframing. E.g. what is mood? If this were a short film, how would it unfold? Original composition often interwoven with traditional material
Write story inspired by piece. Compose underscore for the story, often linking with musical material from the Sephardi women’s song
Distill and adjust meta-story from aggregate of individual pieces
Solicit advisory group feedback (artists, authors, academic specialists, industry professionals)