E s s a y s..o n..H A !
What is HA!? - a simple story
Actually, i do not know. Cannot know. That is why i came up with the "term." Because knowing by itself does not reach into the fullness of what it is to be creative. How to describe something that is actually grounded in Nothing? But HA! is not empty. To me it is a breath, a feeling that i have each time i perform or create. I could have said "improvisation," but i don't want to. HA! goes deeper still.
Mm.. but there is a story behind it. I was a student at Stellenbosch University and one day coming down the stairs for lunch, something in me snapped, a kind of connection between mind and body, a moment when my thinking turned me towards a concrete awareness of where i was. Feeling. Present. As my thinking at the time was so much about the meaning of life, i decided that this would be the most apt answer to that age-old question: "HA!" Just that. A simple breath. A snapshot of what it is to be alive.
Years later, feeling the need to cloak myself with a stage identity, i went back to that moment. Spontaneous music making is so much about that snap into awareness of the present, of the indelible link between body and mind. And so "HA!Man" kind of slipped in as a stage name, never quite at ease with it, never quite able to cut it loose.
when walking on stage
when walking on stage
it helps to draw on one's rebellious side
or - and this is where your irresponsible side needs to
kick in -
usually, these questions reveal a reality that needs not
and so this inner dialogue starts to liberate me
if i am tense, i relate to that, express it
all of this is just another way to allow the unknown
it boils down to this: that the nature of beginning is
to be unknown
it is also not searching for the known IN the unknown,
it is also not listening for a higher voice to speak,
or something to be channeled through you
it is dark
it is the moment of dying.
On Our Art (1) in the middle of the movement
On our art ( 1 ) : "in the middle of the movement" by JOKE DEBAERE
Maybe I can best start talking about what the art of me
and Francois is like to me and means to me, by describing one big and
significant difference to my work of the past. When I performed more scheduled
and carefully prepared plays, the piece of art became like a solid train,
as the rehearsals and the writing of the play went ahead. A train of which
I knew all the compartments, the colors, even the speed and definitely
the destination by the time it was performed on the premiere.
I cannot state such things about performing in an improvised way. There are certainly elements and themes which I have, over the course of time, started relying on. But we create the train, the road, each time again in the very moment. Never does one of us know for sure where we will land. This starting from nothing, this lack of rehearsal, this very minimal level of agreements in advance, is something I have had and still have an inexplicable hunger for. As I am still so much in the phase of embarking on this road, I still find myself in the very middle of so much movement. The movement of discovery. The movement of the newness. The movement of discovering what it is that I am doing, exactly while doing it.
When I improvise on stage, I always find myself in the exact middle of the process of creating. Sometimes it daunts on me: after a good evening, I never hold any insurance policy in my hands that the next performance is going to be as good. Prepared performances are subdued to similar life aspects of course. A pianist performing a concerto of Rachmaninov sure feels similar things. But in his case, there will always be this familiar train ahead, the script, the notes, the point of destination. My point of destination is never an objective topic, or theme, or scene like it used to be in the past. Of course, I do still aim for certain things as a performer. The things I do on stage would become shapeless, endless, limitless if I wouldn't carry strong seeds inside myself of things I would want to do and share on stage. But my direction, my aim, feels broader. Moving the audience by sharing words and sounds created in the moment.
Doing things this way feels to me like walking a tight rope. I find myself trying to keep the balance between loving and hating so much unknown elements ahead. Between feeling very sure of myself and of what I do, and feeling absolutely unsure about what I am going to do, feel and say next on stage. To give you an example: yesterday Francois and I performed in the Kalk Bay Theatre, near Cape Town. This afternoon, I was very fortunate to receive an email from an audience member. She was very moved by what we had done and asked whether she could buy one particular poem from us without the accompaniment. I will have to disappoint her somehow, and explained to her that no single word of yesterday evening is written down or recorded. Neither will I be able to repeat this for her. I can give her something similar, for sure. I can try to recapture that moment, but I have tried to do it before, and it is much harder than it might seem. On such moments, I feel this duality of realizing it might have been moving to her exactly because it was so spontaneous. And on the other hand I so wished I could repeat it a thousand of times all over and over again. Like a singer songwriter proudly sharing the best of his creations.
Yet so far, the positive sides are stronger and growing with much deeper roots inside myself than the negative sides. Even though I must say, or confess, that some people ( friends, acquaintances, fans of Francois ) did question me here and there along the way. Up to the point of even boldly stating I am wasting my time and my talents this way. Hearing such things moves me deeply of course as I am no stone. But something inexplicable inside myself, as I tried to explain earlier, makes me feel very hungry to jump to the full into this way of performing, starting from nothing time and time again. Every now and then, the last few weeks, I do read out loud a poem from my book "my road in your eyes". Sometimes this works very well. But it can never put me on such a high as a well performed improvisation.
Why? Why do I love it? I am observing the people around me on the terrace where I am writing this down, as I ask myself this.
I like the danger of it. That is the first thing that comes to my mind. Apparently, I like taking these kind of risks. And secondly, I get filled with such a deep and special warmth when I create some magic on stage when things go well. The magic of something that is created right in the moment and will never be repeated the same again.
( More in the following edition. As I am getting to know
and understand what I do and feel on this path, my htoughts are always
evolving as I am walking the road. )
On Our Art (2) waiting for what wants to be revealed
BY JOKE DEBAERE
a similar approach at the core
creating art as an interplay between
they will gush forth
whether expressed through music and sounds
descicions made in advance
an openess which carries limits too
a rythm of feeling
all to be seen
Something to reflect on..
Is there order and structure in the free-flow of HA! ?
There is no set programme. Improvisations starts with silence, or with a minimal theme. There is no rational definition for HA!. Always open to the future, always a dimension of not knowing. Is that scary or what? Or is it just normal, the way life unfolds anyway?
Does it mean that "anything just goes," "there are no rules," "you cannot make any mistakes..?" Or is there hidden somewhere, a basic structure, a skeleton that could be revealed once the flesh is torn away?
There is. But it is not in the usual sense of a structure that determines the outcome. Not in the usual sense of a plan that is followed, or a "trick" hidden in your head, that "works," only needs conscious application. No. It still starts with silence. There is still no conscious planning going on beforehand. But like a tree that grows from a seed, it grows freely, yet with the structure of it as an intrinsic part of the growth and the flow.
Our culture has a huge problem with anything that cannot be consciously controlled. Yet the most natural way of finding structure is not to control it. Simply to allow it. Even deeper: to trust it. Yes, in HA! it means to start in silence and to trust that it will present itself with structure included.
But what structure? Can it be analyzed and understood? Indeed it can. To start in silence is already a structural departure. Music that emerges from silence cannot be contrary to it. It remains close to silence, perhaps soft, slow, perhaps spiritual, perhaps suspended with little direction, perhaps like it is swimming under water, perhaps like it is being born, like a child, with a central consciousness of one-ness. And what happens next? What happens when silence is left behind? At some point, self-consciousness sets in. The eternity is broken, and a tension appears. The music moves, it grows, it becomes aware of an open field of possibilities. It explores, experiments, it gathers energy onto itself to the point of explosion. And then? Before it disintegrates, it remembers its beginnings, it seeks to find the whole within the host of details, it seeks form, it seeks and finds flow, containing both the silence and the movement within itself. Thus three broad structural parts can be distinguished, parts that are no rule, but only a map, no prescription but only an orientation. The structure never objectifies itself. It remains part of the living whole. A three-part structure: 1. child/one-ness/inward/instinctive 2. adolescent/growth/outward/sensational 3. maturity/stable flow/homecoming/emotive. A structure that naturally follows.
Much of what happens in this performance - the programme flow in itself and many of the improvised and recorded pieces - reveals this underlying structure. The HA!Man web site is organized on the basis of it. And the understanding of humanity as an adolescent species still searching for maturity flows from it.
It is both the invitation and challenge of HA! - to find
and nurture this spontaneous meeting point between chaos and order, between
mind and body, between "anything goes" and the highest craftsmanship.
why are you the "HA!" -man?
"when i was at varsity in Stellenbosch in the late
'80's, i went through an intensive inner transformation,
that is when i landed on the expression "HA!"
as an answer to the question:
so wHA!t now?
HA! is not an explanation, nor a definition
to me as an artist, HA! means that i am not out to master
anything in the first place,
..and HA! "Man?"
because I am a.. man
but i also feel it's a tad presumptuous to call yourself
any kind of "man" ..ha!
however i question it and find it unclear, the name stuck
a HA! philosophy
1. On the meaning of HA!
HA! came about through a personal quest for a life orientation
it is a move towards a more FEELING way of being
in music and art, it stresses spontaneity as a realm of
HA! is living with a full breath and dying with the very
it is nothing new, yet fresh
there is no creed, yet direction. HA! is open-ended, yet
2. Some short definitions of HA!
"in your face and out of mine!"
3. The three-dimensional structure of HA!
in being spontaneous (ha!), there is still form and structure,
but of a more general kind
there are many different ways to give meaning to this
the three stages can be given various symbolic parallels
of which the following are but a few:
Notes on progression:
Life-cycle of humanity: i reckon that we are still broadly
adollescent. Still growing, searching, experimenting and polarizing. The
limits of the planet and our own abilities are slowly nudging us towards
maturity.. perhaps too slow for our survival?