A few days from our premiere at Dixon Place, and our woodwinds man Noah Becker put out this beautiful description of what it is we’re all about. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I’m leaving it here:
"Repetition" is present in all our lives. It often manifests as routines, habits, the daily mundane.
We are often terrified of it.
Many thinkers have explored our fear of repetition, of the lack of control it elicits.
Nietzsche asked us to imagine a demon, descending onto our lives right now and bestowing a curse upon us, that every moment we've lived thus far—every triumph, failure, every microscopic turn of emotion—we are now doomed to repeat exactly in every detail, forever.
Beyond the sphere of the individual, in "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by García Márquez, Úrsula is repeatedly plagued with the dreadful feeling that history (and all its shortcomings) are stuck in a loop... History repeating itself, her awareness of that fact itself cycling—layers of repetition compound and multiply.
There's Sisyphus and his rock...
So, how do we counter this? What makes a life of repetition worth it?
I think it has to do with the infinite variety within patterns of life, and seeing how repetition doesn't function in a bubble, but links up closely with its dear sibling, evolution!
In his poem "A Dialogue of Self and Soul", Yeats writes "I am content to live it all again", and "We are blest by everything, / Everything we look upon is blest." He finds the variety and singularity in all things, no matter their surface association with some repeated form, which makes for a life worth living.
What makes Bach able to draw so much melody from a single motive? How does Roscoe Mitchell create expansive improvisations out of, sometimes, so little material? What keeps Morton Feldman's music interesting, with its long passages of the same melodies and interval patterns, hours and hours of only small changes? Bird repeats his own language and devices across so many tunes and solos, so what makes him great? Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, what makes their minimalist, cyclical music tick?
These musicians all express enormous variety in their repeated gestures, so much so that the variety opens us to the vastness of the infinite, encouraging awe and wonder over fear and despair. And their processes of evolution over time show us how repetition becomes something not to be dreaded, but to be embraced, treasured, loved!