How my teaching philosophy is influenced by writing on the bleeding edge – and Amy Beach, Part 1

As a new media author and digital painter, I have always worked on the bleeding edge. Not the cutting edge. The cutting edge is a respected forefront position, while the bleeding edge is the space beyond the forefront – the risky space that challenges the status quo and invariably attracts pushback. Working on the bleeding edge takes a thicker skin and an ability to tune out the din of protest while staying focused on the process and goal at hand.

“I need to hold a book.” “That’s not art.” “A computer made that?” “Where is the original?” “How are you going to monetize something that can be so easily replicated?” “Call me old-fashioned . . .” “I hate computers . . . the WEB . . . technology.” “Maybe you could take it to a science museum, we just deal with ‘real’ art.” “That’s not literature, where is the writing?”

I do not consider the new media writing and art I create as experimental, either. “Experimental” conjures images of weird and incomprehensible, art for art’s sake. I am seeking to communicate with the world out there as clearly as possible, using all the latest communication tools: digital image creating software, digital music making software, digital writing tools, video,digital programming languages, the Internet, CDs, DVDs, any modern tool I can get my hands on. I am not experimenting or attempting to obfuscate but trying to share my thoughts, experiences and ideas – my stories – in the most clear and comprehensible way I can.

For years after I lost the ability to dance due to an injury, I wanted to tell someone what it felt like to dance. Words alone could do my story no justice. A single motionless painting could be a window into only one moment. I created a digital visual art animation with a narration track, and with it succeeded in conveying my experience of ballet for the first time.(see my, “Riffing on John D’Agata’s The Next American Essay,” Aug. 23, 2009 entry)

Similarly when I read a book about the first noted woman composer in the United States, Amy Beach (1867-1944), I was immediately frustrated with the limitations of words on the page to give me a real sense of her life. I wanted to hear the music she composed. When I read that her work included folk motifs or powerful passages, I wanted to hear them. When her work was compared to other composers, I wanted to experience the contrast – then and there. Learning that she was a synesthete (she saw colors when she heard notes), I wanted to see and experience that phenomenon. So, I began to write an electronic book about Beach – including all those new media elements of image, sound, time and interactivity – to holistically convey the reality of her life and world.