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“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” — Robin Williams
I’ve been sharing my experiences at the Ageless Mind conference that took place May 15th. through May 21st. The conference covered a lot of ground (see the Ageless Mind Substack for a list of presenters and interviews) but one of my favorites was a session I never planned to attend called simply, “Improv.”
Overview - How It Works
Artists and musicians come together to create and respond to one another. In Part I, the musicians play and the artist responds by creating art. In a virtual world like Second Life (SL), where 3D shapes (squares, circles, rectangles, spheres, triangles, rings, cylinders, etc.) and textures (think colors and fabrics) are all available, the possibilities are limitless.
The first person to go through the process created the 3D images below in response to music being played by Michael Wells and Ed Lowell - a well-known music team in SL. As she built, audience members were encouraged to type their thoughts and impressions in chat:
”Soft orbs between pillars. The drumbeat a call.”
”I am a theme and variations, a series, a sphere of many colors.”
”I am two pillars holding all within a framework of sound.”
In Part II, the builder and the musicians switch. As the builder creates, the musicians respond. Hear all the music played during both sessions by clicking the image below.
Jenaia Takes a Turn
I had no intention of being anything but a spectactor, but when the organizer of the session asked me to take a turn I thought, “What the heck?”
In response to the music played by Michael and Ed, I built a marble bowl. Initially I filled the bowl with water and placed a constellation of planets above and around it. The audience responded with:
“The waters of life carress my soul, shimmering deep in my heart.”
”Vibrations rise and the eneregy floats.”
Eventually, however, I changed the water to the elemental symbol for water and placed both a roaring bonfire and sparkling fountain in the center. Together, they expressed the hot/cold nature of physical reality for me. I also put a glowing globe over the head of each participate. Each globe was a different color symbolizing each person’s unique spirit.
I was free to build whatever I wanted and it was the musicians’ turn to respond.
I began with a giant stump placed on the elemental symbol for Earth. The stump represented my rooted connection to the planet. At the base of the stump, I deployed first one, then two, and finally a third fog emitter. The first emitter sent white mist swirling in circles around our feet. The second sent cold white mist up to our chests, and the third began to cloud and obscure all but the darkest shapes and brightest colors in the area.
This was intentional on my part. The fog symbolized the confusion and isolation many of us feel when confronted with the demands of daily life. Sometimes life is so difficult and taxing that the light of our true selves gets lost and it’s hard to see others clearly.
The final step in my foggy exploration was to give each person in the audience a set of wings to wear and a dance animation that would let their avatars fly up and down through the fog. Yes, you can fly in SL! It is one of the most magical parts of being an avatar there. Here is how the audience responded:
“The Earth takes back what belongs to her.”
”There is so much beauty here.”
”Each of us is different but part of the whole.”
”We are angels of light, captured by the music.”
”I am in tears.”
The video above shows my avatar flying up and down through the fog. Unfortunately the person filming the session didn’t have “particle rendering” enabled so he wasn’t able to capture everyone flying through the fog. But I’m sure you can imagine it.
Needless to say I really enjoyed taking part in this session. I got to use my building skills while responding to inspirational music and was able to include everyone in the audience as well. This is my idea of how creativity should unfold. The only thing missing was a story that we could have co-created. Maybe next time?
If you’d like to expereince something similar, drop me a line. And if the idea of entering a virtual world doesn’t appeal, I bet we can come up with another way to do something similar. What do you think?
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The Improv process was invented by Niela Miller (Marly Milena in Second Life) and was originally called, “The Musicians & Artists Improv.” Niela ran it for a many years as part of her larger “Sym Mod” program, then turned it over to Catseye to run as her own. The Sym Mod portion of the Improv sessions brings artists together to create pieces inspired by one another. (ie visual artist creates to improv music and musical artist creates to visual improv). To learn more abbout Niela and her work in both worlds visit https://www.peoplesystemspotential.com/aboutniela.php.