Creative Time Reports on Nora York’s MD/NY Project

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In partnership with Marfa Dialogues/NY, Creative Time Reports presents video from a performance by the musician and artist Nora York and an accompanying conversation between York and the publisher, environmental advocate and Marfa Dialogues co-founder Hamilton Fish. Water Water Everywhere was co-composed by Jamie Lawrence and Nora York.


From Creative Time Reports

HF: You’ve mentioned that part of your preparation and your creative process was to have conversations with climate scientists.

NY: Yes. I began with research and conversation and by connecting to my own memories of water and place. This helped me develop a profound personal connection to the scientific material, which was very interesting to me. My song cycle became about memories of my mother and her hometown along Ontario’s Georgian Bay, where the shale beaches are filled with the fossils of prehistoric creatures that died in a mass extinction millions of years ago. This distant event captured my imagination when I was younger, and as we presently face another wave of extinctions, it began to figure in this piece. Many climate scientists study the past in order to predict the future, by taking core samples of the earth. Those core samples seem to me like memory.

HF: You developed knowledge and expertise in new areas. Yet so much of that would be reflected in language and words—

NY: What I tried to do is tap where the words sent me emotionally and to find the music by listening to that emotional state. I took initial inspiration from melodic and harmonic themes in Handel’s Water Music, but then at a certain point I just started writing ideas, and then I would send them to my co-composer, Jamie Lawrence, and say to him, let’s leave the Handel and simply respond to my text. So it became like a series of responses, and that’s when we started to write these more personal things.

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