Music Begins Where Words End

While most work featured on this website is recent, I include this early artist’s book as a gesture toward my roots. I followed a detouring path into writing, heavily influenced by my training in music. For a decade before college, I soloed and performed locally and internationally, graduating from both the San Francisco Girls Chorus and Preparatory Division of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In college, I immersed not only in more music but also in an array of visual art forms (documentary film, screenwriting, darkroom photography, drawing, pottery, bookbinding, and others). Apart from chapbooks, this artist’s book was the first real book that I made. Its title comes from a phrase by Goethe. When the book was featured in a class exhibition at Princeton University, I included a stack of papers with torn edges for visitors to take and read:

This project resulted from a search to find interconnections among music, writing, and visual art. The accordion pattern, sewn with an increasing number of staff lines (an element that is loosely incorporated into the bindings of the booklets) refers to the evolution of written music, associated with liturgical chant (thus, the ecclesiastical red color of the book cover). The black booklets contain representations of medieval French and German neumes (marks that connoted relative pitch and duration and preceded modern notation), Pope Gregory I (credited with the first transcriptions of music), a Guidonian hand (the precursor to sight-singing, devised by a monk named Guido d’Arezzo in the 11th century, whereby the joints of the hand correspond to syllables of the musical scale), and more modern musical representations. The watercolor wash for the first two booklets is used to recall my personal experience upon first seeing palimpsests in medieval texts — literally and visually, superimpositions of ideas. (1997)

As an early project, this artist’s book taught me about making books, but more: about appreciating the process behind any product. Music remains an important part of my artistic practice. While I stopped singing jobs after graduate school, I developed a specialty in literature and music. This ongoing pursuit has yielded my first book of creative nonfiction, On Marvellous Things Heard (published in 2011), and two opera narratives and librettos, Cassandra in the Temples (premiered at MIT in 2014) and Crafting the Bonds (public reading/performance at MIT in 2017).