BWW Feature: ABRAHAM BRODY at National Sawdust - An Epic Journey
Abraham Brody is a violinist and vocalist who has recently discovered a wealth of compositional talent. His journey down this path began with an exploration of alternative forms of expression, whose origins were firmly planted in improvisation. From this early manifestation, his compositional language has since found strength and focus with a keen eye on storytelling.
When asked about his process, he said:
"It's kind of like a sculpture. It's a block of stone and you have to carve it down. The finished sculpture is the vision of what your work should be. I'm still trying to find that. I'm still trying to get the sound to be perceived as I hear it in my head - my vision."
Constantly striving for improvement and deepening of one's art form is forever enviable, but he may be closer than he thinks. As a member of their artists-in-residence program, Brody recently performed his piece ANCESTORS at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. It was an immersive multimedia experience that took everyone in attendance on an unexpected journey.
The program opened with four women (Trys Keturiose) standing in a circle, cloaked in traditional Lithuanian garb, gutturally scream-singing at each other. Even though the sound was relatively accosting, the women looked at peace - happy even. It made me uncomfortable. With an opening like this, it was unclear what direction the evening would take. Then, with his rockstar good looks, Brody stepped onto the scene and began singing a duet with himself, self-accompanied by a keyboard, violin and looping pedal. The aural texture may have changed, but the vibe from the beginning was maintained, shifting the experience only in the final moments of the piece when he drenched the room in intimate loneliness. It was around this time I realized what we were experiencing. Abraham was taking us on a journey of growth. He was creating the opening moments of internal discord that happen just before one is thrust on a life-altering voyage of change. It was genius. Following Campbell's analysis of the monomyth in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, this was our "call to adventure."
After answering this call, the tribe of ancestral women - or, as Campbell would describe them: the supernatural aid - urged Brody on. Their tone shifted - it was firm, but reassuring. They pushed him to trod into the unknown - which was perfectly captured in the music - and as he continued down the unmarked path, I felt the tumult of my own journey of growth surge and force me into a wave of self-reflection. Brody was able to capture the nuance of growth so acutely that his outward expression forced his audience inward.
As he expertly led us, the rare moments of peace - requirements on journeys of this magnitude - were powerfully felt and effectively placed so that our buckets of understanding and assurance were refilled along with our protagonist. We felt these moments of harvest - peace, spring, renewed tranquility - only to again be propelled into the unavoidable tension of growth.
After coming back from this moment of tumult, the piece mounted its final moments and the anticipation of achievement and closure became palpable. The audience began to applaud more, they felt the quickening of anticipation - the energy had shifted. It was clear we were closing in on our goal. The ancestors circled the audience with a driving bass that set the scene, leading us to the precipice of achievement - we had arrived. But, in his brilliance, Brody only allowed us the feeling of accomplishment for a fleeting moment - what Campbell would call: the return. Once arriving at our deeper understanding, there were mere seconds to breathe before the universe began preparing for our next, inevitable, journey. It was masterful. This performance captured the evolution of a journey so precisely that I couldn't help but leave with a restored faith in my own path. Faith in my discomfort, faith in restorative moments of peace, and that its ending will, inevitably, produce another beginning.
Thank you for taking us on this journey, Abraham. I can't wait to experience your next beginning. Speaking of new beginnings, keep an eye out for the upcoming album he is now recording in Iceland. It was triggered by his time in New York while he experienced the powerful artist-in-residence program at National Sawdust. It's sure to expose us to new parts of ourselves. In the meantime, stay up-to-date with Abraham's upcoming adventures here.
Photo credits: Lielais Dzintars