Kenn on Time With People


For Those Who Want to Know If It Was Good or Not


Criteria for determining whether I performed it right, in descending order of utility:

  • • I know what it’s supposed to sound like and it sounded like that.
  • • I did it the same way that I did it before when it felt right that other time.
  • • As far as I could tell I followed the score.
  • • Nothing seemed wrong or out of place or painful or ugly.
  • • No one yelled at me in a bad way afterward.
  • • It’s, like, “experimental”.

Except none of those and all of those are valid/useful. And, more to the point, all of those are strictly focused on my own performance.Time with People is not about me, or starring me, or featuring me beyond the fact that I am one of the titular people (1 of 10) – unless one infers that the People are the audience, in which case we ten performers are having time with you. We all know whether Time with People is an opera: the answer is definitely yes and no. Moving on, then: as a piece for (in this instance) ten performers, is Time with People a chamber work?

Criteria for determining whether the chamber group I’m in performed it right, in descending order of utility:

  • • Everyone understands their roles and how they fit together and they make things fit
  • • No one missed an entrance, because there would obviously have been something missing and it would have Messed Things Up
  • • Someone following the score says “You seem to have followed the score”
  • • We responded to each other in real time, making adjustments and altering tone as needed to achieve a collective unity
  • • That time someone was sick someone else said “can you cover the sick person’s part” to someone else else, and that someone else said “sure” if they were sufficiently versatile
  • • No one started yelling during the piece unless the score was pretty clear on that being good

Having worked on Time with People for the past six months, I now know that I’m not sure if Time with People is a chamber work. It’s an egalitarian work in which we all have been meaningful collaborators engaged in some serious conversations/experiments/Google docs. It’s a piece that demands a consistent and coherent vision from the ensemble. But it’s…lonely. It’s sad. It’s funny, but maybe in more of a post factum way if you’re the ones performing it. And we have to collectively work really hard to not actually work together in the piece. The moments in Time with People in which we’re actually synchronized, or in closest proximity, are the least human or the most unnatural. And none of the chamber-success(!) criteria adequately capture the process of preparing, performing, and evaluating a piece like this.

Criteria for determining whether performed Time with People right, in descending order of utility:

  • •We all seem pretty happy about stuff afterward
  • • It seems to be getting closer to the things we’ve talked about, a lot, in rehearsals
  • • A minimum of three things happen that hadn’t happened before and will probably not happen again, but in looking to make them happen again, something else will later happen
  • • It’s something clearly not like what we thought it was supposed to be six months ago, but it’s also not entirely not that
  • • Someone’s trash tower doesn’t fall over until the audience has gone home (or to the bar)
  • • We don’t yell at each other in a bad way afterward

So join us at Constellation on Sunday, Feb. 26th for the U.S. premiere. If you like it, frankly, who cares if we got it right? And if you aren’t sure if you liked it, and prefer to base your satisfaction on the extent to which the ensemble accurately captured the piece you paid good money to see, you might try gauging us on a happy-to-yelling scale after the show.

-Kenn Kumpf

Aperiodic Chicago