There are, for those with the requisite sense, currents, energy flows, and dialogues to be discerned in the Japanese garden. Shunmyo Masuno contends that when arranging rocks, for example, one must “converse” with the stone, waiting “until it seems to speak and say where it wants to be put.” According to some of the subjects of Listening to Clay, a similar collaboration, or consulting, takes place between potters and their material. Artist Michiko Ogawa, for example, is very specific on this point, stating that she attempts to, “listen to what the material has to say,” posing the question, “What does the clay want to be?”
Listening to Clay
Some will read this and wonder whether that conversation is entirely imagined by the artist, and will question whether it can, in fact, be a dialog. I believe that not only is it a dialog, it’s more real than the consentual hallucination of regular life.
I think there are a few different movements that are part of this experience, several steps of this dance. There is getting out of the way. There is getting into the flow. There is also, acknowledging being part of a larger web of things. We are all just molecules dancing in space, whether we are humans, rocks, or melodies.
I feel kinship with these words: Listen to what the material has to say and What does the clay want to be is analogous to my experience of What does this piece of music want to be. The sentence It seems to speak and say where it wants to be put relates just as well to the notes of a melody as it does to a rock. I get out of the way of the flow and allow the music to materialize itself. The music moves my hands — that is the feeling when it really works. I don’t know where my music comes from. It doesn’t feel like it’s mine. It comes through me is the sensation I have.
Now I am lying here wondering whether that’s how a tree feels about their branches and leaves. They simply grew where they needed to go.
I woke up at 0200 and was wide awake. Now it’s 0322. Better try to get out of the way of sleep.