Ayelet Lerman

1.1K plays < 1K downloads
Released 12/11/2016
Plays 1.1K
Downloads 192
Comments 0
Favorites 0
Track info

Israel Ayelet Lerman Deconstruction
&amp; Love or: WeirdosAyelet Lerman is
one of the most active individuals within the Israeli improv scene. In the past
two years I have seen her almost exclusively play viola in such improv session
(whether in group or solo performances), making me assume that her entire
practice can be encompassed by this raw statistic. Our interview quickly
disclosed how wrong I was, as I discovered that Lerman represents an
experimental type we have almost but grown accustomed to: Her bio discloses a
child violinist (later to be replaced with viola) who took an unruly stance
towards classical music, and this although she will continue following that
same classical trajectory for years to come. Lerman discovered the need to express
her “wild side”, as she terms it, but found herself in disagreement with the
“taming circus animals” attitude of classical music didacticism. However, in
front of me sat a calm, level headed and thoughtful individual who seemed drawn
more towards eastern philosophy in her spiritual practice and life trajectory.
But I soon discover that this too, like my earlier assumption, is merely a
diminution of who Ayelet Lerman really is. Her career in art
took Lerman through many forms of expression including installation, curation
and currently even film studies, an art form Lerman has loved for many years
and has finally felt ready to tackle. So indeed, Lerman has a true creative
side where she commits to ideas, but when it comes to music, or specifically viola
playing, she cannot pin the notion of composition onto her practice. She
approaches viola playing as a means for immediate release of ideas – a
spontaneous activity, in which the viola is treated like an appendage of
Lerman’s body and not an exterior tool. She never prepares these iterations,
rather simply has spontaneous conversations with herself or others, but
conversations in which she also recognizes her very distinct style of playing
and voice, which she simply sums up thus: “I am very much Ayelet on the viola”!
as she is in her stance and artistic voice, Lerman is still, and very much a
woman. And it is actually from this standpoint that we begin our interview,
where I confront Lerman with questions regarding gender roles within experimental
music, and at large. Lerman, who obviously dedicates much thought to these
issues, retorts almost immediately: “It’s a question of language first and
foremost”. To Lerman the verbal and non-verbal language we practice in society
at large and in Israel in particular are extremely masculine. It is a precursor
to the very male-oriented thought processes we undergo as a society. According
to her, this language is slowly changing, but it’s a matter of time and
probably hard work until the general populous will get used to a new type of
language. Lerman is a modern feminist; hence her stance does not seek to
obliterate manhood, but simply allow a separate narrative. However, like a true
thinker that does not shy away from inconvenient truths, Lerman immediately
plays devil’s advocate and recognizes for us a “female state” in art: less
individualistic, and more prone towards collaboration. However, questioning the
place of women in experimentalism brings Lerman and myself back to the notion
of deconstructing the “language” of society at large and the microcosm of this
idea infiltrating experimental practices as well. But, and this is a huge but,
Lerman also recognizes clear feminine traits within artistic creation. For
instance, Lerman speaks of her attitude towards improv, which she claims is “a
woman’s attitude towards improv”. This attitude consists of noticing the minute
detail, and more so – treat this minute detail, this peripheral material at
times, with love – in short: to attach oneself through love. This is a concept,
feminine or not, that throws Lerman almost seamlessly into her day-to-day life
where she practices the aforementioned notions through meditation. In
meditation, Lerman tells us, one allows herself to be an empty vessel. And it
is from within this same stance that Lerman would like to approach
improvisation. Indeed, like many
of our past guests, Lerman too recognizes the toll this might take of the
audience, or at the very least require of them a similar meditational mode, or
awareness. But regardless of what it exactly requires of the audience, it no
doubt requires it in the form of some “work”, and thus immediately sets this
practice apart from most classical music, or indeed most music out there.
However, according to Lerman, behind this “work” lays some hidden meaning,
which is the reasoning at the base of the entire practice. Lerman clarifies –
this is not a search for a-priori meaning, but rather the creation of a “state
of being”, which in itself creates meaning, albeit subjective. The improv
session can work or not, it can be hailed or booed, it can create wonderful
moving sounds or horrific noises; regardless, if an alternative state of things
was introduced, this in itself is the goal. This conclusion takes Lerman full
circle and back to a possible conciliation with classical music. As even in
fixed forms (through-composed music, films, etc) there is improv: “A film might
be fully scripted, but when it is shot, there is usually more improv employed
during the scenes than adherence to the written script. And this example can be
transposed to almost any fixed format art form: there is always a comingling of
strict materials vis-a-vis improvisation. And so, through a microscopic view,
Lerman unfolds a supposed clarity as bustling with underlying chaos. And this,
of course, closes the circle opened when discussing questions of gender and
language. Here too, Lerman exemplifies the holism of her stance to life and
music, and more so, how effortlessly it comes to her. The local
experimental and improv scene open up a fascinating discussion that takes us
through topics that in many ways summarise Lerman’s approach. Her point of
departure is the topic of funding. Lerman recognizes that which many of us have
–namely the fact that arts funding is almost non-existent in Israel. Noting
that the usual stance of experimenters is that of individualistic renegades who
put an emphasis on the individual persona, raises the question whether this
stance is not aided by the aforementioned lack of funding? In fact, does it not
create a default stance that sets the experimenter opposite the “classical”
stance? Israel, continues Lerman, is a society of conformists – this can be
felt in every aspect of society, and is especially felt to women. Lerman
recognizes in herself the innate seed of antagonism, which in the face of this
aforementioned conformity can sometimes be expressed with rage in her music.
It’s as if she was saying: “you all want to conform to the same ideas, then I
will present you with ideas that you simply don’t understand”. It is an
antagonistic approach, teeming with artistic negativism, and at least to some
extent exemplifies to Lerman why it is so hard for lay-audiences to listen to
experimental music at large and in Israel in particular. It takes quite a
knowing audience to be able to treat antagonism with tolerance or respect, not
to mention love. “In a society where the nature of discussion (even within the
family unit) is so violent, it is not at all surprising to find an active
underground”, says Lerman. This underground immediately acts as a refuge for
all of those proponents of society who are lacking some vital characteristics
allowing them to express their voice within “normative” societal terms. And the
expressions of this on the experimental stage can be wide and varied: perhaps
one person proposes a language devoid of rage, perhaps another presents a
language with exaggerated rage. But the commonality is that all of these people
are “allowed” to simply be for a while, and express a voice that society at
large does not yet know how to hear, or understand. Lerman continues and claims
that in a society where an artist could find her or himself silenced
by the government and authorities (and thus legitimise a media and public witch
hunt with outcomes unknown), it is not surprising to see experimental artists express
their voice with more passion, and gut felt works. As ever, Lerman’s
holistic approach manages to make sense of what seems like a blunder, and leads
her to ask whether it’s not the experimental and underground artist’s task to
help society find its boundaries? And indeed - isn’t an experimental artist,
who finds herself hounded by police and media due to an artistic expression, an
important precursor allowing society a glimpse at their future? Indeed, an
immense role fulfilling an important, somewhat thankless, service to society.
This, concludes Lerman, is always very easy to forget, as the performances
themselves are usually to small publics, and more often than not garner
ambivalent and tepid responses. But the role is the same regardless, and at
least for Lerman, manages to create a vibrant contrast to the ideas of Zionism.
Zionism’s main tenet recognizes a new nation with a new culture claiming a
supposed wilderness. As romantic is this ideal seems, it is simply not true!
Israel as a nation is based on a series of subsets of immigrants from different
cultures – each with their own language or dialect, foods and cultural
affiliations. The new invented culture for Israel perhaps represented an ethos
of its time, but it in no way represents a majority of the country’s voices
today (nor did it ever), and these cracks are slowly starting to show. The main
crack has of course to do with this supposed wilderness, which in time will
become the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a contentious point for those
still claiming that the country indeed was a wilderness when settled. Over the
backdrop of this supposed void, bustle several cultures fighting for their
existence, not accepting the hegemony, and asking whether things really are the
way they are presented. The experimental scene, claims Lerman, is in itself
antagonistic to the idea of a void, any form of stasis, or non-organic culture.
Therefore, it is
not surprising to discover that for Lerman, experimentalism is, in fact, an act
of deconstruction. What is surprising is a fleeting recognition that this
practice, negating any act of stasis, is in itself a static act. This state of
being might allow a negativist expression, yet still, as an act of being it is
always one and the same. With this realisation, and after having talked about
western vs. eastern culture, I suddenly realise that none of these cultures can
encompass experimentalism fully. It is true that western culture puts the individual
at the forefront, but this individuality must conform to norms and hence cannot
accept the renegade approach. Eastern culture, on the other hand, begs to
obliterate the individual altogether and thus creates a form of existence that
does not require expression; again, nothing the renegade approach can dwell
within. And so, bound to no state, culture, border or ism, experimentalism is
likened to an island that, by default, is deemed for cultural loneliness. It
brings to mind a beautiful story that Lerman chose to end our broadcast with,
taking us back to her days as a classical viola student in Bologna. As she was
setting herself up in the city, Lerman found herself in a circumstance
requiring her to sleep in the streets for a few nights. Lerman describes how
the vibrant city, its streets teeming with young students, suddenly became the
city of street-dwellers. Her main recollection is of the many unique characters
she met during those nights, predominantly men – all of whom reminded her very
much of the experimental type she has by now grown accustomed to: “They were
like a bunch of weirdoes at the edge of society, who couldn’t find an outlet of
self expression anywhere else other than there”. 

Instrumental Yes