Faye Shapiro

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Released 03/30/2016
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Experimental Israel Faye ShapiroMantraOn it’s 9th
session Experimental Israel hosts the composer and voice artist Faye Shapiro.
Shapiro is a prime example of a new type of musician who embodies in their work
and performance a link between several worlds that have started mixing quite
late in musical and artistic history. Perhaps this is a sign of musical
academicism finally catching up, or perhaps a sign of musicians shifting away
from academic paradigms; perhaps it is a sign of our times, or maybe simply an
insight into who and what Faye Shapiro truly is.On the one hand,
Shapiro was classically trained as a singer from a young age, but at a certain
point finds this particular expression confining, or at least insufficient. She
describes herself as an 18-year-old woman with many questions regarding self
that simply found no outlet in her known modes of expression. This quest sends
Shapiro to studies of Anthroposophy in Israel as well as Switzerland, where she
also studied art, and back again to the realms of singing and composition at
the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, only now with an angle of her own. Shapiro claims that
the main lesson for her in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner had to do with
learning patience and listening where artistic processes are concerned: “There
is a moment where you are no longer talking to the piece, but the piece starts
talking to you”, and the main question is how to serve ideas optimally. This
notion relates immediately to Shapiro’s ongoing work with ABRA, the singer-quartet
collective that she is a member of. ABRA present to audiences finished pieces
that the members collectively and painstakingly construct. However, the
methodology involves first and foremost a very intimate and personal
relationship between the members of the ensemble, and the use of improvisation
as a basic working tool. ABRA, as a unit, present the possibility of
improvising with materials, again, in order to understand what it is they want
of the performer, and not vice versa. Shapiro describes the collective as a
tool for slowing down the decision making process, whether it’s about choosing
materials or deciding what to do with them. Unlike artistic collectives that
eventually fall into the traditional role of leader and lead, ABRA truly is a
collective effort that requires time. The exploration is of voices, and
personalities and materials that are slowly shaped into a form, but it also
requires the resilience of an ongoing improvisation, indeed, allowing the
materials to express themselves fully. Shapiro strikes me not
only as a person with a deep inner world, but indeed as a person that doesn’t,
or maybe cannot, suffice with half-baked processes and answers. In passing she
describes her work within and without ABRA as a sort of ritual. Hence, it isn’t
a chance occurrence that we reach the topic of mantras and how this world of
meaning is inserted into Shapiro’s work. The ritualistic repetition existing in
many belief systems is here taken into ABRA’s rehearsal process: Rather than
committing to binding decisions regarding forms or materials, there is actually
a process of repetition and “stay of execution” for all that is brought to the
musical table. It’s as if there’s an underlying belief that everything that’s been stated has been stated
for a reason, and now it’s up to the creators to discover why. This idea of mantras
and reinstatement receives a deeper meaning with Shapiro’s creation for us at
Experimental Israel. Her piece Beketa
Leumi, uses texts taken from a talk show
where the speakers were two opposing figures on the Israeli political spectrum:
the staunch right-winger Miri Regev (Likud party, and current minister of
culture), and the Palestinian (and Israeli citizen) Dr. Ahmad Tibi (Ta’al
party). Those acquainted with the figures at hand can already imagine the
heightened debate and extreme rhetoric used in such an exchange. Shapiro asks a
relevant question regarding this “conversation” and wonders - are there certain
things that cannot be written down? Are there means of expression that could
only be effective as speech, and perhaps once you transform them into writing
they loose their potency? The mantric reinstatement in this particular case is
in Shapiro’s act of taking particular high-notes from the spoken text and
composing them in a manner that paints them in their truly ridiculous fashion.
In the heat of the spoken moment, the texts receive particular dramatic meanings,
whereas in a different context they seem utterly ridiculous and disjoint. With
this piece, Shapiro asks of her listeners to take note of a how vocalization
shapes reality. And again, we return full circle to the initial question of
what a material wants… what it actually requires. And it’s as if we’ve spoken of it the whole time
through, but in fact we’d never once mentioned experimentalism. In some ways I
felt a tad ashamed to prompt my guest for answers on this topic, as it seemed
we managed to dig much deeper. But asked I did, and Shapiro answered:
Experimentalism is simple, really... if there is an apparent research in what
one does, then one is experimenting. It’s like looking at the difference
between a person practicing Yoga and a modern choreographer. Whereas the former
practice requires exploration with a set form, the latter, at least ideally, is
an opening for objective research (whether that actually takes place or not). I
query further and ask whether the experiment should be apparent to the audience
in order to have its full effect? This perhaps prompts the most resolute reply
of the day from Shapiro: “It means little if you’re avant-garde, but whatever
you do simply doesn’t work! Experimentalism doesn’t mean trying things out on a
captive audience. There must be a risk-take, but at the same time also responsibility
- the stage and performance demand reverence, experimentalism or not”. 


Instrumental No