Finding the Dog

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Crandall provides some thoughts concerning his composition of the score of Carrie Preston’s Zahdi Dates and Poppies, premiering on March 30, 2016 at the Tsai Performance Center, Boston. Image of painting provided by David Crandall. Please consider providing your support by visiting the project’s funding page.]

Contributed by David Crandall

david_crandall_2Years ago when I somehow had the illusion of free time, I enjoyed painting as a hobby. I often found myself making images that displayed two or more worlds at once—an attempt to express the interpenetration of spirit and matter that colors my perception of life. One painting from that time, titled Jennifer Dreams Wisteria, now hangs on my dining room wall. To make it, I referred to a photo I took of my daughter Jennifer sleeping and superimposed an image of some wisteria fronds I picked from the dilapidated fence in the side yard of our Seattle home. I divided the canvas into four irregular vertical fields, pasted in cut-up images of a tree I had painted and photocopied onto tissue paper, and created a montage that I hoped would depict the dream of a sleeping mind.


Many people have seen this painting over the years, and they’ve reacted in various ways. But one friend said something a few years ago that really surprised me. She said, “Nice dog.” When I asked her what she meant, she showed me the image of a dog, mostly yellow, with two tiny forelegs extended toward the right, snout pointed straight up, and tail curved around Jennifer’s outstretched right hand. I had never seen it before.

Some artists think they know what they’re doing, and I guess sometimes they do. But I think the most interesting art is often unintentional—an arrival point that was not the original destination. I can’t look at my painting now without seeing the dog and being happy it’s there. I’d like to take credit for it, but I can’t—I didn’t put it there. It joined the party on its own, an uninvited but welcome guest.

Compositionally, Zahdi Dates and Poppies is another foray into superimposition. A lot could be said about how the text is structured, what it takes from noh and what it leaves  alone, and how the English language conditions the narrative flow. These are interesting topics, and I’m hoping that author Carrie Preston will talk about some of them in her own blog postings. Words and music are so tightly bound in noh that it’s nearly impossible to talk about one without the other, but I’d like to concentrate my own efforts on the musical montage that emerged as I superimposed a Western compositional mindset onto traditional noh structures. I won’t pretend that I knew what I was doing, but I did have certain intentions, some of which I think I achieved. What I hope will happen as I continue posting, though, is that someone will find the dog.



About Theatre Nohgaku

Noh, one of the oldest continuing stage arts, combines highly stylized dance, chant, music, mask and costume with intense inner concentration and physical discipline, creating a uniquely powerful theatrical experience. Theatre Nohgaku’s mission is to share noh’s beauty and power with English speaking audiences and performers. We have found that this traditional form retains its dramatic effectiveness in languages other than Japanese. We believe noh techniques hold a powerful means of expression in the context of contemporary English language theatre.
This entry was posted in English-language noh, Noh Music, zahdi dates and poppies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Finding the Dog

  1. Pingback: Finding the Dog in Noh, and Leaving it Alone | Theatre Nohgaku Blog

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