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  • Norm Adams

Universal Translator

Yesterday was a most and inspiring day. And it all started Monday morning with a salami sandwich.

I take that back, it all started a few days ago with Sarah returning from an excursion through the amazing walled village of Sarrant asking me, somewhat dubiously "what is Art Intuitive?" I felt like I had an idea, but a quick Google search led me to Sophie Cournede, Sarrant's resident yoga instructor,and improvising dancer/mover! On a whim I wrote her an email asking if we could meet. I'm not sure what gave me the courage, but there you go.....4 months abroad does things, you know? We exchanged email en francais and set a meeting time for Wednesday.

Back to my original story: It felt like there was a stone embedded in the Carrefour salami, but I knew better, from experience that I had broken a tooth. After a few calls and carefully planned messages on dentists answering services, the phone rang. And my day's adventures in outrageous language usage began.

I negotiated a description of my problem, and an appointment with a dentist for Wednesday morning. That worked.....and Dr. Rieu proved to be a most speedy and anaesthetic-free dentist. 20 minutes and €46 later I was out of there with a rebuilt tooth and a warning from M. Rieu: if it keeps hurting come back.......

My ride that afternoon was to be a series of hill repeats, a desperate, and probably futile effort to get ready for the +10% grades of the Pyrenees. It was cut short by a clank and and a clatter of a very specific spoke of my rather snazzy Mavic Ksyrium rear wheel, breaking. what are the chances of finding one of those spokes? Who had time to think? I learned the word for spoke from the dictionary ("rayon" FYI....) called the bike shop in Auch that fixed my crank and sold me a new tire! Another

negotiation! Phones are hard for us learning French speakers. We can't read lips we can't see

e gestures... we just have to wade through the accent and mumbling and jargon, and understand! They said come by. But that was not the least of my worries, I had an arty rendezvous. Off I went to Sarrant and Sophie and I talked about our lives, and small towns and the struggles we all face, with funding struggles and complacent and intimidated audiences. I struggled, but I got most of my ideas across. she helped, but my French was still better than her English!

Her space was in one of the ancient houses of this microscopic village. We drank tea al a menthe (she had been in Essaoira at Christmas) and sat at her little table in front of the house. We went upstairs to her yoga space to play together. This was amazing! Heavy, ancient wooden beams white stucco and exposed wood, a new hardwood floor, and shape that was nowhere near rectangular, and sunshine flooding in the single window. A space made for art. We began. Her movement was a nice combination of butoh, which she has studied, and contemporary. It was easy for me to see and understand her intuitive story. I felt the movement in my own body the same way I do with my work with Gwen Noah and a few of the other movers I've played with over the years. I love the physical tension that transmits from the dancer to me, and how it feeds and informs the sounds that I make. With Sophie, I recognized her language, despite our short friendship, and our obvious cultural differences! (I would like to state that this is not a "music is a universal language" blog posting. This may be a fact, but it's not the point here!)(I hope you'll get the point later....) After the first piece she asked if I'd like to do a show with her and a percussionist from Mauvesin. I said bien sur! After the second piece she had a date in mind! (I like like artists who are organizers too).


Here come the points: There are two - 1: what a privelige it is to an improviser! We exist in a world where two people can meet and make art with not so much as a "how do you do?" (Comment ca va?).  Few other artists are as lucky. I drove home elated, refreshed, inspired, honoured and excited for our concert, one that will bring in a few people, a little money, but that will celebrate and showcase our art making: our intuitive, abstract, but very human and international relations!

Point 2: where did I get this confidence? This whacky ability to converse and negotiate in French with three different specialists in one day? Where did I get the mental capacity? It's so exciting to think that maybe this is all sinking in a bit, and I'm learning French.


The trip has been great, but this is icing on the cake: I've met a new friend, been inspired by  movement and a place, and been reminded of my work! And I've realized I'm not afraid of stumbling along in French.


Of course now that we're in Spain we have a whole new language problem.......but Sophie and I will perform together on May 26 in Sarrant, Gers. I hope you can make it!


May 15, 2013 at 19:21

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