Crazy like a Bard?

posted Sep 29, 2015, 12:43 PM by Jeremy Fowler-Lindemulder   [ updated Oct 5, 2015, 10:23 AM ]

I just got back from the 4th Annual Texarkana Renaissance Festival last weekend and I’m sore in all the right places. (Yes, that means it was a good faire.) Each faire brings with it lots of experiences, both new and old, and this one proved no different in that respect. A couple of these encounters, however stand out, so I thought I might expand.

A well meaning fellow performer commented to me that my “material was going over the heads of my audience.” He meant it sincerely, and I love him for that, still I have to admit that that is right where I want to be. I can joke about it, mostly because I’m not making a living at it. A couple of years ago another performer commented that they liked the way I paired themes to enhance meaning, like singing about Machiavelli to the melody of the Turtle’s Happy Together. I actually hadn’t entirely made that connection myself, but like the artist I trained as, I take full credit for my unintended little mistakes of genius. Evidently, I want the music to go over my head as well. Like a scene from a Pixar movie, I want people to enjoy it all on their own level. And parents, if your kids get the higher level jokes, it’s not my fault.

These are just a few of my musical influences.

Another interesting new experience was being interviewed for the Renaissance Festival Music podcast. I did it cold, and so did the seemingly genuinely interested interviewer Danny Faught, so I hope I came off as moderately intelligent. I’m sure that he did. Though I fear the worst about my own end of the conversation, I trust the audience to figure something out from my ramblings. See I, like my music, am all over the map.

I was raised in a theater family on a diet of Shakespeare, and Greek and Norse mythology, with a smattering of Monty Python and classic Star Trek thrown in for good measure. I spent my summers with my grandparents in their rather huge music store, surrounded by musical instruments, and classic sci-fi television. I even lived for two years in Lothlorien of Middle Earth where we put together some great haunted houses. (I used to get big question marks on my mail, but it was always delivered.) Eventually,  I found Karen, the best part of my life, and she brought me the gift of the church. (Well, Jesus is the greatest gift, and the church is a mixed blessing that goes along with the package.)

The church is a large part of my chosen family, where I accept certain expectations, but I also realize there needs to be some grace, because I can't meet everyone's different expectations.

I now teach art with a sort of historical mash up approach, and entertain people at Renaissance faires for my own enjoyment with a similar methodology.

So, you see, I don’t do this stuff so much for the patrons. I tell my students the same thing: I cannot please everyone, and when I try to do so, I end up pleasing no one. So, I do what I like, and I invite others along for the ride. At a faire, it’s all theater, so I have stuff that I have written along with material from other sources, some typical material, some classical, and some things that others have written that amuse me. I try to put my stamp on all of it with melody or style. Of my own material, there is a distinction between the stuff I do for faire, and  the stuff I do not, but sometimes that dividing line is thin.

Here is what mashing up ancient Egypt with modern figures might look like.

My non-faire songs are generally christian in nature, and they probably cover more of my musical writings than not. Still, the two are not mutually exclusive, like the Christmas Cantata that I wrote with a general Celtic theme, one discipline informs the other. Pick up my Antiephemeral CD if you want to hear how Celtic music, rock, and christianity can get along. Playing in the Water is our Church CD that I produced and wrote the majority of songs for as well. I do faires to relax.

I do the same sort of stuff in the classroom, dragging students through the process in the process. Yes, they suffer through my history presentations and ramblings, and they do the odd project using all too traditional materials with my invitation to bring the modern into the picture through their own experiences and willy nilly metaphors. Some actually do. I introduce them to the limitation of the media in the hope of driving their creativity. That’s just another process. Yet all along the way, what I do for them I do for me, and I invite them to participate in the experience... much like this rambling that you have just read through.