On Works-in-Progress as Radiolarians

Medeski, Martin, & Wood’s latest record, Radiolarians I, is the first of a three-record project. The project is named after a single-cell organism that is marked by an often beautiful skeletal frame. Some mutations of the organism have only the skeletal frame and nothing in the way of an internal structure other than a ’spine’. I’m not a scientist, obviously, but the concept of creating art with the Radiolarians in mind fascinates me. MMW created this record by establishing the basic outer structure of a musical composition, its shell or spine, if you will (cliché); taking that basic structure out on the road to flesh it out together live; then returning to the studio to record the polished pieces. The result is a beautiful, although I think it’s, at times, too structured, collection of music.

What if writers did the same thing? What if a writer sat down during a session and wrote a story or piece of a novel from start to finish, without any deep consideration for pointed insight or introspection, letting the plot meander until it reaches a satisfactory ending; then take it out on the ‘road’ to open mikes, writing salons, atop soap boxes on street corners; and finally return to the writing desk to rewrite, fleshing out the skeleton of the piece to create something seemingly finished.

What if you arrived at the open mike, writing salon, street corner, etc. and riffed on keywords of your freewrite, your rough skeleton as you’re reading the piece aloud, and you recorded what you read – your riffs. You could try out your new material, improvising where you felt necessary, and return to your desk to complete the piece.

You could keep audio files of your riffs, but never write them down. You could riff on different aspects of the initial skeletal piece and create as many variations of your story as you wanted. It could become strictly an organic performance piece.

Or you could collect the variations of the same story into a collection of prose, and readers could see your mind at work. They could know the truth.

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