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Navigating Grief on Perform and Surrender

EMMA MADDEN

Why the words 'perform' and 'surrender'? What meaning do those words take in this piece? Are they two competing energies?


SOHO REZANEJAD I chose the two themes, not as competing forces, but as a duality to the moving person. It was a way to create a scale of two extremes and weigh the ideas in the centerpiece. At the time, Perform and Surrender felt interdependent and rather intense, so they became the pair.


MADDEN Do you consider this piece of music haunted? What is it haunted by?


REZANEJAD It comes from my heart, and I can't name it really. It feels very natural to subject my life stages to my sonic practices because that is the only way to access my faith in the material. But the inspiration, when I feel it, doesn't belong to me. I feel borrowed by it, becoming a vessel of something greater than me. Maybe that is what makes it sound haunted.


MADDEN What are 'Stages I' and 'Stages II' stages of?

REZANEJAD

You know those mood rings that measure the temperature of your personality? I think their roles are meant to be just that. Suppose I revisit that time; the stages suggest a reconciliation between presence and absence. Holding my father's hand and feeling the spirit leave his body. The sharpening of his face and the falling temperature of his physical being. Both stages of confusion and acceptance. In a pragmatic sense, I wanted to make the poems a pair, connect the dots, and anchor the album's unfolding. I'm sure that if I were to interpret them now, they would mean something different.


MADDEN Do all these songs inhabit the same world? How did you envision that world?

REZANEJAD

The one thing that stays the same is a saturated memory of staying in the hospice over a concentrated time. That whole environment was an inward, spiritual experience that came without much division. I remember the families, the ins and outs, the taking turns of both joy and pain. A real labor of tears and relief, letting go and picking up. Just one world of that is enough.

MADDEN How do these songs correspond to each of the cities they were performed in?

REZANEJAD

They led lives of their own in each city. If I were to define it by a timeframe, the music took the rehearsal role, while the cities became the revision. I wanted to discover which parts would stay because that would indicate something worth recording later. A year went by, and it only felt right to publish the entire practice into an album, with the material that I remembered. I don't know which cities spoke louder to the album. The whole process was like compressing all of the cities into one memoir and then binding the book for closure—my way of overcoming pain.

MADDEN Why did you choose those particular cities?

REZANEJAD

They were the shows I was offered to play at the time.

MADDEN As someone committed to change, what have you done for this release that you haven't before?


REZANEJAD I don't know how it stands out as a release. This project was an opportunity to explore various presences on stage through choreographic storytelling. It was primarily an obsession with the audience and how to use each room. Almost a perversion thinking of it now. For example, one drama focused entirely on using the audience as a mirror with a cue of changing personality once the mirror became self-aware. The antagonist of that drama, which took place in another city, was a dialogue for an invisible audience. The seated settings were especially compelling because the guests were fixed in a chair and limited to movement, making the entire conversation more sensitive.


MADDEN How does the law of nature correspond with grief?


REZANEJAD

How doesn't it correspond when grief is so natural? I experience grief as in conformity with nature's laws, like a face with all its features. It could be so many things considering all animals are so familiar with it. What it meant for me was a way to accept, repair, and move on from painful situations. Take it as a price for strength. Though I believe there is a style of using it, and, much like anger, it only has room to be a guest. To let the guest stay for too long is a consequence of illness. But to live without it is unlikely. We need pain because without it we don't evolve.

MADDEN Is the sound of your voice next to the sound of a birdcall a reflection of this?

REZANEJAD

I think the first time it played was by accident in the background of a set. I enjoyed our reactions, so I let it stay.

MADDEN What were the original stage directions for each piece?

REZANEJAD

Most were simple drawings and instructions on how it could be done..


MADDEN Did grief change how you heard the world?

REZANEJAD

It's a beautiful question. It encouraged me to hear less of the cynical world —replace programmed beliefs with inner observations. The grieving process, once processed, overcomes the illusion of standing alone. And that way of thinking changes our entire approach to how we belong in the world.

MADDEN Is the practice of love an act of surrender?

"become part of me"?


REZANEJAD Without a doubt. I know that this is a journey different for everyone, but we are all sourced the same deep down. I don't think we are separate identities in any way, despite how much we have falsified that idea.

MADDEN Is destruction/abandonment necessary for growth and life and reinvention?

‘And when you leave the absence begins to grow beside me, like a tree’


REZANEJAD Like traveling, I feel that the lesser weight you keep on you, the clearer the experience. Detachment is a sign of vitality because it creates circulation in all the necessary stages of life. It becomes natural to leave things behind when you know where you want to go. Contrary to destruction and other dark kinds of restraint, detachment is a practice that goes a long way. You become a lighter, more flexible person. I see it as spiritual recycling. The more you let go, the more you grow.

MADDEN Why turn performances into this suite of songs?

REZANEJAD

The music initiates the performance, and for different reasons. I want to preserve the music by providing it a new body. To substitute an expression with a physical medium because spitting songs for the sake of spitting songs becomes generic if there is no deliberate play at stake. Performance and drama are so crucial in art... It's an engaging social contract and instrument of conversation, as much as a portal for inner dialogue. I intend to use it in my future works, by all means, because I want to see more of it in the world.


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