Making Connections Through Music
By Ali Laforce
Most of us go through our lives automatically tuning out the everyday noises that surround us. In contrast, Jane Rigler, assistant professor for the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), spends her days savoring these sounds and the stories they tell. Formally trained as a flute player, Rigler has also found a passion for deep listening and composing original work that combines music with sounds from the world around us. She has traveled world-wide to record everything from the voices of local children at play, to loudspeaker announcements in Japan, and the movement of a glacier in Alaska.
Rigler considers her work with the Deep Listening Institute to be her most important current project. One of the institute's missions is to build a global community that guides people to pay more attention to the act of listening. "Developing listening skills is not just good for interpersonal relationships, but also good for building a creative, serene, joyful life," says Rigler. Active listening is an important way of discovering and engaging with the world, and she credits active listening with making her a better teacher. To engage others in this experience, Rigler invites members of the community and of campus to monthly Deep Listening Exploration sessions at UCCS held at the Heller Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Rigler conveys her love of discovery as she talks about learning extended techniques on the flute, which are primarily inspired by ancient world traditions of playing tubes. In these extended techniques, the musician combines both expected and unexpected methods of playing their instrument, such as when Jane uses her flute percussively or when she sings while playing.
Discovery also informs her approach to creating concerts. "I like getting people to move and explore concerts in new ways," she says. Some of those new ways include inviting the audience to play their own instruments or sing, performing in untraditional venues such as a rice warehouse or abandoned train station that require the audience to move through different rooms, and a collaboration with the Japanese ensemble Stringraphy for a concert that involved turning the entire venue into one huge instrument by hanging musical strings around the room to be played by the audience.
This exploration of different approaches to concerts is influenced by a piece of wisdom from Wade Matthews, a friend and fellow musician who left a major impression on Rigler. During a conversation, he told her a deceptively simple idea: "Music is the star." Rigler describes this as an important adjustment in her perspective of what it meant to be a musician. It helped her to immerse herself in the music by doing
what she describes as setting aside her own ego. The real measure of whether or not a concert was a success was if the music, not the performer, played the starring role.
Matthews' words help explain Rigler's mission to remove what she describes as "the hierarchy of a traditional concert" where there is a clear division between the performers and the audience. Instead, she prefers to involve the audience members as collaborators in the experience. Having performed in this way across the world, with a wide range of audiences, Rigler is happy to report that even in the most reserved cultures, her audiences have always joined in.
Not surprisingly, Rigler is a prolific collaborator. While she started as a performer and continues to be one, her work has expanded over time to also include creating original compositions with peers and students. Current projects include commissions to compose music for flute and percussion, a flute quartet, and a flute and guitar duet with her UCCS colleague, and Music Program coordinator, Colin McAllister. She is also a member of a Denver-based quartet Sone which is currently releasing a CD and performing in the Southern Colorado region.
One key component of success Rigler emphasizes is the need for discipline. A good composition (and performance) comes from doing the hard work of making multiple drafts and revisions as well
as a lot of practice time. "Patience for process plays a key role in the act of creation," she says. She urges anyone who is interested in doing creative work to invest in the process and time it takes to create a strong composition or performance.
Her hard work has paid off. Rigler's work is being published and she will continue to travel around the world doing what she loves. In the Fall of 2015 her new CD Rarefactions produced by Neuma Records was released. To create the album she collaborated with musicians Janet Feder, Shoko Nagai, and Satoshi Takeishi to combine both traditional and non-traditional musical techniques. She also received the honor of curating the February 2015 New Music Festival "World Electro-Acoustic Listening Room" produced by Cal State University Fullerton and received a Harvestworks Artist-in Residency Award for her interactive audiovisual/electroacoustic piece The Transparence of Lady R which will be premiered in NYC May 2016. She recently received a Civitella Raniera fellowship for 2016 which will allow her to travel to Italy to compose.
When she is not traveling the world to collaborate and perform, Rigler enjoys walking and hiking local trails, doing Pilates and yoga, and going for walks on the beach when she visits family in California.