I, Nicholas Alva founded Alva Sound Art Studio sometime around 1996. It was meant to be an artists collective of collaboration. It didn’t quite end up that way, but several beautiful works have come along. For images and details on what was created go to http://www.morningstarplay.com/index.htm . There you will see the history of ASAS with photos and the bios of actors and musicians of past productions. Some of which I will go into detail below. I also hope to be able to upload past recordings and make available for purchase past CDs.
ASAS was started when the band that I was in “The Round” was winding up its first of several incarnations. I felt like I was doing quite a bit of the work of producing, recording, managing and such, as well as composing and performing. There were great players, singers and composer/writers. But I carried most of the business end. I wanted to create something in conjunction, or separate from the band where others also worked more for each other. I also wanted to keep an artistic collaboration with many people going. I wanted to start a large organization with artists, business people, stage hands, etc.. Since not much money, if any at all was being made, it made sense to do this as a collective. Plus if you find people of genius in any realm who can contribute what you cannot, then all creations are more beautiful for it and everyone benefits. I didn’t want some sort of negative authoritarian collective, nor any based upon Marxist principles, which does have a bad rap, but one of collaborators who come together to do what each does best, and to share in the work needed to make Art. More like a guild that could defray costs while still looking for patronage.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest here in Sonoma County for such collectivizing, or long term commitments to a working group along these lines. I found many people interested in working on short term projects, such as “MorningStar a Play as Musical Audio Book”, which had over 50 participants. But to join in on a long term organization that was not a band or a theater company, did not elicit much interest. I have also come to realize, or experienced, that actors like to work for a short time on a production then move on. Musicians in bands tend to be fine with performing the same material for longer periods. I needed both.
The lack of interest is understandable and is fine. So, I have since the 1990’s used the name as my professional face in creations, recordings and performances.
Alva Sound Art Studio is about the creation of Beautiful works of Art. Of Sound, Dance, Word, Theater, of Music.
Alva Sound Art Studio Presents: The Story Orchestra, or David Templeton and Coastal Winds in the Reading With Music of Jean Giorno’s “The Man Who Planted Trees”, etc..
I jumped ahead a bit.
One night I was at work at the library. It was when “MorningStar” as a theatrical project was nearing completion as a stage work. I was standing up in a back room, near a computer, near books I was processing and I raised up both of hands, outstretched to just above my shoulders, and I asked God and the Universe, “what am I supposed to do?” Or something like that. And immediately from outside of me, from above, from the completed circle that my arms and hands suggested, a message came into into my left hand, passing through my heart and center, and exited out my right hand. The message was “Create with works of Old something New. You will have all that you need. All that you have to do is give it back anew.”
Well, that was quite a moment. I felt that if I wasn’t a husband and father to, at that time, two young boys with a third soon coming, I could just walk out of the library right then and there. I knew exactly what it meant, but what did it all mean? For me the most important thing in Life, aside of other things, is Creativity. But I am also a graduate in History, and as I said I work in a Library. So I know much about the past, about past works of Art. So I had a bit of a clue.
And “MorningStar” was already underway. I was already creating a musical theater piece from an actual Historical event with much written history. I was involved with writing from oral history, and doing interviews. I had access to compositions written 35 years earlier. And I had my own writing of the text and songs that I created. This is what was meant. And I was very happy.
Since then I have begun, and developed, a piece called “Way of the Pilgrim”, which is the story of a Russian Orthodox Pilgrim, a mystic, which is a true story. It is planned to be part three of the Trilogy part of Musical Audio Books based upon the aspirations of Humans, and how to live rightly on this Earth. But the greatest example of realization of the “sign” that I received was from the creation of a work I called “The Story Brother Sun Sister Moon.” This was created, and actually performed in San Francisco, Berkeley and Santa Rosa. With reader’s theater, actors, musicians, singers and dancers. A cast of 12 performers.
I always have loved the film “Brother Sun Sister Moon.” The story of St. Francis of Assisi directed by Franco Zeffirelli. I saw it once in the 1980s, and then again around 2000. I thought it was excellent the first time I saw it, and I would every so often think of it. When I saw it again with my wife and first born son, it was completely different than what I remembered. It had changed. To me that is an example of living art. “Lord of the Rings” and the Beatles, and Beethoven and the music of Ravi Shankar or Thelonious Monk, or the paintings of Monet is like that. All great Art is. It changes as the individual changes. So I was inspired by the movie. And very inspired by the songs that Donovan composed for the film. I wanted to do my own version. Not of the film, but focus upon the conversion of St Francis.
First, I contacted Donovan. He was fine with my use of material, but we had to sort out copyright information and contracts. So step number one of taking old material and creating it anew was taken and met. I did similar, but slightly different versions of his songs. Which he liked very much by the way. Then the story itself. I found the original first biography of St. Francis, written shortly after his death. Second step met. Then the third step. I decided to work with the sign that I got and create text that was almost entirely not my own writing. So I went to the library shelf and started pulling out Sufi Poetry.
An acquaintance of mine ran a coffee shop that was what I considered to be a Sufi Front. I recognized that the way that much of their poetry was written, the ecstatic state, the love, the drunkenness via the drinking of the wine of God, if read in one manner sounds like a young St Francis who was a “partier” and ready to go to war. I totally respected the text because I knew also what the purpose of the text was. A means of expressing a person’s relationship to God. So I knew that having these texts in the performance would have two meanings. One shallow, and one very deep, and since St Francis converted his ways, the deeper meaning comes through. I also used text by Ezra Pound, an ancient war poem turned into a song that was translated and liturgical texts and hymns from Quacker, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. I used many other people’s works, slightly changed, pulled together for something new. I presented it as a collage. Which doesn’t quite to justice to the production idea, but is something easily understood.
Now here is the interesting thing. Art is alive, poetry lives. When I opened texts with this production in my mind and heart, written tracts “literally” jumped out of the pages and shouted “use me”, “put me in this performance.” I am not joking. Everything was alive and happening. 98% of the the text for the 90 some minute production was poetry or biography re-written as dialogue. I was able to also write new songs, and 2% of original text, but also use some of my older songs from two previous theater works. Receiving the old, and performing it anew. And this included some of my own “old” works. It was really quite good.
I made one slip though. Donovan’s and other people’s material and some of the translations were very expensive. I did it legitimately, made sure I had authorization for everything (which I have also done for “MorningStar… no rip offs. “The Way of the Pilgrim” is open source.) That severely limited performances and recordings. Which is fine. We did a great production. However I felt it became a bit too liturgical. Which in my mind crossed a line. From that production I realized that the goal of some of my work is to perform aspiration. That to me is theatrically great ground to work upon. It helped tremendously with the new version of “MorningStar…” it helped me to get a wrap around on what really is a Perenialist piece, with dissension.
But I am also a composer and a Bass Guitarist. So always looking for collaboration and if you need a unique sounding bass for a recording. Give me a call… oh and call me large production ideas as well…
The current goal of Alva Sound Art Studio is to over the next several years record a Trilogy of Musical Audio Books. “MorningStar – A Play as Musical Audio Book” is complete. This is “Part 1.” The aspirations, and actions of people coming back to the land, to find God and to live rightly on the Earth, and in Nature. “Part 2” is a piece called “Charlie Troll Chum.” The aspiration is the same, but the setting is now an urban one, one of culture, one of economics, but the goal is still freedom. “Charlie Troll Chum” is in production now. And “Part 3” is “The Way of a Pilgrim.” This is written but in need of work. This will be the shortest, simplest and most direct. That one will be finished in about six years from now.
Oh, yes and once stages are open again. Back to performance. “MorningStar” in yet another version, is ready for the Theater!
What Is A Musical Audio Book?
I don’t write “Musicals.” I remember as a child seeing great musicals and thinking to my self, people don’t really just start singing. But I have this vague recollection of a movie that had “The Loving Spoonful.” I haven’t seen it in 40 plus years. But what I remember is the story proceeding, then there is a song. Now that for me works. Music is a part of life. Theatrically it is a great way to tell part of the story, to create a mood, and yes to have the usual musical connotations. But it seems more real to me. And it is how I think. It is like an old style FM radio station where anything can be played, and it all works, if it is programmed correctly.
And it isn’t a podcast. It just isn’t.
WHAT IS A MUSICAL AUDIO BOOK?
What it is is a large scale production of Reader Theaters performing a real Story, with Narration (text as in an audio book) and voice actors acting as characters, and yes doing some singing. And it is songs. Lots of songs. In various guises, serving various needs, even just being entertaining. The concept tries to incorporate the feeling of dance. Which I miss working with very much. And finally it issound scapes, some musical, some representational, some background, some to create audio depth, and some purely as abstract as abstract can be bebe bebebe bebebebe bebebebebe bebebebebebe.
And it is long. Audio books are complete works. These take hours or days to listen to. So to with the Musical Audio Book. But as Reader’s Theater there isn’t just one voice, but many, as in a stage production. “MorningStar…” is over 8 hours long. “Charlie Troll Chum” will be about 4 hours longs, and “The Way of a Pilgrim” will be about 2 hours.
These are of course meant to be listened to in a focused manner. Best with headphones. But also on a drive, it is 8 hours from house to family in San Diego… or while gardening, or cleaning house, or while sitting close to your loved ones.