The Final Phase of Growing Harmony
In hopes of connecting the community through a creative performative experience, associate professor James R. Ball III discusses phase III of Growing Harmony.
By Mia Mercer ‘23
As autumn approaches, nature is changing before our eyes. But what if there was a way to experience the changing seasons through a different lens? Thanks to an immersive experience at The Gardens called “Growing Harmony,” we have the opportunity to tune into a whole new way of experiencing the world around us this month.
In order to create an aesthetic, performative experience for students and the community, the Texas A&M Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts (AVPA) created Growing Harmony, a three-part project which promotes the intersection between nature and music. Taking place at The Gardens on campus, Growing Harmony utilizes work from performance studies students as well as work from multimedia artists and composers The Holladay Brothers, which will be showcased in the final phase from Friday, Oct. 1, to Sunday, Oct. 31.
“From my own experience, listening to and experiencing Growing Harmony changes my attention in the way I relate to the natural world around me,” director of AVPA James R. Ball III shared. “It slows me down and gets me to take a deep breath and notice things about the natural world that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. Part of what it does is transforms our senses and the ways we look and see and hear the world. If we’re hearing the music, all my other senses are changed as I’m in that space. It’s a wholly immersive performance where we’re surrounded by this space, surrounded by this music. Even the smells and touch sensations start to get heightened.”
After having to cancel several live performance events due to COVID-19, the AVPA struggled to find performing arts events that would be safe for audiences, performers, and students. Along with hosting several live streaming events, Ball wanted to create something utilizing the real world while still being safe.
“With the move online, one thing that was getting lost was the sense that something is happening uniquely in one place and at one time,” Ball explained. “Now certainly there is stuff that happens online that captures that sense of liveness and the other pieces that we were looking at all had it, but that was something that we also wanted here – the feeling that this was a live performance, and it was something that can only happen in this place at this time. So that’s why Growing Harmony is specific to The Gardens. This piece of music can’t be heard anywhere else; you have to physically be in The Gardens to hear it and it’s only available for a set period of time.”
According to Ball, the third and final phase is going to be an overall composition by the Holladay Brothers that will respond to and incorporate the work done by the students in previous phases. The first phase of the project began in April and included an overall composition by the Holladay Brothers that encompassed the whole of The Gardens. The second phase took place from June to July and used original compositions from students for each section of The Gardens.
“This final phase is revisiting the phases that came before it but also celebrating it anew and reinterpreting and rethinking what’s going on,” Ball said. “I am most looking forward to seeing how the Holladay Brothers respond to our student work and the impact this project has had on our students. The other thing that has me excited is watching the seasons change with these different phases especially as we move into fall and see what it’s going to be like to be in a more autumnal space in The Gardens and hear the music for it. This project asks us to attend to the seasonal changing times. When you’re listening to it your senses change to these moments in nature and you have a different view of the passing of time in the natural world.”
Because Growing Harmony is free to all and easily accessible, Ball encourages everyone to participate in this unique piece of public art.
“It’s kind of amazing that Growing Harmony is coming to a close at the end of October,” Ball said. “I hope that those who participate in this experience enjoy it because the most important thing it does for people and audiences is create a space of contemplation. If you’re looking for a deeply transformative art experience, this is the thing to come to. This is not going to be repeated, and it’s a way of connecting with our campus and community differently. At a time when there’s a lot of stuff in the world to be concerned about, it’s nice to have a space that’s calm and reflective and comforting and that’s what Growing Harmony is.”