I did my presentation in Assisi last night, and it went well enough, under the circumstances. I managed to communicate the basics of an extremely complicated technical topic to a very small audience (10 people or so).

The presentation was on how the Divine Proportion, also known as the Golden Ratio, could be used in classical music composition. It was the subject of my Master’s thesis.

I had prepared the talk in English. There was no way I was going to be able to deliver it in Italian, with all the technical musical and mathematical terms I was using. I would have had to work with someone during the preparation process.

Instead, my friend, the artist Rossella Vasta, (click on her name for a look at a dance performance at Lincoln Center in New York inspired by her Table of Silence art project). did a simultaneous translation for me, which proved taxing for her, too! She didn’t know what I was going to say beforehand.

I prepared this project with the understanding that I had no idea about the situation I would be presented with, and indeed, I wouldn’t have been able to guess I’d find myself this particular set of circumstances anyway.

I was put in a small lecture hall with a computer and screen for the PowerPoint part of the project, which made everything a lot easier (Thanks Moatesu Kiraeri at Good Design Works in Kyoto, Japan for helping me prepare the very attractive slides).

I got a lot of good press prior to the presentation. It was announced in the art pages of two local newspapers (which I will upload as soon as a find a scanner. Can’t find them online). But they got the time of the presentation wrong! It was at 18:00, and they advertised 21:00.

No matter. The presentation drew a small crowd of about ten people. I really couldn’t get any momentum going because I had to keep stopping for the translation to occur. Nevertheless, I effectively communicated the history of our understanding of the number “phi” (with a lot of help from Mario Livio‘s book “The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number“) and got through the section on Bach‘s music really well.

It was at the more complicated presentation of the Divine Proportion in Chopin‘s Prelude in A minor and Debussy‘s Jardins sous la pluie that I started to lose steam, especially in the latter. I realized I should have presented this last part in a different way to make it clearer, and I fear I didn’t get the point across too well here.

I realized that, along with the visual PowerPoint part of the presentation, it would have been good to use audio examples too, in spite of how much time they would have taken up. When I planned this presentation, I had a half-hour time slot in mind. Playing musical examples would have brought my time at the podium to more than an hour.

My feeling at the end certainly wasn’t one of elation at a job well done, but I wasn’t feeling bad about myself either. It was more a feeling of, “Well, that happened.”

Nevertheless, Andrea Ceccomori immediately suggested that I come back next year and do a workshop on the subject of the Divine Proportion in music with a group of ten or so music composition students next year. He also suggested that the presentation be done with a pianist who could highlight the parts of the scores I talked about. That would be great!

I waited around with Andrea to make sure no one showed up at 21:00 – the time the newspapers advertised – but no one did. Just as well! I was pretty wiped out by then, still feeling the effects of jet lag.

All in all, I feel like things happened as they had to happen, and it all wound up benefitting me. The talk was pretty abstruse, and it was probably a good thing that only a few people showed up. I got the experience of explaining a complicated topic to a group of musicians who hadn’t heard of it before.

I have to say how grateful I am to have people like Andrea Ceccomori and Rossella Vasta helping me. They provided absolute positive support throughout the project, and, it would seem into the future! Thank you both so much!

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