B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Jonny Peiffer: Given that I’m a Taurean I totally dig the oxen thing. For a very long time I’ve vacillated between identifying with the Great Blue Heron, with it’s solitary strength, patience, and elegant beauty, and with the barnyard cock. But these days I feel more like a beaver.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Peiffer: I really love dancing, and there’s no dancing without music. There is also not much of anything else without music. One of my favorite poets Jack Gilbert wrote, “We must admit there will be music despite everything.” What he meant was just because there is exquisite suffering somewhere in the world does not dampen the joy and beauty we should allow ourselves to experience in music, just the opposite.
B&L: What’s the making of a great show?
Peiffer: The greater the risk, the better the show.
B&L: Let’s talk about your latest project Wanderkook’s Field Notes. We’ll start with the obvious. What the heck is it?
Peiffer: As an explorer, Wanderkook was an avid journalist and diarist. So these Field Notes shows are a chance for us to open up his journal and see what falls out and rolls across the floor. He was the most interesting man in the world, and he has seen and heard some amazing things.
B&L: Is Oliver Z. Wanderkook a friendly being?
Peiffer: Ollie is so friendly he wouldn’t even harm a snake.
B&L: How did he introduce himself to you?
Peiffer: I first met Ollie, or Kook as we sometimes call him, in the wee hours of the morning in late January and early February of 2007 when he would visit me at a bakery where I worked. I would get to work at 4:30 a.m. and he would be there waiting for me, ready to tell me about all the unbelievable things he’d seen and heard along his travels, while the ovens heated up and the loaves were proofing.
B&L: There’s a very short sampling of these events. How have they gone?
Peiffer: We had a very successful event at The Dance Hall Kittery with choreographer Sara Duclos and dancer Jess Soucy in February. The audience played a crucial role in how the evening played out. They were able to try their hand at collective choreography, offering suggestions and inspiration in a few different ways. Folks really got the connection between dance and music, dance and illustration, and dance and text, and they got to see choreography being created, and sometimes improvised, right before their eyes. Everyone was on their feet dancing by the end of the night. After the Word Barn event we will have two more events in the series.
B&L: What are the challenges associated with the endeavor? Or is it easy?
Peiffer: It’s easy.
That is, of course, a lie. I just wanted to see what those words looked like, just sitting there like that, all cocky. Frank O’Conner tells a story of some young Irish boys exploring the rolling countryside. When they came to a seemingly impossibly impassable wall, they knew exactly what to do. Retreat? Nah. They threw their hats over the wall. Why? Because they knew their mums would whip ‘em good if they returned home without those caps, so they were left no choice but to scale that damned wall.
B&L: Is it true that you have music coming out of your ears and have gardens full of compositions? How often do you need to water said garden?
Peiffer: It is true, I have music coming in AND out of my ears. And I suppose I do have several different gardens of compositions – they usually arrange themselves in groups. Watering them is not the issue. I do need to protect them from rodents though.
B&L: What are you looking for folks to take away with them when they place themselves in a position to experience Wanderkook’s Field Notes?
Peiffer: A sense of childlike wonder rekindled. We pretend we have such a solid grasp of what’s going on all the time. How about we just knock that off for a while and just allow ourselves to stand agape.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Word Barn on April 8th? What excites you about the show?
Peiffer: The Sojoy boys are incredible at what they do, which is be surprisingly themselves through their instruments, whether they’re playing my music or not. And the actors are incredible at what they do, which is breath life into words in surprising and moving ways. What will be most exciting is to see those musicians I love interact with those actors I love in ways they don’t even know about yet and watch them discover new things.
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Peiffer: Open-ended plane tickets.
“Wanderkook’s Field Notes on Words,” featuring Colleen A. Madden and Cullen Delangie is an exploratory evening of words and music with writer Dan Beaulieu and Jonny Peiffer’s Sojoy. Join in on the fun on Saturday, April 8th at the Word Barn in Exeter. For tickets and further information, click here.