At first the stage is dark. A synthesizer carefully begins playing a moderate fugue with a 90s lead patch. That’s my cue. I enter, stage left, and the spotlight follows me as I stride center stage. I hold out my arms and yell, sincerely, “this piece is not absurdist!” A man in the front row leans in, captivated.
“What is art?” I pose the question not for an answer but as an example. This is the kind of deep and thought-provoking prompt you get when you sign up for The Jordan.
“Is it just an expression of the self, or is it more? Could it possibly be less? What would that even mean? I digress.” The drum set enters, playing a scattered beat of indefinite meter. “How is it that something can be both a performance and an intimate moment? How is it that a performer might be completely honest and at the same time completely set on entertaining his audience? The answer may surprise you!”
The crowd is too confused to laugh at this clever tee-up.
“It is a fact of life that words only have meaning because we have given them meaning. We are the pump that fills language balloons full of our thought air. That doesn’t mean words have no meaning, nor does it mean words have no meaning without us. Just as the balloon persists even when I smash the pump with a rock, our words stay filled with air.” The upright bass enters with a pre-written hook: D Bb A F Eb, an ostinato with a varying rest length between each note every phrase, winding around like a circle. At the same time two stage hands bring out a small air pump and a rock, setting them at the foot of the stage.
As I bend down to pick up the rock, I continue, “when I act like a clown, people laugh like they’re at the circus.” I hold the rock with two hands and raise it above my head. “It doesn’t matter what I mean, just that I’m a clown.” I smash the pump with the rock and it shatters. “A little boy eating cotton candy asks me if I like being a clown. If I stop to think about it I realise that I don’t know what he means.” The music starts to speed up. “He asks me if I’m a real clown or just dressed like one. I don’t know what he means.” The drums get louder and there is no longer enough time between cymbal hits for the plate to quiet down, so a noisy wave of cymbal piles up.
This is it. My moment.
I pull out a small red clown nose I’ve hidden in my back pocket and strap it to my face. The music stops.
In that instant I understand: a clown is someone who has forgotten how to be honest.
The crowd laughs.