Douglas R. Ewart Crepuscule: Fostering Community and Celebrating the Individual

A Reflection by Ellen Ringler

On Saturday May 14, 2016 an extraordinary event took place at the Arboretum in Guelph, Ontario. It was bold, exciting, and with a little bit of magic and a lot of playful creation, the event, “Crepuscule,” came to life. A massive community improvisation orchestrated by IICSI’s Improviser-In-Residence, Douglas R. Ewart,“Crepuscule” is a community wide improvisation- all are welcome to participate in improvised music, poetics, dance and artful collaboration. Over years of work, Douglas R. Ewart has organized and orchestrated these colossal community improvisations throughout the United States, and now in Ontario in collaboration with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community, and Musagetes.

Douglas R. Ewart organized enthusiastic musicians and artists into ‘pods’ where they played and created with each other and with audiences who were free to roam around the Arboretum grounds to enjoy and develop a vast gestural, sonic, and poetic experience. It was a very cold and wet spring day and yet the mood was one of sunshine and excitement. The community rallied together to dance, create and stay warm.

Crepuscule started with a gathering and a few words from Douglas R. Ewart who emphasized the importance of respect and appreciation of our Elders, a common thread throughout his work and creations. With a few humble words, the community came together in an orchestrated sonic walk throughout the arboretum. Nearly every participant had an instrument – whether a bass cello, a shaker, small bell or their voice, each person was encouraged to participate through their own instrument. Together we made music in our parade of sound to then gather in a large and energetic circle to honour our Elders in the community. To give context and recognition to the Elders many speeches were given and it seemed as though these speeches went on for some time. Though participants were chilly in the cold weather, and eager to continue with the more performative aspects of Crepuscule, I think most appreciated and understood the importance of recognizing the work and leadership of the Elders in our community. Recognition and respect for Elders has been an important thread throughout Douglas R. Ewart’s creative and critical efforts as well, and though these recognitions went on at length, they are crucial and vital to this community practice.

In this vibrant community circle, people from many walks of life interacted not necessarily through words but through their instruments and through movement and gesture. People who may otherwise be strangers were free and mostly comfortable to express themselves as individuals connecting with one another. There was a sense of encouragement and acceptance among the community of Crepuscule for all its members to play and be as we are. Douglas R. Ewart explains, “Crepuscule was conceived and developed to foster considerable interactions between diverse individuals and communities…I want us to realize the symbiosis between individuals and communities. The individual assist[s] in creating a dynamic community and the community helps to create a dynamic individual. They are unified yet autonomous, unified yet diversified [i].”  The creation of music in an improvised space allows for the symbiosis of the individual/community dynamic because the music or creative process celebrates individual contributions, and the music that is then created as a product (which is not a finality) celebrates the contributions as a whole or community. This improvised space acts as a safe and nurturing creative context, and the physical space of the arboretum is wide open for creation.

The process of creation allows for autonomy in creativity while the creation itself delights for the whole of its creators. Social and community practices may sometimes be scrutinized for the practices’ tendency to amalgamate individuality in order to serve a greater purpose. It seems in order to serve a community bestsometimes we may disregard the individual but music, art and creation allow for individual expression and individual contribution to a community. Crepuscule nourishes the individual, who then nourishes the community. This sort of flow from individual to community is illustrated by the opportunities the public had to meet with Douglas, who is always kind and accessible. There was also an instrument building workshop in preparation for Crepuscule where the community was invited to join Douglas and learn how to make shakers and rain makers. This allowed for individual expression and creation with the flow of support from the community and the chance to follow up with individual creation and participate in Crepuscule.

I felt Crepuscule embodied the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation’s goal to engage the community and connect all participants through improvised creation. I think that as a quieter participant my sonic contributions were received by the open ears of the community. The contributions made from any individual were treated with respect whether that contribution was active listening or active creativity. In Daniel Fischlin’s work on responsibility he assures, “…improvisation entails vulnerability- a responsibility to the self and other, their interdependent relations and their commitment to engage in co-creative acts of listening and sounding as a function of what it means to make oneself vulnerable to the other, to address the vulnerability of the self”[ii]. At Crepuscule vulnerability is exposed as a powerful means that enables the individual to connect with themself and truly explore their own creativity while giving close and due attention to the creative contributions of others. I attended Crepuscule alone and I left feeling a connection not only to the other participants but also to nature and the beauty of my physical and sonic surroundings. This attentive listening, which comes from the powerful place of vulnerability, fostered my own sense of self as well as my sense of responsibility toward others.

Crepuscule was truly extraordinary. Douglas R. Ewart’s creative vision and dedication to the people around him is inspired. The creative process of Crepuscule enhanced and allowed for freedom of expression of the individual and the creation itself fostered a sense of community. Music and creativity offer ways to appreciate the difference of the individual and work as equalizers for community building. Crepuscule opened space to encourage individual expression and foster a community spirit.

[i]Ewart R., Douglas. Why Crepuscule 2015? Improvisation Institute. International Institute for Critical Studies in     Improvisation, 11 March, 2015. Accessed 31 Aug, 2016.

[ii]Fischlin, Daniel. “Improvised Responsibility: Opening Statements.” The Improvisation Studies Reader: Spontaneous Acts, edited by Rebecca Caines and Ajay Heble, Routlege,2015 ,289-295.