Based in Berkeley, The Peleh Residency is one of the few fully-supported, specifically family-friendly residencies in the country, and it emerged from the vision of the Peleh Fund to support both the creative process, and a new kind of cultural infrastructure that honors a commitment to family and work. The program reflects two core beliefs of its founders. First, that the universal experience of caregiving and working must be acknowledged and supported by our institutions if we are to thrive as a community. And second, that art and culture have the power to cross boundaries between people and ideas, bringing historical identity into modern life in new ways.
This post continues our series of reflections from artists who were part of the residency and how this focus on art, family, and caregiving has impacted their lives and work.
During our normal life, my wife and I travel and work at night quite often. One invaluable benefit of the residency was being able to spend a lot of time together as a family. For instance, we were together every night for dinner. It was also really valuable for our son Max to be living in a new place, and to make friends outside his circle back home. He loved the residency house, and all the different rooms he could play in, both inside and outside.
For me as a creative person, it does something for your focus not to have to work on deadlines all the time. To have a chance to step back. At the same time, it could have been easy to flounder with too much space. I credit the residency with encouraging me to set goals, even if those goals didn’t necessarily have to include a finished product at the end. We artists were trusted to do what we have to do, to decide what is valuable to finish by the end. Having a dedicated mentor helped with that goal-setting as well.
For some people this process might include taking walks in the woods and re-discovering oneself. In part that did happen for me. I discovered a hiking trail near the house, and in the mornings I would walk on it, often with my son. It was inspiring to be up there, getting that fresh air.
There were many other benefits of the residency. For instance, I discovered new communities of musicians, including at The Kitchen, a synagogue in San Francisco. I had the chance to be around a lot of people making music together in larger groups. This was very exciting creatively, and also helpful professionally. When I was coming back to play a gig near Sacramento, I was able to work with some local musicians. It would have been too expensive and logistically complicated to bring people out here from New York. This made it possible for people to hear my music who might not otherwise be able to.
In terms of musical creation, it was very productive. There were two main projects. The first was a transcription project, where I would listen to traditional music from Turkey and the Middle East, write the music out and analyze it. I did 15-20 transcriptions, in different song forms, for the oud. These included the Sirto, Longa, Saz Semai and Taksim songs forms.
The second project was writing a bunch of new music to have been recorded this spring, in part in response to the material I transcribed [this wasn’t possible because of COVID-19]. During the residency I had the space and environment to create almost an album’s worth of music. I could write music really quickly, get inspiration from a lot of different places, and try things out. In this new kind of space I could let the music float around in my brain until it was ready. One song that came out of this is called Falling Rocks. At the end of the summer, I was even able to try some songs out at concerts that I had scheduled in the Bay Area.
The space and time to be away from our normal life was nourishing for the mind, the body and the soul.