Artist David Greenberger, of Greenwich, N.Y., will bring the accumulation of approximately 30 years of work combining music and conversations with the elderly to the Tang Teaching Museum for two listening experiences in David Greenberger: One Upon, which opens Feb. 15 and runs through April 13. His companion piece, Elevator Music 26-David Greenberger: one updown, also runs through April 13.
As an artist, musician, writer, NPR contributor, storyteller and performer, Greenberger has become well known for sharing conversations with the elderly that explore and reveal their individuality, integrity and humanity. At community centers, nursing homes, assisted-living residences and private homes, he has talked with older people in a way that focuses on who they are now rather than what they have lost. Working with musicians, he has combined fragments of those conversations with music into short sound pieces that give listeners a window into the minds of older people.
Greenberger's One Upon turns the Tang's mezzanine into an intimate theater space where one audience member at a time can listen to a two-minute live performance by the group A Strong Dog. The group features Kevin Maul on lap steel, dobro, and guitar; Mitch Throop on guitar, bass, and drums; and Greenberger doing monologues about the older people he spoke with.
Greenberger's monologues have attracted attention and accolades from various critics, including those of Rolling Stone, the New York Times and illusionist, author and musician Penn Jillette.
Greenberger completed graduate school in the late '70s with a BFA in painting and started to work as an activities director at a nursing home in Boston called the Duplex.
"He realized almost immediately that there was something really important going on there in the conversations he was having," said Tang Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs Rachel Seligman, who curated both Greenberger exhibitions. "His whole career has been thinking about questions of aging and identity and relationships, and the way that as people get older we tend to set them aside, and we tend to mourn the loss of who they were instead of celebrating and engaging with who they are now. If you listen very carefully, they really are telling us about ourselves and what it means to be human."
The companion exhibition, Elevator Music 26-David Greenberger: one updown, takes place in the Tang Museum's elevator and features more than 100 short recorded pieces featuring Greenberger and a variety of celebrated musical collaborators, such as Terry Adams of the band NRBQ, Paul Cebar and the Shaking Ray Levis.
The two experiences are designed to complement each other, contrasting the chance hearing of recorded snippets in the elevator with purposeful listening at a live theater performance.
At a TED talk in Albany in 2011, Greenberger estimated he had had some quarter of a million conversations.
"I'm an artist and I'm also in the second half of my life," he said. "I think I've learned as a human being and grown as an artist by continuing to meet people who are living the last years of their lives. The differences between us are obvious, but it's the things that we have in common that are the most fulfilling to me. That's where you find the surprise and the mystery and the truth."
The public is invited to the Tang's Opening Reception for Winter/Spring Exhibitions from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, celebrating Greenberger's shows as well as Graphic Jews: Negotiating Identity in Sequential Art (Jan. 25 to April 13) and One Work (Jan. 25 to June 1).
Museum visitors are invited to enjoy Two-Minute Performances in a One-Seat Theater during the following live performance times:
? 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15
? 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19
? 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 9
? 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, March 18
? 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, April 3
The Tang Museum is open from noon until 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, with extended hours through 9 p.m. on Thursdays. For more information, call x8080 or visit this website.