• Kevin Keller

A Creative Bond


We all strive for the perfect collaboration

Creative partnerships come in many forms.


Many times, one creative partner acts as the navigator while the other partner interprets their directions. This can often be seen in the relationship between a film director and a film composer. Sometimes this relationship is reversed, like when a composer delivers an original score to a choreographer, and the dance grows out of the music.


A true creative partnership, where the two creators share equally in the creation of the work, can be rare and elusive. Indeed, in my life as a composer, this kind of creative bond has only come along a couple times. One such time was my partnership with choreographer Ray Sullivan, and the creation of the dance work "Not In My Name".


Ray Sullivan and I first met in early 2010, when he contacted me about creating a new dance work with existing music from my album "In Absentia". When Ray and I first spoke on the phone, we immediately hit it off - so much so that I decided to fly down to Miami for the premier. This turned out to be a very good decision. Sitting in the audience at the premier, my jaw dropped when the curtain opened and I saw 6 dancers silhouetted against a glowing amber cyc. Why was this so astounding? Because that was exactly how I had imagined the piece being staged when I composed the music - though I had never shared this vision with anyone! It was as if Ray had tapped into my brain and presented it on stage. Obviously, Ray and I had a very deep creative connection.


After the show, Ray shared with me his vision of creating a new dance piece about holy way, and acts of man done in the name of God throughout the centuries. I was immediately intrigued, and a few months later, after getting the proper funding together, Ray and I began to build the piece.


We would begin each week with a phone call, in which Ray would tell me what he imagined on stage, and how he wanted people to feel as they watched. Sometimes, he would even suggest certain sounds that could be used in the score. Sometimes he would describe religious icons that he had seen in his travels around Europe. I would then spend the next few days composing music to these ideas, and I would send short samples to Ray via email so that he could hear where things were heading. We'd finish the week with another phone call, in which we'd talk about what was working and what might be lacking. This process would then repeat.


Our collaboration was so effortless and natural that I was able to finish the relatively complex 30-minute score for chamber ensemble in just 5 weeks - which was definitely a record for me.


The full premier of "Not In My Name" took place about a year later in Miami, and seeing Ray's choreography on stage with original costumes and lighting, accompanied by the score, was a heart-opening experience that I will never forget. It was a fitting conclusion to what had been a truly collaborative creative process.


You can click the image below to hear the finished score.



What have your experiences been with collaboration? Have you had a creative bond with someone that seemed to transcend the two of you?


Please share your experiences in the comment section below.


Thanks for being a part of the conversation!