While assembling documentation of Alvin Lucier’s work for my sound art class at TCD, I found this ICE performance on Vimeo of Alvin Lucier’s Opera with Objects. There are a number of performances of Opera online. But it seems to me that this one engages something of the work that others miss.
For a start, it’s performed outdoors. The sight of floating ice, to the right of the frame, fossilizes the algid ‘snap’ of the chopsticks. The visuality of the performance renders the sound osseous and frail. This is canny because it necessitates some form of resonant amplification for the beating. The mise en scène validates the purpose of those objects. Cold, bone-like sound needs plenty of volume.
But what interests me even more about this video is the particulate nature of the group’s performance: 1; 1+1; 1 + (1+1) etc. Lucier’s piece is a meditation on physical contiguity in the production of sound: the possibility of one vibrating object exploiting the resonant properties of another. The quality of that amplification is a function of the object’s nature. Opera with Objects is also an ensemble piece. At 03:10, there are eleven players. One enters, two rise, then three, four, five. Some players move around. Two kneel, to connect with certain objects. Another player enters. So what we see is a series of configurations of individuals. With each new grouping, a new configuration (i.e. connection: network, even) is formed. And so we get these parallel situations: chopsticks + object; (player + chopstick) * M + same * N. The connection inheres through the performance situation as it does through the contiguity of objects.
I’d like the camera to come off grip and get right in with the performers – to step across the line. It seems to me the wide shot (and occasional close-up) are rather passive, treating the action as if it were a concert on stage, in a hall. I wonder what it would be like to get the reverse shot – to get right in amongst the performers, break up the ensemble and bring out those configurations.
Even so, this is amongst the best of the Opera performances/documentation I’ve come across so far.
I’m pleased to announce that an article of mine has just been published in an exciting new book from The Orpheus Institute, edited by Bob Gilmore and Darla Crispin. My article is titled, ‘Composing as a Way of Doing Philosophy’. In it, I talk about the works I wrote between c. 2005-9, including An Audience with the Trees (2005), The Bravery of Women (2006-7).
Leuven University Press describes the book as follows:
This book is the first anthology of writings about the emerging subject of artistic experimentation in music. This subject, as part of the cross-disciplinary field of artistic research, cuts across boundaries of the conventional categories of performance practice, music analysis, aesthetics, and music pedagogy.
More information here
I’ve added a piece from my archive about Robert Wilson’s ‘Walking’ project, which I experienced at the 2012 Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It is in the ‘Writing’ section of the site. Click here to read it.
I’m in the process of adding pieces of writing from my archive to this site and have added the following in the past few days. More to follow in due course:
i) ‘How to Keep a Villa in Arcadia‘ – on the Venice Biennale in relation to Virgil’s Eclogues.
ii) Two items of programme notes:
– Notes on the Andriessen/Greenaway opera, ROSA written for Lincoln Center, New York in 2004
– ‘By the Magician’s Hand’ – notes on Stravsinky’s Petrushka written for Trinity College of Music, London in 2008
iii) My 2006 article for Contemporary Music Review, ‘The Flux Between Sounding and Sound: Towards a Relational Understanding of Music as Embodied Action’
The planes of Henry Moore’s sculptures convey a plasmic organicism. They seem to curve around you as you approach and to spin like a barrel on an axle as you move away. The skill in controlling our impression of these planes is the sculptor’s manoeuvre. It distinguishes itself from the two-dimensional mark-making of the draughtsman as it takes place within the real world of things.
I admire Moore’s drawings: the wire-wool sheep and war-weary sleepers on the London Underground. But until I visited his estate at Perry Green last week I hadn’t thought about a connection between the textures he inscribed on his sculptures with cheese-grater-like implements and his significant use of another two-dimensional art: photography. [click here to continue reading]