To sing is to make sounds that are decaying with a body that is terminally fading. Sound is like life itself: it is dying from the moment it is brought into being. We deploy our memories against our fading and relive our past experiences. But the mind is fickle. Past times are modified as they are recalled. And memories last only as long as those who carry them. They cannot be preserved.
Technology comes to our aid. We have the facility to make a sound recording and militate against the transitoriness of musical activity. Into the microphone, we give voice to our decline in search of an impression of the living body for future approbation. Music and recording have become inseverable. The surrogacy of recorded sound has displaced the role of memory. And yet the mechanism of recording vibrations of air does not emulate the weaknesses we exude. It glides over the embodied truth of our past, our prior ways of being and failing in the physical world of things. And so we wonder what it is about the activity of making music that speaks so clearly of our existence. Why is it that imperfect musical performance can distil real sense from the muddiness of memory?
As I Have Now Memoyre (2008) concerns the activity of singing, in particular, the relationship between the condition of the body and the sounds it produces. The project examines the effect of physiological changes upon a singer’s psychology over the course of many years. It also queries the conventional understanding of a performer as an executor of a composer’s imagination. Accordingly, it harnesses the visual power of musical action as a kind of sounding theatre in order to investigate the fundamental nature of musical experience. The performance makes reference to modes of listening set in play by the traditional concert experience (regular rows of seats arranged for unidirectional listening) at the same time as it calls them into question. It examines the effect of a musical work (something previously designed, to be performed) on physical performativity inasmuch as its notated score requires a singer (who is doing the performing) to ‘reach out’ to a listener (who is not singing) in making patterns of sounds that find their journey’s end in that listener’s response.
copyright © N.G.Brown 2008