A FEW SILENCE, A PLACE OR TWO, SOME APPLAUSE

A program of experimental performance curated by G. Douglas Barrett.
Incubator Arts Project, New York, August 20, 2010, 10 PM.

Works by G. Douglas Barrett, John Cage, Bill Dietz and Adam Overton.
Performed by G. Douglas Barrett, Kara Feely, Francesco Gagliardi, David Kant, Jonathan Marmor, Aaron Meicht, Travis Just and Quentin Tolimieri.

     Revolving loosely around the meeting of post-conceptual and discursive practices with those developed by the experimental music tradition, A Few Silence, A Place or Two, Some Applause is an evening-length program of performance works which considers the concert situation as technologically mediated site for embodied, social and institutionalized listening.  The program contains works by G. Douglas Barrett, John Cage, Bill Dietz and Adam Overton, performed by G. Douglas Barrett, Kara Feely, Francesco Gagliardi, David Kant, Jonathan Marmor, Aaron Meicht, Travis Just and Quentin Tolimieri.


STATEMENT, PROGRAM, BIOS
     printable version: PDF

A Few Museum-Goer Transcriptions (2009). June 29, 2010, Milan.
     A Few Museum-Goer Transcriptions (2009). June 29, 2010, Milan.

—Statement—TOP

A FEW SILENCE
     Somewhere John Cage is quoted as having said, “I no longer need the silent piece”.  Discussions of Cage’s 4’33” (1952) often center around silence:  silence as emptiness or nothingness, silence as pure duration, silence as musical resource, silence as noise, silence as indeterminacy, silence and how it’s notated, silence as reduction or erasure, silence as silencing.  What these discussions often fail to underline is the very conventionality of the frame within which the piece operates:  the concert situation itself.  It’s not an entirely novel idea that rather than providing an operation within the frame of the concert, 4’33” displays that very situation as the work.  
     Fifty years after the final Henmar Press publication of Cage’s 4'33”, the composer’s famous catch-all work for “whatever happens” during the course of four minutes, thirty three seconds of the silence of the concert hall, is met with another receptacle piece, Touch ensemble petting zoo (no. 1) (2006), a work by artist and composer Adam Overton which requires, for its activation, the work of another composer to be performed after stripping and inviting the audience to touch the performers as they “play” the work.  Cage notes in the 1960 version of the 4’33” score that the original performance of the piece was given by David Tudor and it involved the pianist sitting silently at the keyboard, indicating each section of the piece by closing and opening the keyboard lid.  While perhaps not the most obvious choice considering Overton’s score, my combining of 4’33” with Overton’s Touch ensemble petting zoo is intended to serve as both a faithful performance of the two works, and as an (iconoclastic) homage by suggesting something of a shadow figure of 4’33”.  The pairing is to consider silence not as yet another entity somewhere along the continuum of “expanded musical material”, but to offer a more radical opening/closing—of the tactile space between performing and listening bodies, of the very fabric of the social-bodily disciplining constitutive of music and its institutions.
     My own work A Few Silence (location, date, time of performance) (2007) is a virtual repetition of 4’33”, albeit one that contains its own internal discursive re-articulation.  In the piece performers create written descriptions, “transcriptions” of the sounds of the concert hall, and then re-perform their respective scores using various sound-producing objects.  The silence of the performance space is acoustically reflected, passing first through language, then mediated through performers’ music-technological engagement with instruments and objects. 

A PLACE OR TWO
     In my other two works on the program, A Few Museum-Goer Transcriptions (2009) and Place Feed-forward (Spiegelgasse 14, Zürich, Switzerland) (2010), consideration of the aesthetic frame—and its technological repetition—is expanded to include the museum and its own unique set of laboring bodies (curatorial staff, guards, gallery interns), and the cultural memorial site.  In A Few Museum-Goer Transcriptions performers create transcriptions of the movements, actions, gesticulations, facial expressions, attitudes or emotional states of bodies observed during a museum, gallery or concert experience. The piece works for me as a kind of found choreography, a way of re-inscribing, transposing bodies from one site to another.
     For Place Feed-forward (Spiegelgasse 14, Zürich, Switzerland) (2010) performers each create a unique transcription—including visual characteristics, objects, qualities of light, bodily movements, social situations, acoustics, sound events—based on one of three “video field recordings” (roughly, static long-takes of video) I created at Spiegelgasse 14, Zürich, Switzerland, the site of the 1916 residence of then-exiled Vladimir Lenin, where the revolutionary lived before returning to Russia in 1917.  Incidentally, the site is less than a block away from notorious early Dada meeting ground, Cabaret Voltaire; some are convinced that Lenin himself played a role in the formation of Dada.1

SOME APPLAUSE
     The following list is taken from a 1919 article on the “claque” in Italy, the then nearly century-old practice which began in France of hiring professional audience plants to direct the reactions of the public during a musical performance.  It explains the pricing of the various services ordinarily requested of any one of the claquers by a composer, soloist or opera singer.
Trevor, Claude. “The ‘Claque’ in Italy.” The Musical Times 60.922 (1919): 678-80.2

     The practice of the claque represents a wrench thrown into what might be falsely thought as the happy-go-lucky cogs of the communal concert machine, wrecking any conception of a stable politics of the public event.  The claque is to suggest the ever-presence of the claque, the thought that since publicness can be tampered with there was never any pure public to begin with.  The social-constructedness of the concert situation—publicness as only self-deceptively democratic—defines the very nature of the concert.  Bill Dietz’s piece Some Applause for Doug (2010) operates as a perverse digital simulacrum of the claque.  The work uses an applause sample taken from a prior performance I was involved in,3 which is then re-cycled over live applause taken from the current concert program, which begins a feedback process layering live and pre-recorded applauses, finally culminating after the last piece of the program.  The process Dietz’s piece outlines is one that re-focuses that material ordinarily thought of as outside of the aesthetic frame, the “intervals” between performances, “where we’re not supposed to listen, where there’s ‘nothing to hear’”,4 that space where, finally, concert is revealed.




      1 See, for example, “dadalenin”, an extensive series of works by artist Rainer Ganahl, <http://www.ganahl.info/dadaleninabout.html>.

      2 Trevor, Claude. “The ‘Claque’ in Italy.” The Musical Times 60.922 (1919): 678-80.

      3 Dietz’s only comment about the piece: “Following a program of works performed by Francesco Gagliardi, Travis Just, Kara Feely, Alessandra Novaga, Elana Russo Arman, and G. Douglas Barrett, which began at 8PM at the Phoebe Zeitgeist Teatro in Milan on June 29th of this year, the audience of approximately 20 applauded the artists for 1 minute and 12 seconds.”

     4 From a program note for Dietz’s “After the Interval (Concert Piece imJC)” (2004).



—Program—
TOP

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Some Applause for Doug (2010), Dietz
     This work is performed during the interval following each of the works listed below.

A Few Silence (Incubator Arts Project, New York, August 20, 2010, 10 PM) (2007), Barrett

Place Feed-forward (Spiegelgasse 14, Zürich, Switzerland) (2010), Barrett

A Few Museum-Goer Transcriptions (2010), Barrett
     Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Action/Abstraction. Buffalo, June 7, 2009, 3:54 PM
     Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Action/Abstraction. Buffalo, June 7 2009, 4:09 PM
     Video Free America. Dan Graham: Performer/Audience/Mirror. San Francisco, 1975
     Restaurant Gropius, Martin Gropius Bau. Berlin, Dec. 28, 2009, 5:18 PM
     Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. 21x21. Turin, June 22 2010, 6:15 PM
     MoMA. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present. New York City, via youtube
     MOCA Geffen. index show. Los Angeles, Dec. 6, 2008, 4:40 PM

10’00” (4’33”) (1952), Cage / Touch ensemble petting zoo (no. 1) (2006), Overton
     Audience members are invited to approach and touch the performers.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

—Bios—TOP

G. DOUGLAS BARRETT (b. 1981) is an artist/composer working often with performance and various forms of mediation (text, scores, notation, transcription, recording technology, video). His work has been presented in festivals, galleries, concert halls, academic conferences and street performance events throughout North America and Europe. Recent collaborators and performers of his work include Francesco Gagliardi, Adam Overton, Mark So, Bill Dietz, Object Collection, The S.E.M. Ensemble, Pauline Kim and Philip Thomas. He has appeared at festivals such as the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), Ostrava Days (Czech Republic) and Visiones Sonoras (Mexico City), and venues such as the Ontological-Hysteric Theater (New York), the Wulf (Los Angeles), Theater Perdu (Amsterdam), the Sonic Arts Research Centre (Belfast, UK) and Neutral Ground (Canada). Barrett’s writings have appeared in literary journal Mosaic (U of Manitoba), and new music magazine HIS Voice (Prague), among other publications.

JOHN CAGE (1912 – 1992) was an American composer, performer, visual artist, writer, poet and mycologist. His contributions to the post-war arts have been regarded internationally as some of the most important and influential of his generation, especially in the areas of contemporary music, visual art and the experimental music tradition which he helped define and cultivate throughout the latter half of the 20th Century.

BILL DIETZ was born in 1983 near the US/Mexican border in Bisbee, Arizona. Much of his recent work addresses the performance of listening and the genealogy of the concert. He studied composition at the New England Conservatory and Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota. Since 2003 he has lived and worked in Berlin, initially as Peter Ablinger’s student and assistant. Since then, he has worked extensively with Christian von Borries, and Chris Newman and with Maryanne Amacher until 2009. His music has been presented by the Happy Days Sound Festival (Oslo), the Maulwerker (Berlin), Birkbeck College (London), the Klangwerkstatt Festival, ARTSaha! (Omaha), the Zepernicker Randspiele, the West German Radio (WDR), “Tbilisi 6. Never on a Sunday” (Tbilisi), Brückenmusik (Cologne), and many others. His writings have appeared in publications such as MusikTexte, Positionen, and Shuffle Boil. He is the recipient of numerous grants (Capital City Cultural Fund, Berlin; German Music Council; Initiative for New Music, Berlin), and has appeared extensively as a performer (Documenta XII, “Musikprotokoll” of the Steirischer Herbst, Berlin Volksbühne). Since 2007 he has been the artistic director of Ensemble Zwischentöne.

ADAM OVERTON is a composer and performer of experimental music and action, and an artist, teacher, and massage therapist based in Los Angeles. He is the curator of the currently in progress subtle bodies series, “a series of investigations featuring subtle, barely-noticed experiments in sound, movement, action, and energy within public spaces, led by artists, performers, choreographers and sound artists”. In 2008 Overton founded uploaddownloadperform.net, an online repository designed for the exchange of experimental performance scores.


G. Douglas Barrett, 2010
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