Agape: experimental notations, the social act of reading, and the possibility of action
Lecture - concert by Alex Waterman
Agape was an exhibition that drew together poets, philosophers, writers, composers and musicians in an attempt to address the role of reading as a social act and set of actions. Whereas writing expresses a space in opposition to time, reading occupies a boundary between the space of writing and the living word. The importance of transcription, and collective interpretation acts to reinvigorate a sense of the participatory action in a proposed democratic society.
Agape without its accent at the end of the word also spells the word 'agape' which means 'wide open' as in the mouth which is opened in order to speak. The double meaning is important in the sense that dialogue, discussion and the voice that speaks up for and against injustices and abuses by political regimes and speaks against the tyrannies and war making is equally important when discussing the ways in which art and music and poetry inhabit the world and take part in world events.
"My talk will be a discussion of the ways in which graphic notation and its performance raise questions of social process, authorship, authority and collective action and creation. The lecture will also cover the series of writings, pieces, installations, exhibitions and performances that have happened in New York City over the last year and a half. The resonance that this work has within the music world and beyond has indeed created a sense of gathering and in the full meaning of the word Agape- it has created a sense of fellowship and community." Alex Waterman
Wednesday October 1
7.30 pm: Lecture
9 pm: Concert
Ruth Barberan, trumpet, etc.
Tom Chant, sax
Alfredo Costa Monteiro, accordion, etc.
Marc Egea, hurdy-gurdy
Ferran Fages, guitar, etc.
Barbara Held, flute
Angel Pereira, percussion
Alex Waterman, cello
Christopher Williams, bass
Robert Ashley, Trio I from Trios WHITE ON WHITE (1963)
Three superimposed modalities of evanescing matrices composed of dissimilar white numbers on an off-white surface…
The performance of Trio I is centered on the act of collective reading as the trio gathers around the nearly invisible page. The surface of the score comes in and out of view creating the visual melting and blurring of signs. The sound world strangely corresponds, having a similar feel of pitches and timbres that meet for a moment and then disappear.
Tim Parkinson, two cardboard boxes (2003)
Tim Parkinson's piece is traditionally notated, yet indeterminate in respect to its performance. The instruments are two recognizable everyday objects: cardboard boxes. In this case they are amplified and played as percussion instruments. A surprising palette of sounds and timbres emerge as the players navigate through Parkinson's directives. One of these is to "take a full page of text from any standard paperback." As you read the page to yourself, the rhythm of the words are tapped out on the cardboard box at the speed at which you are reading. The page is divided into three sections and these account for the shifts in color of this percussive representation of a private reading experience.
All the pages of the piece are to be read in any order by both players. Suggesting perhaps after all, what do these boxes really have in common besides a structural similarity of corpus and material composition? How can they make music together?
Eugenia Balcells, Flight (1981)
Video score consisting of the observation of a flight of pigeons through the lines of the musical staff. The birds take off and fly around, circling in the sky until they finally land where they started. The cycle is so simple and yet it includes ascending and descending, rhythmic beating of wings, and gliding, such that the flght formations can be seen as a visual score for music.
Christian Wolff, Madrigals (1950)
For 3 voices or a combination of 3 of voice (s) and instrument (s).
Christian Wolff's early score for three voices was later opened up to instrumentalists, whilst maintaining his basic techniques of rhythmic and relative pitch notation. There is no text, only vowel sounds which in the present version translate into discreet instrumental timbres. Madrigals is from amongst Wolff's earliest published works and appears the same year as his Duet for Violins. His studies with John Cage centered on counterpoint , and this focus is fore grounded in the pieces from 1950. This is not to suggest that this piece is only an exercise . It is a wonderful piece that does not fit into any particular mold even though the notation is quite specific in many ways, it evades any pedantic approach or desire to fix it into a strict reading. Christian Wollf talks about the rediscovery of the piece after many years and his more recent revisions in the following paragraph:
This is a piece written long ago, not then performed, and pretty much forgotten. It turned up because Joan La Barbara asked about an early piece for voice and percussion that she had heard was indeterminate with regard to pitch. I found it but didn't think it was much good. I also found the present piece that seemed more interesting…The idea of letting instruments take some of the voice parts was Joan's (it's also a procedure familiar in early music). The original instructions were restricted to specifying the sounds of the vowels to be sung. The additional instruction instructions (above) were added after re-copying, done January 14, 2001. Madrigals was written between ca. 20 October and November 2, 1950.
(from the program notes to Madrigals, published by Edition Peters).
Marina Rosenfeld, White Lines
This work is intended to be a form of graphical notation that is legible in real time, in performance, by audiences and performers simultaneously. Usually projected on a transparent surface that is intended to float between audience and performer(s), the video functions as both score and interface, making both the composer's intentions and the realization of those intentions by players public, transparent, visible and social.
Annea Lockwood, "Jitterbug" 2007
The score for Jitterbug requests players to invent sounds to transcribe the details of images of stones, taken from the same spot in the Flathead River in Montana as the hydrophone recordings of underwater insects that are also part of the performance material of this piece, commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for the dance eyeSpace.
Lee Ranaldo, all work and no play (2003)
"all work and no play" is meant as a prompt for improvisation. The only instructions in the graphic score indicate "loud/medium/soft" and gaps where the performer should not play.
Walter Marchetti, The Hunt
from Arpocrate seduto sul loto, (Madrid, February 1965)
"Marchetti often refers to the need for a kind of ‘deafness' in order to deal with music.
A deafness that would enable us to avoid the confusion of the ‘background music' that surrounds us, and ignore the conventional meanings imposed through sound by the money society. A deafness which would enable us to approach with greater immediacy the experience and modes of consideration that can be derived from a less mediated experience.
That is, deafness in the face of the conventional associations that diminish the experience of sound. In The Hunt, we see fresh sounds, and not the perception of the instruments imitating the sound of the birds. This perception is secondary and shows that the primary thing is the sound, not the instruments producing it.
Thus, Marchetti parodies both the sounds of traditional instruments and those of concrete music."
[Jose Luis Castillejo, "Walter Marchetti: A Testimonial", from Walter Marchetti: Musica Visible. (Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno; Madrid 2004)]
Hay muchos pájaros.
Pájaros con plumas y pájaros de cuenta.
Se dispara a los pájaros plumados,
Y a los de cuenta hay quien adorna sus cuentas.
Los pájaros de Marchetti son sonido-invisibles,
No son plumados, no son de cuenta,
Son de Marchetti que súma y cuenta.
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