note_19 D is for danger; live your danger, live dangerous. Victoria Vol. 3

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Trying to locate the original manuscript of my novel of 78 fragments, I came across a lot of things. One of them was this; a nicely calibrated collaboration with my dear friend Simon English for Grant Watson’s Victoria which must have been hand-produced in 1998? Unbound, A3, in editions of 200 it seems, a warm and civil experience all around, and in happy company.

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D is Guy Mannes-Abbott, Double and Twist is Simon English (Ph GMA)

D or ‘d’ actually, was a very early e.things text from autumn 1997. The circle of what were the first hundred Continue reading “note_19 D is for danger; live your danger, live dangerous. Victoria Vol. 3”

note_08 From Shumon Basar’s superhuman Couples Format; me on Gertrude & Alice #passionloveandwork

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Shumon Basar | Couple Format: The Identity Between Love and Work

 

“What was the identity between love and work,

or, the love found in working together?”

 

“Let’s draw focus on their passion: the love and work. The following is from Diana Souhami’s glorious book Gertrude and Alice:

‘“Our pleasure is to do every day the work of that day,’ wrote Gertrude, ‘to cut our hair and not want blue eyes and to be reasonable and obedient … Every day we get up and say we are awake today …’

… So we circle back to The Autobiography of Alice B.Toklas, which wasn’t of course an autobiography. What was it? […] Primarily, it was also an autobiography, but not of Alice. It was a biography: not one authored from outside, but from inside, albeit in another’s voice… I linger with this because while this is one of the most conventional prose-like works of Gertrude’s it is also properly strange. That is, Gertrude adopted Alice’s recognizable voice, exorcising as many Gertrudisms as she could identify, though not all, to write a memoir of her own life and times.”

-extracted from my text/talk COUPLING | Gertrude and Alice | July 2016.

Click through for links to Shumon’s piece and the Superhumanity project above and for the recording of the original event on G&E and Marina Abramovic and Ulay click my Readings_Talks button (where you can click on through to see/hear the other Couple Formats too).

on the comma, between ramallah and running and everything else

In Ramallah, Running due Feb. 28th 2012

Gertrude Stein didn’t think much of commas, you remember? I think a lot of Gertrude’s work and Gertrude herself, as Fruit Store regulars will know, but disagree with her about the comma.

Commas break-up, complicate, deepen, add dimension to statements and any prose that takes ‘sense’ for granted. They elucidate, make-difficult, render actual complexity. The comma in In Ramallah, Running does these and many other things for me…

Above is a graphic rendering of a tiny part of the cover-image of the book [actual cover image coming soon], in which the sticking-out comma sticks out!

Commas are inconvenient, never quite fit, force you to notice that which you might not, condense and disrupt [presumed, heh Adania?] sense, etc. They are abyss and peak, add crucial [a]rhythms and make for the elliptical.

Writing without these things is almost literally nothing…

on gertrude [one], if i told him would he like it

Would he like it if I told him Gertrude Stein  1923
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

For me this is where Gertrude’s wording, word-images, word-drawing of things, objects [Tender Buttons] and then people [Portraits and Prayers] really began to work. Really explodes. I love all of it of course, but this sounds like/conjures its object to me. It’s object is Picasso and this is the notebook manuscript of that gorgeous portrait of him that made its author so excited.

The Bienecke Rare Book and Manuscript collection of Gertrude and Alice’s is stunning. Sometimes I want to go and live there, burn my passport, unscrew the door handles, sit, read, be –eventually write. Meanwhile, Continue reading “on gertrude [one], if i told him would he like it”

on silence or not, cage blake alÿs and on…

Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing…” made sense, mainly because it was such a great track back in the mid-90s, right? Cage Against the Machine, the attempt to block/buy the No. 1 slot for a recording of John Cage’s 4’33” -a rigorously orchestrated slice of atmospheric sound, often described as silence- was always a bit too clever and so a bit too dumb to work, no?

Kenneth Silverman’s recent biography of Cage, Begin Again, is a pretty straight celebratory record of an entirely remarkable life [and not published in the UK!]. Cage spans [subverts?] or strides [meanders?] the 20th Century in very particular ways, making work from beginning to end nearly and constantly mining the same seam of inventive attempts.

Always beginning again, afresh, anew -so the thesis runs. KS makes an epigram of Gertrude Stein’s gorgeous line from The Making of Americans; “Beginning was all of living with him, in a beginning he was always as big in his feeling as all the world around him.” The way in which this actualises is exemplary even while it creates doubt in me too -as the book goes on dutifully detailing yet another I Ching derived whatever!

4’33” was achieved using a deck of tarot cards, which even Cage said “seems idiotic” but he composed each movement by joining up randomised periods of silence with precise measures which totalled four minutes and thirty three seconds. The point, one made more precise by his subsequent visit of Ryoanji and fuller acquaintance with Zen, was that the ‘silence’ is a pregnant one, like the stone garden’s potent ‘blankness’.

Two thoughts; one links directly to the gorgeous version of Feist’s song, There’s a Limit to Your Love, that James Blake put out a month ago. As you know, the track is a departure from his flurry of promising EPs released this year alone, including CMYK and Klavierwerke, for foregrounding his voice against a piano track redolent of Nina Simone and an electronic bassquake. Apart from just enjoying it and its arguably rather more local newness I was struck by the ‘silence’ it contains. Or near silence, Continue reading “on silence or not, cage blake alÿs and on…”

on being uncagey about john, uk tour of cage exhibition into 2011

John Cage Ryoanji 17 February 1988 -pencil on Japanese handmade paper (ph Guy Mannes-Abbott)

Every Day is a Good Day [just say it, try… ]

This complete show of John Cage’s paintings and drawings is one that you need to go see, be with in real time and place. It’s not only that it doesn’t reproduce well [despite there being a very good catalogue with excellent reproductions newly photographed in it here or here] or that I’ve badly scanned one of my favourite delicate drawings done -in place of meditation- with more than one pencil around stones that were special to Cage [the allusion is to the famous dry stone garden at Ryoan-ji, Kyoto] but that until you’ve journeyed to stand before them, share their space you haven’t actually seen them.

I loved this exhibition of works for their affective simplicity -openness, lack of guile- and transforming leap from the disciplined procedures that generated them to their qualities as visual art. Continue reading “on being uncagey about john, uk tour of cage exhibition into 2011”

cerith wyn evans’ final week at white cube central london; go, go, go!

S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E Cerith Wyn Evans 2010

“Everyone’s gone to the movies,

now we’re alone at last…”


I finally made it back to see Cerith’s show at White Cube’s Mason’s Yard which is, I want to emphasise, just off Piccadilly in central London. The show closes on May 22 and I urge you to drop by to catch a stunning and substantial installation of recent works which makes the space live so well that it claims possession of it.

My hopes were high for this show but I had to rush through an opening that was as busy as you might expect to be somewhere else. As a result I didn’t quite trust my impression that CWE had drawn all the currents in his work together into something quite so winningly complete. That is -at its most elemental- influence and intellect, taste and fancy all deliver something complex here that is coherent only as visual art. It’s clarified resonance would justify permanent -or DIA-style- installation in the site.

A peculiarly all over the place month made returning impossible, but the work lingered and I had to see it again especially if I were to scribble something here…

Continue reading “cerith wyn evans’ final week at white cube central london; go, go, go!”

varèse; very much in london april 2010

VARESE The One All Alone docu 2009

I want to share some modest thoughts about the Varèse 360º mini-festival at London’s Southbank Centre 16-18th April.

According to the programme, Edgard Varèse [b. Paris 1883, d. New York 1965] was “a sonic pioneer”. In 1955 John Cage wrote that Varèse had “established the present nature of music … this nature … arises from an acceptance of all audible phenomena as material proper to music.” His entire known work sits happily within 2 cds and has been spread over three concerts here. I caught the two featuring the London Sinfonietta conducted by David Atherton at QEH but not the larger orchestral pieces performed by the NYO.

I know the work quite well in the form of the Chailly and Boulez recordings. There are things to admire and thrill at in all his recorded work, my own favourites fell into the performances I saw and Density 21.5 -composed in 1936 for a specific platinum flute- is on regular rotation in my life. I’ve listened to these recordings with headphones and in a domestic environment but never heard it performed before now.

The first evening included a startlingly precise and mesmerising performance of Ecuatorial, in which a pair of theremin ‘cellos’ were gorgeous contributors, and ended with one of his last works; Déserts, written after 15 years in a wilderness of depression. The tightness of the performance made for a thrilling experience [Gillian Moore writes of a “blazing austerity”] in which I found myself pursuing sounds around the stage in ways unique to Varèse’s invention of what he called “organised sound”.

The second programme included Hyperprism, Octandre, Offrandes, Intègrales, all performed with the same peculiar vigorous purity. Sitting very close to the stage I could hear the instruments themselves more acutely; their timbre, distribution of sounds and peculiar rhythms, the lingering murmur from inside a mute cello at the end of one inverted crescendo.

Witnessing this made me feel as if  [or realise that] I hadn’t actually heard the music before. In a related panel discussion both biographer Malcolm Macdonald and composer Julian Anderson described how their respective favourite pieces of Varèse’s [pressed, they offered Ecuatorial and Intègrales respectively] always sounded new or completely fresh whenever they heard them. These differing newnesses may be related but in any case, I felt exactly the same way hearing old favourites of my own live for the double first time.

Varèse’s central notion of creating aural space means that it is particularly essential to hear the music performed. This is obvious as well as not because however improving it invariably is to witness performance there is something completely transformative of the music -and more- in Varèse’s case. In 1958 Morton Feldman wrote that Varèse “alone has given us this elegance, this physical reality, [in which “noise … bores like granite into granite”] this impression that the music is writing about mankind rather than being composed.”

The recording of Poème électronique played over QEH’s pretty good system sounded exactly as it always does, however, therefore comparatively shrunken and dissipated. It was accompanied with an irritatingly weak series of images, used in preference to Corbusier’s montage which was made to accompany the music at its birth in the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World Fair of 1958. I’m including the latter because while the use of images of genocide is problematic, it’s a more convincing attempt to relate to the scale of the music [on Ubuweb here].

There were moments, passages of stunning originality and potency in this second performance, notably of Octande but also Intègrales -an effective condensation of Varèse’s range. It’s an exhilaration that can only be experienced in live performance of the highest standard like this [bad or okay performances of Varèse would be hard to take]. However these are works that should be performed regularly, even in Britain which only caught up with the 20th Century when it ended.

Varèse should be heard widely and regularly not only because of his very clear and often acknowledged influence on a mass of music throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries but also for the force and beauty that it possesses in itself. Macdonald argues that his work represents a comparable step-change to that of Beethoven or Wagner. The absence of Varèse from the British repertoire is equivalent perhaps to letting Emily Dickinson’s poetry fall back into the obscurity of her life and confining Jorge-Luis Borges or Gertrude Stein to dusty national libraries.

Edgard Varèse and Antonin Artaud 1933.

[fingers and pinholes are not mine]

Beyond the music and a panel discussion worth catching, there were also film screenings. I missed Mark Kidel’s early documentary, EV A Portrait, and only caught a few minutes of Frank Scheffer’s very recent documentary which takes its title from a never realised but ever-present all-encompassing notional work of Varèse’s; The One All Alone.

One of the impressive range of potential or partial collaborators that Varèse worked with towards this project was Antonin Artaud. Artaud is the king and fool of the 20th Century for me and it was the discovery of this image of him with Varèse, taken in 1933, just before both men began descents into physical and mental torments lasting a decade and half in each case, that really locked off my interest, passion, even enjoyment of Varèse [something comparable happened with Anne Carson]. A friend of Artaud’s is a friend of mine.

I was able only to see the beginning of Scheffer’s film in which Cage and Feldman discuss the figure who was a major influence or inspiration on and to both. It was one of the free screenings in the RFH and I’d love to be able to see it in full but as yet it has no distributor in the UK. Varèse is only very rarely performed in the UK so no surprise there, but he’s regularly performed and heard across Europe where the film has been screened but distribution is not yet finalised either.

This is the poster for it and below is a pdf of the other part of the flyer with contact details to the production company and a short director’s statement. I knew that the Varèse would be sold out -as it was- which is why I did something very strange for me and booked it months ago. However I had no idea whom it would be sold out to and the audience turned out to be pretty diverse in fact. I believe the panel’s description of teenage members of the NYO’s gradual but then real grasp and excited engagement with the music, but there were very few people under 25 in the audience.

However, the lack of appetite shown by all those really clever, super curious and on-the-ball distributors, festival organisers, British TV lunchboxes might be justified if only 17 people turned up [or, worse, the entire 117] but as it was it’s pitiful and repeats the offence of neglect that Varèse suffered throughout his extraordinary and difficult life.

The best way to encounter Varèse is live in performance, as I now know with indelible clarity, but a documentary is a foolproof introduction to the subject, the most easily negotiated threshold.

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BIBLIO

 

Varèse: Astronomer in Sound by Malcolm Macdonald [Kahn & Averill 2002 pp 448]

Edgard Varèse Composer, Sound Sculptor, Visionary Ed. Felix Meyer & Heidy Zimmerman [The Boydell Press 2006 pp 505] here.

Give My Regards to Eight Street Collected Writings of Morton Feldman Ed. BH Friedman [Exact Change 2000] here.

Silence John Cage [Marion Boyars 1968] here.