Saturday, February 21, 2009

Garbled Repetition

I'm thinking about the use of "extreme" repetition in movement phrasings. I'm interested in the processes of imperfection and ambiguity which are inherent in human reiteration. The forces of physical inertia, a mutation through fatigue or boredom, change through slurring, blurring, mumbling... The possibilities of scrambled or emergent meanings, a multiplicity of hearings and interpretations.
Another album on heavy rotation in the studio lately has been Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. Previously, listening to their other albums, I've been put off by Thom Yorke's nasal vocals and the anthem-rock theatrics, but this one has been hitting some pleasure centers. In the course of one song, there's the repetition of a phrase, "It should be ringing..." (it should be raining, it looks like rain in.. It could be Reagan...) The slurred and circular performance allows variations in emphasis, emotion and a linguistic imprecision. I want it to continue, to be more extreme, to become uncomfortable, to push and pull with equal pressure.
Toy boat toy boat toy boat toy boat toy boat toy boat toy boat tou boat toubut toiu bout.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Narrative Tangentiality

Finished composing for and performing Montauk with the Liz Gerring Dance Co. and now back from the run at the Baryshnikov Art Center in NYC. Returning to the ink paintings and now working with black acrylic, india ink, and a bit of charcoal in addition to the blue ink, and larger pieces of paper (I'll post some new pictures soon). It feels great to be back in the studio. Listening to Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives - two or three "episodes" each day... Despite my deep admiration for a few particular pieces (Automatic Writing, The Wolf Man, and especially In Sara Mencken Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women), it's only my second time listening through this sprawling opera.

Robert Ashley's music is a wonderful example of ambiguity - structures as non-structures. There's a quality of endless wandering, limitlessness. I admire this quality because my own music seems to become, in the course of things, resolutely unambiguous. In reaction to or against the segmented, ordered quality of my recent performance piece, Flock & Tumble, I've been interested in shifting more towards structures of narrative ambiguity and thinking about what that might mean in the upcoming project with Linda Austin.
Ashley seems to have recognized some hidden attribute of television, some rarely utilized possibility for expansion. Over the winter break and in the midst of snow storms, Kelly and I watched the first and second seasons of Mad Men, which might serve as another example (though far more conventional).

The potential within the framework of a television series is something Twin Peaks first noticed and utilized in a self-conscious way. The open-ended aspect of television gives the possibility of endless narrative expansion, something that Mad Men uses to create a network of characters and psychologies rather than a narrative arc, following endless side-paths within an established group of elements. A revelation of character rather than plot, a deepening of interior space. Very little happening on the surface, but great depths below.

Perhaps this all has something to do with a working method that starts without possibly knowing the ending. A reliance on brainstorming, automatic writing... A faith in the generative properties of the network.
Soap operas take this tangentiality to absurd extremes, but with reversed emphasis - lots happening on the surface and very little below. This was recognized and parodied by Lynch in Twin Peaks, and even mirrored by the television show within the television show (Invitation to Love). A certian degree of amnesia is necessary to continue.
Perfect Lives remains slippery in every way. The established elements of piano, organ and voice are a kind of changing same, constantly flowing, a pattern of syllables... Even instability is unstable, as short "songs" emerge and then disintegrate. A few phrases, names and places stick. Perhaps patterns would emerge with repeated listenings, and I would like to finally see the video, which is now available on dvd.
Robert Ashley also talks about engaging different attention spans, something I've been pondering lately. I'm wondering what the effect would be of extreme repetition of dance events, "looping" single actions or phrases of various lengths, working with the varieties of memory - immediate, short term and long term. (Does anyone have the approximate lengths of these categories, neurologically-based?) What would be the difference between a five second "loop", repeated many times, and a 30-second "loop" or a two-minute "loop"? Or loops that tangent partway through their repetition... I'm interested in the live repetition of human gestures because of the inherent impossibility of exact repetition. I'm interested in using this repetition as a way of accessing the brutality of separation, the way that violence becomes aesthetic.