Tuesday, May 26, 2009

auditory practice 2

I'm interested in the way sound connects to other things, forming temporary alliances. Rather than seeking a primacy or purity of the auditory, I like its contingency.

My fascination with the tactility and physicality of sound is what now attracts me to working with dance. Choreographers are also working with a kind of resonance between the bodies of the audience and those of the dancers. While (probably) unable to perform their actions, on some level we “feel” them, in a neurological way. The weight and density of the dancer’s body, the breath, feet, sweat and pulse of the dancers become associated with the metallic or wooden or watery sounds, complicating both their gestures and my music. Through the laws of magnetic attraction, impulses of movement become connected to sonic impulses, creating strange overlaps and correspondences. In some ways, this completes a loop - the removal of sound from action in capture and the connection to a new action in performance - but in a way that is shifted and shifting. Dancers allow themselves to find and feel the pulse, and I find ways to adjust and respond to their gestures. These elements become linked, but tangentially. The link occurs primarily in the experiencing of the moment.
I want to recognize all listening as happening within and through a body.

auditory practice 1

I am experiencing a near-total block with composing. Not too unusual in general, and as preoccupation shifts to visual work, focus on sound tends to lessen. I experience a fairly constant doubt around the creative process, but I most often find a way to become fascinated by something. I can't go on, I'll go on...
But this current feeling is more extreme and part of a larger, gradual shift. I've been listening mostly to underground pop and various dance musics lately, and more and more interested in making something which reflects my enjoyment of those forms. But filtered through my lack of musical skill and my "mis"understanding of those sonic worlds. On the other hand, I occasionally become tired of the attitudes and limits which surround all kinds of musical activity - the conventions of genre or sense which make a cultural object identifiable. Sometimes, while listening to music I'm overwhelmed by the "belongingness". I want to hear things which can't be identified, can't be named. And it's also the kind of music I want to make.

Perhaps I'm moving away from making sound work which is organized into "tracks" and gathered into an "album" (it's getting increasingly difficult to find willing labels, anyway). I'm more interested in sound work which directly relates to an event in real time. Simultaneously, I'm moving alongside "real music", wanting to act as some kind of reflection. In the next few weeks or months, I plan to write occasional posts on my past and current composing, in an attempt to find out where I am. I would also like to start writing about the music of others I enjoy, attempting to articulate my appreciation of diverse sounds. This might be a way back in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Accumulative Interlocking

One of four smallish canvases in progress...

Improvisation continues in relationship to existing marks. The window is propped with a hammer, the sounds of continuous traffic. Drips on the freshly painted floor. I have been thinking about DeKooning (especially early and late periods) and Amy Sillman. Painter's painters. The sensuousness of the brush remains, with varieties of buttery, liquid, dry... the saturation of color which charges my retina and continues out into the world.

Forms are carved out. I'm not interested in depicting things. I'm feeling the way marks can open and question, or seal and confirm. I feel completion as a kind of interlocking, arrived at through accumulation of moves. As with sound, I try for velocity. I've also been thinking about wildstyle graffiti, the graphic quality of letter forms, which has been a longstanding impulse. Wildstyle graffiti is all about interlocking, the interplay of letters and the spaces between, which compete as foreground and background, positive and negative space, form and void.

Mural by Zephyr

I've been photographing various stages of these paintings in progress, trying to understand the way early, arbitrary marks can shape or determine later decisions. Trying to understand the way a consistent vocabulary rises out of an accumulation of small decisions. I gave up oil paints for about 8 years. I remember being frustrated with the problem of defining a vocabulary, the repertoire of personal forms. It's still a problem. I want these paintings to maintain ambiguity, places where forms could be one thing or another - or both.

I feel almost guilty for making paintings, abandoning any pretentions to sculptural form. A flat surface with shapes and colors. A medium in which one must trade between the refinement of materials and the crush of historical weight. An online review of Amy Sillman's recent paintings mentioned that an opinion of her work moves around the fulcrum of your opinion about the possibility of abstract painting. It's an issue I try to forget in order to continue. Seeing a small annex of Sillman's paintings on paper at the Brent Sikkema gallery in February reignited something. After months of internal debate, I finally took the plunge. It feels good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm now a few months into twice-weekly rehearsals with Linda Austin, building material for our movement/sound/video performance, along with the dancers Anne Furfey, Rebecca Harrison, Kajanne Pepper and Lucy Yim. This is the first time I've started a dance/sound collaboration from the very beginning and it's been fascinating to observe processes for constructing. Linda uses a number of methods for improvising, gathering and remembering sequences, utilizing a combination of technical means (video-taping and re-watching) along with individual and group memory. It's been a tangible luxury to develop all the components of the piece simultaneously and interdependently.

I've been recognizing the importance, in various creative ventures, of just "getting something out there". I've never been one to plan something and then attempt to match reality with that already complete mental conception. The movement towards action begins with an impulse, an image, a dynamic, etc. This impulse is the trigger for improvisation which places something before our senses - a thing which can be examined, revised, tweaked and adjusted. Within performance practice, there's the interesting opportunity to incorporating the filters of each participant. For example, Linda might perform an improvisation, instructing the dancers to "catch" movements and to assemble them into a phrase. We watch each of these phrases as solos and as a quartet, begin working with the quartet, making changes in timing and moving towards ever finer adjustments. Within an hour, we have several minutes of new material to expand, shelve or discard...
I'm interested in producing video material in a similar way, through group improvisation and play - within situational contexts rather than strictly movement-based concerns. Working with a set of materials and methods, unpredictable things may happen, and I can videotape continuously. Combing through this stockpile of material, I can select images or sequences which have strength, and refine the procedures for another session of taping.

Since I've been painting again, these procedures for "getting things out there" seem not so different from approaching a blank canvas, making a gesture, observing, reacting, making another gesture, obscuring, erasing. I suppose it's all very old-fashioned. This approach has its dangers for me as well, largely the problem of becoming attached to material just because it has been externalized, diminishing the possibility of change. There is an addictive freshness to the blank canvas, the equal possibility of all options. The rupture of the first mark which immediately begins to close off or determine future gestures.
As I was yielding the brush yesterday, I was listening to an interview on NPR about O.C.D. behavior, a disorder which makes extreme this fear of the determining consequences of action. A man who was literally paralyzed by the fear of "something bad" which might happen as a result of his actions. But of course, even non-action is an action... Putting material into the world requires a certain fearlessness, combined with clear observation and a willingness to change at any point.