As I sit writing this, I am listening to the current version of the recorded part of the piece I shall be performing on Friday 25th. A few weeks ago I took the train up to London and spent a pleasant afternoon recording sounds in the area around the venue. The original score I wrote for this piece is below. Bear in mind that I was writing these essentially for myself, to start ideas flowing and get me working. They are rather like a set of rules, perhaps reflecting my teenage war-gaming days ;)
A text score for a site specific performance piece
The performance shall consist of live sound from one or more performer(s) and recordings made in advance. Length shall be decided first.
These should be made within one mile of the site where the performance is to be held. Whoever makes the recordings has only one hour to do so. Any found sound may be used so long as it is made in that hour and within one mile of the site.
Once these sounds have been gathered, they can be manipulated and combined in any way that seems appropriate in order to produce a soundscape of the required length. Once this has been made, the performer(s) should not hear the soundscape again until the performance.
The soundscape will be played and the performer must respond in whatever way seems natural. The audience should clearly be able to hear the recorded part of the piece, the aim is not to drown it out but to respond to and comment on it.
If yes, when precisely?
The questions at the end probably reflect the influence of Bill Drummond’s work with The17. Certainly I think the soundscape itself should only be used once, I’ll delete that after use. I should say again that although that entry in my notebook is written as if to someone else, it was really intended only for my use. As soon as I started seriously working on the piece, I found my own rules too restrictive. Although I only recorded about half-an-hour of sound, I spent more than an hour doing it. The idea remains in the online descriptions of the gig, because I feel like the idea of a time limit was a meaningful part of the evolution of the piece. However, there is already enough control in the limitation to one mile. I didn’t actually measure out a mile at any point, but simply wandered around the area making sure not to stray too far. I do think limiting the amount of actual sound recorded could be more useful by making one focus more effectively.
When I met Leah Kardos last month, she asked if the recorded part of the piece should make the listener think of the area itself. I think I said yes, but then started saying something about how it might also try to subvert that idea. I think it would be more accurate to say no. The point of using sounds from the area is not to make people think about that place, but to reflect on how there is beauty tied up in the everyday things all around us. We tend to remain blind and deaf to this. I have stretched, distorted and manipulated the sounds so that only some of them will be recognisable, while others will sound like things they are not. If we could listen differently, perhaps the world would always sound like this, just as it would look different if we could see in infra-red or ultra-violet. The piece I have made remains as chaotic as everyday sound, but it has been reshaped so as to be less familiar and thus (hopefully!) draw the ear more.
Over this I shall improvise slide guitar. Against the everyday, we set humanity’s attempts to create our own beauty. Again, I rejected my original rules: I see no real need for the soundscape to be unfamiliar to me when I perform the piece, I think this would only be interesting if the performer had never heard it before. Perhaps someone out there would like to use the piece in that way, but for a solo set it’s clearly impossible.
Yesterday I named the piece At Source. At some point I shall make a more user friendly text score for it, changing the rules as I have outlined and making the whole thing a bit pithier as well. I’m hugely looking forward to the performance!