Jochem van Tol (1983) is a composer, musician and visual artist. The starting point of his work is sound in the broadest sense: from the raw frayed edges of pop music to minimal ‘forgotten’ sounds. As a composer and musician he collaborated in successful theatre productions with Schweigman& and De Veenfabriek. He is an active member of diverse experimental, highly visual music groups like The Job, Obol Le and o k a p i.
As a sound artist Jochem has researched the sounds of paper for the past 10 years in a number of remarkable performances. He shows how much there is to discover in the most simple material and how to choose radical consequences from his discoveries.
During his residency Jochem focused on conducting research and writing about artists who combine in their practices the roles of composers, instrument makers and performers, addressing questions such as: how do you compose for self-made musical instruments and furthermore what language do you use or develop to communicate and document the scores for your new musical work? In the context of a performance, how do you develop your interaction with your musical inventions or interfaces?
The following report is a collection of notes from his residency.
Paper Ensemble Workshop
In March 2018 I gave a workshop to students of the master Classical Percussion in Ghent. Together with Mei Yi Lee from the Paper Ensemble, we thought about playing with paper. We worked on listening, improvising, the dialogue between performer and material, and making etudes with graphic playing cards.
It was a very good experience to work with a completely new group of talented students. Students who had never heard of the Paper Ensemble, let alone improvised and composed with paper instruments.
I realized how nice it is to have a method to play, and to structure the way we communicate and document our ideas. The Paper Ensemble’s method has grown quite naturally over the years with players who were involved during the development of the playing cards. But teaching young, classically trained percussionists to use this graphic playing system for the first time was the real test.
I really intended to do more with the students than just show a demonstration of the workshop. Wim Konink, head of the percussion department in Ghent, also aspired that. A ‘real’ composition of about 30 minutes, played by 7 students.
But would that be possible with the current methodology and its limited vocabulary? Would the score be open enough to the let the students have their own voice? Did we need new symbols to be able to communicate, for example, repetitions of phrases? And what would the students think, using the cards at first glimpse?
These questions were the starting point for my research.
For the Paper Ensemble, musical scores – a graphic notation system representing musical compositions – are vehicles for both visual and musical experimentations.
The Paper Ensemble has developed idiosyncratic methods of graphic notation, generating scores that look like drawings rather than traditional sheet music. Our scores offer instructions, but they leave ample room for interpretation and improvisation. Performers don’t simply read the scores, they must decide how to interpret the compositions’ visual cues.
Students and audience alike enjoyed the sonic paper world that we created and the collaborative practice of the group’s performance resulted in a successful concert.
But is it possible to repeat that? Or was it just luck? Could I articulate the implicit strategy that made it work?
After this workshop and previous experiences with the Paper Ensemble in collaboration with the artists collective o k a p i, I started to wonder how the methodology behind our practice could be further developed. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with paper!
During the residency at iii I wanted to articulate the implicit and partly subconscious strategies that underlie our existing performance practice and develop a methodology for it. I also hope to get new artistic input and get inspired by other practices and strategies.
I am curious whether artists around me have gone through this process of improvisation, documentation and repetition. How they have taken advantage of this with already developed work and how they think about it for future work. I wanted to talk to them.
At the start of my residency, I made a list of friends, colleagues, former teachers and also acquaintances from the iii circle that I wanted to interview. My aim was to get insights in their working methods and their strategies to document their processes. I was especially interested in their development of musical scores for new performances and instruments.
I had the urge to just walk around like a reporter, to document what would come my way in this new creative cultural incubator WD4X, where iii is currently based, and to visit several artist’s studios in Amsterdam.
I am intrigued by how iii members, such as Mariska de Groot and Erfan Abdi compose after developing an instrument or interface such as Mariska’s optical tone wheels and Erfan’s musical controller Notesaaz.
I also wonder how Sander Breure and Witte van Hulzen translate people’s gestures and behaviours in to a choreographic form.
And how does Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti memorize the ‘thinking body’? Does she make scores for herself and her mime students?
Where does art historian and accordionist Michael van Hoogenhuijze think the future of music and scoring is heading towards?
Will we find a common structure among these artists, and can we discover a new language to make music and/or perform?
Dianne Verdonk (instrument developer)
Sander Breure (performance)
Jappe Groenendijk (philosophy of art)
Michael van Hoogenhuijze (history < > future)
Erfan Abdi (technique > game)
Mariska de Groot (machine > score)
Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti (material < > body)
Nicole Beutler (re-enactments)
Gabey Tjon a Tham (sound artist)
Thinking about my residency at iii, I was reminded of a small book: Cahier M: A Brief Morphology of Electronic Sound (2000) by Dick Raaijmakers, in which he describes sharply and with a wink how the inventor, of mostly limited, unfinished instruments, thinks he will conquer the world with his new sounds and new musical language.
[…] In waarheid is de uitvinder een soort moderne centaur. Hij is half-technicus en half musicus en in die hoedanigheid een typisch intermediaire figuur. Nooit een volledige componist, noch een grote vertolker of consistente wetenschapper, maar veeleer een dromer van nog nimmer gehoorde tonen, betekenisvolle getallen, nieuwe soorten muziek en vooral van de heilzame werking ervan op lichaam en geest.
Opvallend in dit verband is dat de uitvinder meestal de enige bespeler is van zijn instrument. Hij vindt zichzelf de best denkbare pedagoog om derden bij het bedienen van deze instrumenten te instrueren (om van ‘inwijden’ nog maar te zwijgen).
[…] Om zijn instrument en de daarin opgesloten boodschap te verspreiden, tracht de uitvinder befaamde componisten te overreden voor zijn uitvinding stukken te componeren, waarin de specifieke kwaliteiten en kenmerken ervan uiteraard zo optimaal mogelijk tot hun recht dienen te komen. In een moeite door ontwikkelt de uitvinder ook nog een nieuw toon- en notatiesysteem dat speciaal op het eigene van het nieuwe instrumentarium is toegesneden, want natuurlijk vindt hij het traditionele twaalftonige stelsel en het conventionele tienlijnige notatiesysteem veel te grof om adequaat met zijn ‘fijne’ inventie te kunnen concorderen. […]
[…] In fact the inventor is a kind of modern centaur; he is half technician and half musician, and in this regard a typical hybrid figure – never a full-time composer, nor a great interpreter or a consistent scientist, but rather a dreamer of hitherto unheard tones, numbers full of significance, new kinds of music and above all of their salutary effect on body and soul.
Noteworthy in this connection is the fact that the inventor is mostly the only player of his instrument. He regards himself as the best conceivable pedagogue to instruct others on the operation of this instrument (to say nothing of “initiating” them).
[…] In order to disseminate his instrument and the message enclosed therein, the inventor strives to convince celebrated composers to write pieces for his invention, which feature the specific qualities and characteristics of the instrument as optimally as possible. While he is about it, the inventor also develops a new tonal and notation system which is specially tailored to the new instrumentarium, since he naturally finds the traditional chromatic system and the conventional ten-line stave system far too coarse to adequately match his “subtle” invention. […]
(trans. Richard Barrett, Leuven University Press)
A Building, an Organism
Near The Hague Moerwijk Station, an old two-story building was recently transformed into a cultural incubator with artist’s studios. It is called WD4X. A bit hidden behind some flats along the water, next to a couple of wooden houseboats.
In Amsterdam I work in a similar building called Plantage Dok. This 20 year old initiative is more of an ‘organism’ than an organization. With a solid DIY mentality, the members not only develop their own work, but also work collectively on the building.
Of course there are rules and agreements, but the development of such a breeding ground has its own (social) rules that move at a different pace. It is a kind of creative anarchism that functions when everyone takes his responsibility and fulfills his promises.
I see similarities with WD4X in The Hague and I would like to see how it functions as a whole. It is a poetic way of living and working, but also a mode of survival.
With often very small budgets and time consuming projects, there is hardly enough time to sit back and reflect, let alone to document. How do we deal with that?
The Kettle | April 3rd, 2018
There is an electric kettle in the shared workspace of iii. It is the kettle of Gabey Tjon a Tham, one of the artists who has settled herself behind a desk at the window, with a view over the waterside. Next to her desk all her stuff is neatly categorized and stored.
The artists working in the shared workspace use Gabey’s kettle to make tea or to make instant noodle soup. The placement of the kettle is quite curious. It is not placed in the kitchen or canteen, but in between artist materials and tools. The place does not seem functional for those who want to use the kettle, but the place does create a route, and with that, social encounters.
The location of the kettle is far away from the water tap. That seems awkward, but reinforces the necessary movement through the space, to fill the kettle with water. An artist who has worked in his or her corner for several hours, sitting behind a computer or soldering electronics, has to get up and walk to the kettle, take the kettle and walk to the tap to fill it with water.
Then the artist walks to the ‘station’ of the kettle and turns on the appliance. And now something special happens.
Due to the duration of the kettle to boil the water, one has to ‘wait at the station’. And there is a short social meeting between the artist who ‘boils water’ and the artist who works next to the kettle.
“Do you also want a cup of tea?”
“Hey! How beautiful that scale model! Is that your new sound installation?”
“Yes, I just have to finish the funding applications now.”
“Ahh, exciting. If you want, I can read it for you.”
“Oh that would be great yes!”
And so in addition to the route, the meeting and the social exchange’, maybe a collaboration arises. An inconvenient layout or placement of an actually functional device, the kettle, in a workspace, can be the cause of great art projects.
Notesaaz | Erfan Abdi | April 10th, 2018
In the corner of the shared workspace works a quiet man: Erfan Abdi, artist and member of the iii collective.
He is an instrument builder and programmer who uses complex, digital media to build his interfaces. I know him from his work Notesaaz. (I did not know that all musical instruments in Farsi are indicated with the word ‘saaz’.)
He has come a long way with the development of a new instrument. An instrument that you really can and should practice. On his website he explains it as follows:
‘Notesaaz is an instrument for live electronic music,and a proposal for a three stage process where the physical controller is used to navigate within a graphical score that on its turn controls the sound generation.’
The instrument is reminiscent of a weapon from the latest Star Wars film. It houses an advanced world shaped by four axes, which you can turn in different directions and angles. You can create and multiply virtual ‘strings’. At the same time, you can ‘bow’ the strings on several points. The instrumentalist looks at the projection during the performance and creates a digital graphical display.
I am curious how he documents his music with Notesaaz. Erfan developed a whole system that he has to explain verbally. The assignments that the lines suggest originate from improvisations with artist friends. The graphic structures that arose during the improvisations were documented, selected and applied for a score. The picture below is a duet. The players try to make these line patterns and play with them as if they were bowing across the strings of a dozen cellos with multiple bows.
I understand his score as a ‘proposal to play’. Erfan explains it is really hard to copy the lines exactly while performing. Therefore his ‘proposed score’ creates concentration. You try to play as exactly as possible, copying the structure of the lines in your own tempo. But if you don’t manage and the sound and visuals are a bit different, you didn’t fail. Next time it will be different again. I like this. It’s like playing a game.
Optical Sound | Mariska de Groot | March 28th, 2018
The back of the building houses a big project space. iii member Mariska de Groot works on the preparations of her Optical Sound Orchestra. Today she is setting up. Outside the sun is shining but the room needs to be darkened. Twelve 16 mm projectors are placed in a circle. She describes it on her website like this:
Mariska de Groot makes and performs comprehensive analog light-to-sound instruments and installations which explore this principle in new ways. I am curious about her score for this project. But first we lay out the power!
In our conversation about composing for machines and formulating instructions for instrumentalists, Mariska tells me how she started from the operation side of the devices. Mariska knows the projectors well and from her experience she has formulated a series of instructions that the instrumentalists, or better, ‘operators’, have to perform.
The instruction list is the score for the Optical Sound Orchestra. I find that interesting. A device always has its own ‘operating tempo’. You can play with that, but if you force that pace, the machine will break. So as a ‘composer’ you cannot shoot endless fantasies without knowing the tempo and character of the machine.
Mariska: “I first started collecting sounds from the projectors that I found interesting. I started recording these sounds and putting these on 16mm strips as optical sound recordings. I made loops of these 16mm strips. The projectors actually play their own sound.”
During this process, Mariska started to ‘orchestrate’. Looking for a broad vocabulary of machine sounds. Low bass, high rattle. “During the rehearsal process with the instrumentalists, I also had new optical audio loops made.”
I find her attention for ‘wear’ to be a beautiful detail. The devices are old and make all kinds of noises that a big smear would erase. The wear and age of the machines offer her the characteristic musical material. It causes light to leak from the lamp for the projection to the light of the optical sound sensor. The machines really get a new sounding function. Because the machines are old and not ‘perfect’, their wear connects the machines to ‘the outside world’. They are not isolated anymore in their once spotless plastic coat. You sense how the nature of time made them wear out.
Where a projected film would ‘illustrate’ a world that isn’t really there, its sonic behaviour lets the real world ring. During Mariska’s explanation, everyone talks over each other. While the group is standing in a circle around a table and discusses the instructions, I realize that it is also a form of thinking aloud. All operators intermingle, naming their series of actions; actions that they have to perform during the piece simultaneously. And thus they speak simultaneously, as a prelude to the execution. People first ‘rehearse’ verbally, then mechanically. Making and rehearsing run in parallel.
Mariska deals well with the verbal chaos. She is the ‘conductor’ who cues all the actions in the score and determines tempi and arrangement. Different 16 mm loops are used, for both image and optical sound.
The Art of Reading Machines
I had to think of the beautiful statements in Dick Raaijmakers’ text The Art of Reading Machines.
Below an excerpt (unfortunately there is no English translation):
63 Handelen (2)
Onder handeling wordt verstaan: het uitvoeren van een beweging met een bepaald doel en effekt. Er zijn enkelvoudige en komplexe handelingen. Een komplexe handeling is een pakket van handelingen dat weer kan bestaan uit ‘repeterende’ dan wel ‘samengestelde’ handelingen. De samengestelde handelingen zijn weer te onderscheiden in ‘successievelijk & handelingen en ‘synchrone’ handelingen. Bovendien kan bij alle handelingen weer een onderscheid gemaakt worden tussen ‘nu-of- nooit-tijd’ (operatie, aanval) en ‘aanmaak-tijd’ die relatief is en slechts om produktieredenen opgevoerd kan worden. (Vooral handwerk hoort bij deze laatste groep.) Men kiest een apparaat door te kiezen voor een bepaald type handeling.
64 Hand (1)
De repeterende handeling dient altijd om iets uit te putten: de aarde, een materiaal, de geest. Of om iets te verplaatsen, of om iets af te breken stukje bij.beetje. Repeterende handelingen worden doorgaans door onontwikkelde mensen verricht die daartoe op hun beurt – uit winstoogmerk – zonder enige skrupules door anderen uitgeput, verplaatst en afgebroken worden.
Een bekende repeterende handeling die tot niets leidt heet ‘poetsen’. Huisvrouwen die niets omhanden hebben poetsen. Iets dat glimt beschouwen zij als ‘resultaat’. Poetsen is een vorm van geperverteerd arbeiden: láten poetsen een misdaad.
65 Hand (2)
Het verlengde van de repeterende hand heet gereedschap: het verlengde daarentegen van de rustende hand instrument. De funktie van het instrument is de repeterende hand te vervangen zodat de hand kan rusten. De hand die een instrument vastpakt hoeft deze nog slechts te sturen. Het meest konfortabel bij elektrische instrumenten waar het funktionele gereedschappelijke handvat geëlimineerd is.
In plaats daarvan zijn wat vaag aangeduide inleggoten aangebracht waarin de vingers tijdens het werk een makkelijke plaats kunnen vinden. Een vergelijking tussen het oude scheermes en het moderne elektrische scheerapparaat, of die tussen de normale tandenborstel en de elektrische uitvoering daarvan, of tussen het broodmes en zijn elektrische equivalent maakt veel duidelijk: in de loop der jaren is het gereedschap – als instrument er dikker en de hand evenredig luier op geworden.
Dick Raijmakers, “De Kunst van het Machine Lezen”, Raster 6, 1978, 21-22.
Bellyhorn | Dianne Verdonk | April 12th, 2018
This is a fascinating and very funny project at first sight. I’ve known Dianne Verdonk since walking into WD4X where she also has a residency with iii. She developed the Bellyhorn in collaboration with a number of designers.
A curious-looking instrument with a shape that is somewhere between a fantasy animal, – a kind of Barbapapa – and a trumpet, or bassoon. She created a nice document which explains in a very detailed manner what the BellyHorn is and how you can play and compose for it.
How did she come to this design? And how should you relate to this as an instrumentalist or performer?
Dianne Verdonk is a trained cellist and bassist. She played in orchestras, but began to miss the freedom that lies outside the lines of written notes. Full of enthusiasm she tried to suggest twists to the execution of existing pieces, but often found no response. “No, that is not the way it is written”.
So she started studying Music Technology in Hilversum, working with computers and composing sounds in the digital domain. But all those buttons and hard machines also startled her. She wanted ‘something soft’. Her instrument is more like a kind of ‘body’, a tactile interface housing a synthesizer played by the human voice.
I asked her if she came up with a way to make scores for this unusual item. Still in its initial phase, what is already clear is that the scores have to be round, and must be placed in the horn. The instrumentalist puts his or her head in the horn and sings.
Her composers’ guide now focuses mainly on ‘the composer’, who is encouraged to write something for the Bellyhorn. Singing into the horn generates sound. Lying down or stretching out the horn also changes the sound spectrum. I am very curious about how these movements can be worked out in collaboration with a physical performer and whether the ‘movement’ can compose in relation to written notes as her guide suggests.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with Michael van Hoogenhuyze about the open and the closed form. Scores can be tricky, when it determines the way a instrument has to be played. The form of the music is ‘closed’. Dianne wants to free herself from a tradition of notating, through which she cannot find enough freedom to interpret written music and play.
With any new interface or instrument, the same issues arise when you start writing scores for them. How do you balance your wishes and assigned musical actions with the open form of playing, singing and improvising? In Dianne’s case, this balance seems to be created by sonic interferences between the drone of the instrument and the notes sung by the singer. I like this approach.
I haven’t heard the Bellyhorn yet, but I am very curious about how its concept translates into a live performance.
The Art of Seduction | Jappe Groenendijk | April 6th, 2018
In Amsterdam I meet with Jappe Groenendijk. Philosopher, teacher at The Amsterdam University of the Arts and a good friend. We know each other’s ‘thought worlds’ pretty well, but I was still curious to actually interview him. Jappe does not produce any work himself, but he does see a lot of presentations from different makers around us.
He also initiated Opera Forward Festival. Jappe can talk about how they challenge young makers from different disciplines to work together. Often the group of makers start working with full enthusiasm. The composer composes, the librettist writes, and the scenographer creates dreamed scale models.
Jappe gives an example where after a strong beginning of the collaboration, a singer refused to show up, because the composer had written notes that were too high. The tutor of the project intervenes: “Here, you have 5 euros, go drink coffee together and get to know each other”.
‘Meeting each other’ is frequently skipped before and during the production process for a new (stage) project. Maybe the composer could first really ‘listen’ to the singer? Would she merely have to sing notes, or would she also have to be expressive in her vocalizations? Wouldn’t it be great if they had a shared electric kettle?
In our conversation we speak about people with a background in the visual arts on the one hand and a musical theatre practice on the other. Whether they are instrument developers or choreographers, their thought processes are often strongly rooted in the school they followed.
We share the opinion that most music and art schools are still too mono-disciplinary and are too focused on one form of excellence. Particularly in the closed form, where a score tells you what to do and how to play. Or where old sets of rules determine what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Execute correctly or fail.
In contemporary visual arts it is very common to invite each other to ‘think along’. The steps and artifacts from the creation process are shared. A ‘result’ is mainly shown in music and theatre projects. The steps of the process that the makers have made are condensed into a fixed, often closed form, concealed in the theatre light.
On the other hand, an installation is not too different from an instrument.
I realize more and more how we were taught to ‘learn to meet’. Between people, between media. And how you can ‘seduce’ the other person with the use of scores, systems and strategies that give ample room for interpretation? In a discipline and between disciplines.
There are different forms of excellence. Virtuosity has many forms. Are you tempted to do something you cannot do, but you still want to play? Do you know what form of virtuosity you are handling? Can you choose and switch? Still comfortable?
A score, in whatever form, must be able to seduce the player. It is not only about what and how you play. But how you can really let someone ‘play’ with the help of your communication methods.
Video Mirror | Pablo Diaz | April 4th, 2018
This week I came home at my creative spot Plantage Dok and in the corridor I bumped into a friend of mine: Pablo Diaz. VJ, programmer and video artist. We sometimes work together on video-related work.
He shared a number of interesting experiences about the use of video: Making film recordings during rehearsal processes. Good point! Spontaneously I briefly interviewed Pablo.
He told me about a software program that the Forsythe Company has developed. A very detailed and well categorized manual. With the Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye, film recordings of dance rehearsals can be divided into fragments. Every movement is documented in a graphic animation. Thus, a ‘score’ can be created for the dancers. I like the way the software can be used to teach fellow dancers and visualize abstract explanations for the moving body.
Wouldn’t that also be an interesting strategy for a platform like iii? To make a manual in which instrument makers explain how to build, install, present and play their instruments, how to practice them, and how to read and treat their machines. A manual that can be saved and stored for posterity!
Physical theatre groups such as Bambie and Schweigman& make video recordings of their rehearsals. The scenes arise on the floor from improvisations instead of following a pre-constructed script. The video serves as a memory support, capturing the vocabulary that is created on the floor, and serving as a mirror to see yourself playing on stage. From there and through constant repetition and practice, the players learn the physical theatre pieces by heart. In the unlikely event that someone gets ill or falls out, a replacement player can use the video as reference as a score for the play.
This method would be very useful for artists and instrumentalists who develop their own musical tools and performances. Often we only make audio recordings from rehearsals. It’s about the music! But what about the visual component then? Let’s make videos from our sonic rehearsals and reflect.
Dance Concert | Lucinda Childs
A well-known choreographer who composed and documented her pieces meticulously was Lucinda Childs. Dance pieces such as Radial Courses from 1976 and Melody Excerpts from 1977 were played in silence. The dance as a concert. Both pieces consist of smooth, simple movements according to a punctual pattern with small shifts each time.
These patterns are so complex that they continue to look fascinating without being able to decipher the underlying system. Because of her extensive research and documentation, we can still enjoy her work. Wouldn’t it be a shame if she hadn’t made all the drawings of her studies, to inspire contemporary choreographers like Nicole Beutler to re-stage her work?
Nicole Beutler | April 24th, 2018
In 2010, Amsterdam based choreographer Nicole Beutler made 2: Dialogue with Lucinda. As she herself describes:
“both pieces have an underlying score, which in itself is so complex, that people remain fascinated without being able to decipher the underlying system. “
Nicole Beutler chooses to approach both pieces as intense, almost ritual ‘objets trouvés’, found objects, which she places in a new context, in the here and now, so that the effort and high concentration of the performers becomes visible and tangible.
She focuses in particular on the extreme responsibility and surrender of each performer to these artificial systems and to the ritual character of the whole.
How can we know the dancer from the dance? | Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen | April 14th, 2018
This weekend I spoke to Sander Breure, visual artist and composer. He has just completed De Rijksakademie as an artist duo with Witte van Hulzen. Their versatile performance portraits are always time-related and reflect on the behavior of people. ‘Whenever or wherever people may live, their existence can be understood as a’ mise en scène ‘. We are all actors who have unintentionally been assigned a role, with the assignment to make the best of it’, according to Witte van Hulzen and Sander Breure.
Last year their performance How can we know the dancer from the dance? was on display at Utrecht Central Station. Five days a week, six hours a day, six months long. What method did they use to score their work? As a composer, how does Sander compose for movements? How does he instruct them and make actions repeatable?
Our conversation was about repeatability. Sander started with Bob Dylan, how Dylan has been playing songs for decades, often changing in performance. But the core of his songs always remains intact. He knows exactly what needs to be repeated in a song, and what he can change without losing its identity. A rhythm, a melody or arrangement. In that sense Bob Dylan found a way to open the closed form of his songs. He doesn’t need the notes anymore, he is free to sing.
Sander often asks himself the question: “What do I want to repeat, and what can be changed? And when is the repetition of a work so fundamentally different that it becomes a new work?”
Everyone walks, calls and waits in the station in their own way and pace, but we always recognize it as walking, calling and waiting. How can you slowly adjust these movements until they become abstract, unrecognizable?
To collect the vocabulary for their performance How can we know the dancer from the dance?, they filmed the behavior of people at the train station. Their posture, how they walk, the waiting, texting on their phones. The video images of all these behaviors were categorized and cut into short fragments. Thus the images formed the first score of the performance.
In addition, they translated the images into a huge thick pack of paper with instructions for the players. They call it the Instructional Bible. The performers rehearsed these everyday behaviors, postures and movements and repeated them between the ‘real’ passers-by at the station. In addition to the performance at Utrecht Central Station, they have released the Instructional Bible in an edition of 25.
What I like about their work is that it settles itself in the world while it talks and reflects about the world. Their closed set of rules open again in that situation and make their performances different everyday. They know how to keep their work connected with the real world and their borders fade. I like that. It reminds me of Edgar Varese and his urge to include the ‘sound of the world’ in the Orchestra. “Let’s open the windows!”
The Thinking Body | Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti
I mentioned Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti earlier; musician, performer and actress. Over the past 15 years we have developed many projects together, such as the Paper Ensemble and Obol Le. We call each other “our school” because we have seen each other grow in our practice during and after our studies. I wanted to interview her and listen to her words once again and transcribe them. She often talks about listening and ‘the thinking body’.
Ibelisse is someone who almost never writes anything down. She does it all by heart. In dutch we don’t use the word heart when someone has memorized a piece. We use the word head: “uit het hoofd”. Combine those two and you get a world of making music that often don’t meet each other. As Michael van Hoogenhuyze says: “There are two ways of making music: 1: Playing notes. 2: Singing.”
Ibelisse ‘sings’ everything. Michael van Hoogenhuyze illustrates this with vocalizing a tone. Not a note, but a tone. It is easy to repeat. You can think and sing the same note instantly. That’s how Ibelisse knows how to express herself with any medium. The thinking body.
How does she do that? Does she no longer need any scores at all? And how does she teach and communicate this to her theatre mime students? Unfortunately she did not have time in April, so I have to leave it here.
Music of the World | Michael van Hoogenhuyze | April 20th, 2018
I conclude this report with a conversation I had with Michael van Hoogenhuyze who I previously mentioned. It was inspiring to talk to a former teacher about music and notation from the past and in 2018.
Recently he formulated a beautiful text called “music” on his website inspired by the work of philosopher Michel Serres. He explains how we as people through the ages have slowly removed ourselves from the music of the world. On top of the sounds of the natural elements and the flora and fauna around us, we have draped a language of our own music as he states.
Do we still hear the music of the world? Do we still recognize the silence? Can we develop a new language in harmony with the language of the world? A language to play notes AND sing?
With o k a p i we have paid a lot of attention to this question during 2017. It takes a lot of time, but it pays off. I’m sure we may have just started, but a new language is coming. It just has to be done. A language to play together with all those different media, different sounds in a world full of possibilities, played in the world and with materials from the world by different people. I don’t know how yet.
We know the black cube, we know the white cube Is it time for a world cube?
To quote Michael van Hoogenhuyze: “The new music, is the music from the world”.
I enjoyed this month of meeting and talking to fellow artists around me. It felt good to just walk around, listen and see how people think and work. In our conversations we recognized the great benefits of seriously documenting our work. We recognized that we need to create a strategy to archive our work. To slowly build a canon of the 21st century, of all these musical experiments, inventions, installations, scores and performances.
I do have the feeling that I left this residency with more questions than answers. I couldn’t sense I would get to any definite conclusion in my report. I guess that is just where I stand at the moment.
With all these different forms of expression and strategies to score, I started to wonder whether an underlying structure could be found. Suppose we consider the interviewed group as an ensemble, could they play together? Could we link the score of Erfan’s lines to a 16 mm projector? Or use a set of his lines as glissandi for the vocals in the Bellyhorn? Is there a language in development that can be spoken together? And how do you write it?
It would be a great challenge to try this as a platform such as iii. Let’s create a good method to archive all our work. In a shared space where all the documentation is stored.