Aberrant Nuptials

The two parts of this performance expose two different takes on experimental performance practices: Part I: Aberrant Decodings—explores the powers of divergence, proposing simulacral renderings of Baroque and Classical pieces; Part II: Rasch25: vers la nuit—stages a dialogue between music, philosophy, and imagery, shattering semiotic boundaries.

Aberrant Decodings

Lucia D’Errico, concept, composition, guitars, laptop, digital images
Marlene Monteiro Freitas, dance

In the performance Aberrant Decodings the figure of the interpreter of Western notated art music is questioned and challenged in favour of an experimental attitude towards past musical woks. The performance takes place in the form of a “recital,” staging pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, Giulio Caccini, Sigismondo d’India, Athanasius Kircher, Claudio Monteverdi, Robert Schumann, and Nicola Vicentino. Yet, instead of presenting the pieces in their original instrumental and sonic configuration, they are evoked through sounds and gestures unrecognisable as belonging to their pastness: electronics, guitars, dance. The interpreter turns into the operator, a figure that instead of replicating, reproducing, reconstructing the past, emphasises the potential in it latent for the emergence of the new.

Whereas execution and interpretation relate to an ideal and aprioristic sonic image of the musical work (as Platonic copies), Aberrant Decodings produces simulacra: performance becomes a sonic “image” that relates to what is different from it (the musical work expressed by a score) by means of difference, and not by attempting to construct a (supposed) identity. In this process, internal resemblance is negated, together with the idea of composition as origin and performance as its telos.

The physical presence of the operator on stage is double: on one end the musician, whose body exposes various degrees of involvement with sound production (from hyperphysical engagement with the instrument to evaporation into electronic sound); on the other end the dancer, whose body is traversed by the de-anatomising affective power of sound- music.

Rasch25 : vers la nuit

Paulo de Assis, concept and piano
Lucia D’Errico, concept, guitars, video and sound projection
Juan Parra Cancino, live electronics and sound projection
Marlene Monteiro Freitas, turntable

Raschx is a series of mutational performances based upon two basic materials: Robert Schumann’s piano phantasies Kreisleriana, op. 16 (1838), and Roland Barthes’s essays on the music of Schumann, in particular “Rasch” (1979), a text exclusively dedicated to Kreisleriana. To these materials other components are added for every single version: pictures, videos, other texts, or further sonic elements, such as recordings or live- electronics. Situated beyond interpretation, hermeneutics, and aesthetics, this series is part of wider research on what might be labelled experimental performance practices— practices that productively deviate from conventional (repetitive) performative strategies, and that transform familiar artistic objects into objects for thought. They generate a network of aesthetic-epistemic cross-references, through which the listener has the freedom to focus on different layers of perception: be it on the music, on the texts being projected or read, or on the images.

Rasch25: vers la nuit particularly explores the relations between recorded and performed music, between a music one listens to and a music one plays on an instrument: “They are two entirely different arts, each with its own history, sociology, aesthetics, erotics” (Barthes in “Rasch”). Listened music implies a passive mode of perception, enabling romantic dreams of artistic autonomy, while the music one plays is a muscular music, viscerally involving and requiring the beating body of the performer. This music contains something inaudible, something for which audition is not the exact mode, something that opens     a wide horizon of expressions, the limits of which seem to be early-Beethoven’s quasi- parlando (on one end) and Alban Berg’s cry of Marie (on the other end). “In Schumann, a whole learned labor has this sober and simple result: deterritorialize the refrain, produce a deterritotialized refrain as the final end of music, release it in the Cosmos, opening the assemblage onto a cosmic force” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus).

Machining the Voice Through Continuous Variation

The main aim of my artistic research project is to investigate the interactions between the phonetic characteristics of a text and the timbral and formal features of a composition, including voice, instruments, and electronics, and to explore the transformations between sound and sense.

According to Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 97), it is impossible to conceive a separation between linguistics and stylistics “because a style is not an individual psychological creation but an assemblage of enunciation.” In this regard, a writer’s style will be characterised by the attempt to expand the limits of the standard language by making “the standard language stammer, tremble, cry or even sing” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 176). “Making language itself stammer . . . involves placing all linguistic, and even nonlinguistic, elements in variation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98). Therefore, all the phonological, syntactic, semantic components can be affected by a process of continuous variation leading to the creation of “a language within a language” (ibid., 97).

If every linguistic element contributes to the development of a literary style, vocal music, in turn, will be stylistically determined by the possibility of interacting with all the linguistic dimensions. In this perspective, the dissemination of new linguistic theories, the improvement of vocal and instrumental techniques, and the development of new technologies, enabled Luigi Nono to establish in his compositions an interaction with all the linguistic elements, especially focusing on the phonetic features of a text, thereby emphasising the timbral dimension of the language. As stated by Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 96): “Only when the voice is tied to timbre does it reveal a tessitura that renders it heterogeneous to itself and gives it a power of continuous variation: it is then no longer accompanied, but truly ‘machined,’ it belongs to a musical machine that prolongs or superposes on a single plane parts that are spoken, sung, achieved by special effects, instrumental, or perhaps electronically generated.” As a paradigmatic example of a musical machine, I will present an analysis of Omaggio a György Kurtág (1986) by Nono. Through the phonemic analysis (International Phonetic Association 1999) of the text and the analysis of vocal and instrumental techniques, I will demonstrate how Nono could explore a “zone of indetermination” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 273) within which “something or someone is ceaselessly becoming-other (while continuing to be what they are)” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 177), giving rise to “that secret neuter language without constants” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 96) where a voice never ceases to become an instrument and an instrument to become a voice. This analysis will be linked to my compositional practice, being a substantial part of my research, which is based on the use of music as a tool for text analysis through the composition of a piece for voice, instruments, and live electronics. The creation of a musical machine will be based on the application of the continuous variation to the invariants of language, such as the phoneme’s distinctive features (Jakobson, Fant, and Halle 1961). Since the distinctive features are classified according to a binary opposition, and since each pair of features implies the presence of a specific acoustic characteristic, I aim to explore the continuum between opposite terms forming a series of distinctive features. In this regard, the “continuum of values and intensities” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98) was identified by Deleuze as one of the key factors characterising Bene’s theatrical practice when, writing about Manfred (Bene 2008a), Deleuze (2008, 1466) highlighted Bene’s ability “to fix, create or change the basic color of a sound.” This ability allowed Bene to blend his voice with the sound of the orchestra, thus creating a “single sound plateau” (Giacchè 2007, 84).

As my composition is still a work in progress, my presentation will highlight the early stages of my creative process, such as the phonemic transcription of the poem by Caproni (1999, 724–25), the phonemic analysis of the text, and the adoption of heterogeneous techniques of text fragmentation.

References

Bene, Carmelo. 2008a. “Manfred. Byron–Schumann. Versione italiana e rielaborazione per concerto.” In Bene 2008b, 925-51.

—. 2008b. Opere: Con L’Autografia di un ritratto. Milan: Bompiani.

Caproni, Giorgio. 1999. “Il mare come materiale.” In Tutte le poesie. Milan: Garzanti.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2008. “A proposito del Manfred alla Scala.” Translated into Italian by Jean Paul Manganaro. In Bene 2008b, 1466–67.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

Giacchè, Piergiorgio. 2007. Carmelo Bene: Antropologia di una macchina attoriale. Milan: Studi Bompiani.

International Phonetic Association. 1999. Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle. 1961. Preliminaries to Speech Analysis: The Distinctive Features and Their Correlates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Re-Notations III: Schumann’s Kreisleriana, I Molto Agitato

What is a score? What is notation? What is the function of notation? These ontological questions assume that we can capture some essence of a particular thing. But essences can transform and thus we have to dismiss the concept of essence, or transform it with difference à la Deleuze. The answer to such questions is therefore an invitation to experiment with transformations.

If we say that a score under normal circumstances has the potential to release a certain sound world through the engagement of performers, then we must say that the Re-notations project does not release an audible world but a visual world of patterns through the engagement of particular diagrammatic relations. Thus, notation has been transformed in the sense of direction, aim, and function. The notation employed by the Re-notations project does not aim for performance and sonification, rather it contemplates the materiality of performance; it looks back on a particular musical situation, a specific musical location, and fuses time and spatial elements. Is it still notation? “Is” is the wrong word. This way of looking (notating) is both deterritorialisational and reterritorialisational. By extracting the specific stratum of the musical situation in question and replacing/releasing it into another notational context, the “music” or certain music forces escape for a moment and we experience the interplay of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation (both of notation itself and the music being notated). At the same time—the multidimensional potential of music is intensified—music is always becoming (even the classics).

Re-notations is a project/machine that re-notates classical piano masterpieces from a specific angle and with an entirely different aim from the original. It is notation that folds itself onto other notations, other scores, other musics, examining their signifier–signified relations with materiality. Re-notations are always in-between, they do not have their own music; they relate, they repeat, they allow escape. Re-notations focus on the materiality and physical context of the works examined and give us a specific perspective on music, a perspective that maps out the activity in space and time of the physical materials involved: hands and fingers on specific locations on the piano keyboard. Through this, the intensity and density of the involved activity is revealed as an overcrowded space of movements.

A pattern emerges, but not from design or from an author but from a specific diagrammatic relation. Music seen from this perspective is constantly occupying the same locations where actions keep folding one another, repeating differences. A performance of spatio-temporal multiplicity is disclosed. Each keystroke (depression) is accounted for as a link between a spatial location on the keyboard and a temporal axis. Exhausted location, excessive quantity, superimpositions, and interpenetration become the subject of this notational act where the relationship between hands and keyboards, time and materiality, are put to the foreground. The “score” is becoming an abstract, virtual, diagrammatic “recording” of the physical and material situation the music demands: a limited number of space-points are occupied and activated in specific temporal order. This order becomes obscure within a multiplicity of condensed locations. This is the escape of a clandestine stratum of a musical multiplicity (a slice). Thus, notation reverses or diversifies its direction and becomes an active post-performance activity, not instructional, not authoritative, but speculative, reflective, and itself performative.