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How John Cage made performance the true heart of Black Mountain College - LA Times
"A month after the New York Times had listed John Cage (along with Leonard Bernstein) as one of the six most promising young American composers, and just as Cage was starting to become an avant-garde celebrity in New York, he used his exceptional powers of persuasion to borrow a car from Sonia Sekula. The edgy Swiss Abstract Expressionist painter and the 35-year-old Cage happened to be neighbors in a Lower East Side tenement building that the composer had encouraged starving young artists to inhabit.

Cage thought it high time that he and dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham drove across country to see how the West Coast, where they were both from, reacted to their radical ideas about music and dance. In April 1948, the pair set out for California in Sekula's jalopy.

The trip began with a five-day stopover at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. That visit doesn't merit more than an aside in the catalog of the Hammer Museum's exhibition "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957." There is a lot of important territory to cover in the 24-year history of the uniquely influential liberal arts college where noted artists and thinkers held forth. Nor is there much in the way of decent documentation of the visit.

Cage had finished Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, his most ambitious work up to this time and one for which he would finally be taken seriously as a composer and not be seen merely as the beguilingly inventive mastermind of musical novelties. A main motivation for heading west was an invitation to play Sonatas and Interludes at the Monday Evening Concerts series in Los Angeles.

But it was at Black Mountain where Cage gave the first public performance, if you want to call it that. This was Sonatas and Interludes at a makeshift concert in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on a makeshift stage with a modest piano and before an audience of the tiny college's student body and faculty. (If everyone showed up, at best 100 were on hand.)

The school couldn't afford to pay Cage and Cunningham — they taught as well as performed — but the morning they left, they found Sekula's car overflowing with artwork and food, the students' and faculty's expression of gratitude. Cage and Cunningham got something else, as well: an invitation to return and teach that summer.

They did, and thanks to Cage, neither Black Mountain nor American art would ever be the same.

By its nature, an art exhibition cannot fully convey what that meant or how Cage did it. "Leap" does not look away from the importance of music, dance, theater and literature at Black Mountain, and beginning Tuesday, the Hammer will make an eight-day leap into Black Mountain performance through concerts and lectures and dance performances.

Although visual art must understandably be a museum's core concern, there is validity to curator Helen Molesworth treating it as central to Black Mountain. Founded in 1933, the school was modeled after the Bauhaus in Germany, and the émigré German Bauhaus painter, pedagogue and color theorist Josef Albers guided Black Mountain through some of its early years.

Albers and his wife, textile artist Anni Albers, are as central to the exhibition as they were to the school. Because of the couple's great curiosity, they avidly explored a range of attitudes and cultures, which were shared throughout a school where students and faculty lived, ate, worked and socialized in an environment of inescapable conversation and inevitable argument. Molesworth captures this chattering zeitgeist by displaying carefully chosen artworks in such a way that they talk to one another.

What was all that chattering about? Attitudes toward music, Molesworth notes in the catalog, were one way to distinguish artistic differences at Black Mountain. Music, according to a Black Mountain brochure, represented "a world of inner order [that] can help toward developing that community for which we all toil." The noted Viennese violinist Rudolf Kolisch, invited in summer 1944 to take part in Black Mountain's celebration of Arnold Schoenberg's 70th birthday, taught a course called Democratic Principals of Ensemble Playing.

But it was Cage who advocated true democracy, which meant throwing a monkey wrench into such high-minded musical conceit, and Cunningham was the monkey.

Cage had become fascinated by Erik Satie, the then-obscure, feisty French composer who wittily defied the German deification of structural logic. In summer 1948, in response to the Schoenberg Festival four years earlier, Cage produced a Satie Festival that included a lecture defending Satie. He used the very ideals that Black Mountain professed to "oblige" German refugees to listen to his half-hour presentations of Satie's piano music for 25 consecutive evenings.

Creating an uproar

Cage's attitude was that Beethoven had been in error because he created music defined by harmony. Cage proposed following Satie's example of music defined on time lengths.

This defense was essentially personal. Cage always liked to say he had no gift for harmony, and here he hit home. Albers' pedagogic philosophy was that art didn't require talent as much as it did understanding and technique. But Cage, one of the most gifted musicians of all time, never felt comfortable with the harmony on which Western music was said to depend.

The defense of Satie created the expected uproar and led to a famous food fight among distinguished artists, the Beethoven camp armed with sausages, Satie-ists with crepes.

The climax of the festival was the staging of "The Ruse of Medusa," Satie's surreal farce with piano interludes called monkey dances, which featured, of course, Cunningham.

Buckminster Fuller, who attempted to build his first geodesic dome at Black Mountain that summer (he failed but succeeded the following summer), portrayed the nonsensical baron. A theater student, Arthur Penn (the future filmmaker), directed. Décor was by Willem and Elaine de Kooning, then young artists Cage had brought along to Black Mountain. A small acting role was assigned to student sculptor Ruth Asawa, whose works are among the highlights of "Leap."

The levity of "Medusa" lightened the atmosphere but in no way lessened Cage's challenges to the Black Mountain belief system. His target was not harmony but memory, the idea that for music to be followed you must be able to remember what came before. But what is necessary for Beethoven and Schoenberg is not for Satie. Cage wanted a contemporary art that reflects life as it was led. To the Black Mountain traditional modernists, and especially for the émigrés, memory must always be honored, one must never forget.

Rather than disremember, Cage simply called for action. He used performance to bring together a community of artists through their work without the compromise of collaboration. Essentially, Cage made "Medusa" an extension of breakfast. He and Cunningham began each morning at Black Mountain with Fuller, discussing ideas and telling stories about themselves. For Cage, memory wasn't a required prescription for consuming art but a deeper one for making it, bringing the experiences of many into the moment.

Four years later, in 1952, Cage returned to Black Mountain, and this time he staged what has become the most celebrated of all the college's activities. It wasn't called anything, just announced as a concert. There were entertainments of all sorts given almost daily, most often evening dances, excellent for letting off steam and fostering romances.

It was a strange summer for Cage. He was working on "Williams Mix," what came to be the first American piece of electronic music made by splicing recording tape. This had a Black Mountain association, having been commissioned by Paul and Vera Williams, who met and married as students there. Cage had intended to employ his students to help him with the laborious business of splicing tape. But the kids were too clever to be lured into that, and no one signed up for the class.

Instead, Cage hung out with them at meals, the dining hall being the principal place on campus for discussion. One morning the topic was French dramatist Antonin Artaud's ideas about theater reflecting the immediacy of experience, and Cage suggested making an illustrative theater piece to be performed that day using the resources of Black Mountain.

He asked artists to do their thing somewhat simultaneously. He quickly sketched out a layout with the audience surrounding the performers and created the timing for the participants. They were not told what to do, just where and when.

The poet Charles Olson read, probably on a ladder. Cage delivered a lecture he had written earlier for Juilliard. Cunningham improvised a dance. Avant-garde virtuoso David Tudor played something or other on the piano. Robert Rauschenberg, who had been a student of Albers, hung his white paintings and maybe a black one. There were projections of film and a painting by Franz Kline overhead.

This is widely credited as having been the first Happening and the inciter of performance art. Retrospectively it has been given the title "Theater Piece No. 1," although it is not an official part of the Cage catalog. Though a pack rat, Cage considered it such a classroom-casual event that he never even bothered to keep the "score." No one bothered to take a photograph.

And no one is sure exactly what happened at the first Happening. Witness accounts vary. An enormous literature has sprung about theorizing why that could be, what it all means and how we deal with a fleeting historic event we can't pin down. But Cage's revolutionary intention (or non-intention) was to defeat memory.

The participants couldn't remember because they were too focused on their own work. There had been no rehearsal, other than Cunningham testing the space so that he wouldn't accidentally kick someone. Not all artists are afforded the luxury of leaping before they look.

The lack of structure, moreover, meant it was impossible to take everything… [more]
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2015  johncage  history  eriksatie  mercecunningham  buckminsterfuller  soniasekula  education  democracy  annicalbers  josefalbers  helenmolesworth  leapbeforeyoulook  art  music  highered  highereducation  robertrauschenberg  happenings  williamdekooning  elaindekooning  arthurpenn  charlesolson  davidtudor 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Therefore promises "interactive philosophy," dreamy pixel art - Kill Screen - Videogame Arts & Culture.
"What's initially so captivating about Therefore is how the music and art style blends together. Composer Sergio Cuesta’s incidental piano score plays with atonality in a way that's reminiscent of the impressionist compositions of Claude Debussy, or Erik Satie: simple and pretty, but slightly haunting. It's a dynamic that plays into the game's serene, meditative mood, even when surrounded by austere environments and muted colors.

A PUZZLE GAME THAT'S EERILY EVOCATIVE

In Therefore, you guide a character called The Wanderer through a land called The First Realm as you try to uncover the forces undermining your continued existence. The game supposedly operates on a fixed countdown, so you'll need to use a mechanic called The Memento Mori to reset time while exploring and trying to solve puzzles. Therefore will also include some form of item crafting, though it's not clear at this point how that part of the game meshes with the rest.

In fact, just about everything developer Trim Tangle has to say about the game is at once both intriguing and cryptic. Therefore is apparently "a pixel experience," focused on "interactive philosophy" that takes place within the more familiar confines of a sandbox videogame.

[trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpUF2KPKwSU ]

Perhaps most mysterious of all, the Indiegogo campaign claims that, for anyone who can navigate the games esoteric presentation and coded meanings, "Therefore will send a message to those ready to hear it." However, underneath this veil of inscrutability there looks to be a puzzle game that's eerily evocative."
therefore  videogames  mementomori  puzzles  edg  srg  sound  audio  claudedebussy  eriksatie  sergiocuesta  2015  trimtangle  music  design  gamedesign  games  gaming  tiume  memory 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Sasha Frere-Jones: Brian Eno’s Quiet Influence : The New Yorker
"In January, 1975, the musician Brian Eno and the painter Peter Schmidt released a set of flash cards they called “Oblique Strategies.” Friends since meeting at art school, in the late sixties, they had long shared guidelines that could pry apart an intellectual logjam, providing options when they couldn’t figure out how to move forward. The first edition consisted of a hundred and fifteen cards. They were black on one side with an aphorism or an instruction printed on the reverse. Eno’s first rule was “Honour thy error as a hidden intention.” Others included “Use non-musicians” and “Tape your mouth.” In “Brian Eno: Visual Music,” a monograph of his musical projects and visual art, Eno, who still uses the rules, says, “ ‘Oblique Strategies’ evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation—particularly in studios—tended to make me quickly forget that there were other ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach.”

Eno is widely known for coining the term “ambient music,” and he produced a clutch of critically revered albums in the nineteen-seventies and eighties—by the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and U2, among others—but if I had to choose his greatest contribution to popular music it would be the idea that musicians do their best work when they have no idea what they’re doing. As he told Keyboard, in 1981, “Any constraint is part of the skeleton that you build the composition on—including your own incompetence.” The genius of Eno is in removing the idea of genius. His work is rooted in the power of collaboration within systems: instructions, rules, and self-imposed limits. His methods are a rebuke to the assumption that a project can be powered by one person’s intent, or that intent is even worth worrying about. To this end, Eno has come up with words like “scenius,” which describes the power generated by a group of artists who gather in one place at one time. (“Genius is individual, scenius is communal,” Eno told the Guardian, in 2010.) It suggests that the quality of works produced in a certain time and place is more indebted to the friction between the people on hand than to the work of any single artist.

The growing influence of this idea, ironically, makes it difficult to see clearly Eno’s distinct contributions to music—his catalogue of recordings doesn’t completely contain his contribution to the pop canon. When someone lies on the studio floor and sings at a microphone five feet away, Eno is in the air. When a band records three hours of improvisation and then loops a four-second excerpt of the audiotape and scraps the rest, Eno has a hand on the razor blade. When everybody except for the engineer is told to go home, Eno remains. Behind Eno stand John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and Erik Satie, but those guys didn’t make pop records.

It feels odd to call Eno’s new album, “High Life,” released this week, a collaboration. Credited to Eno and Karl Hyde, of the electronic duo Underworld, “High Life” is indeed the work of several people. But deciding that any one project of Eno’s is a collaboration seems off, because collaboration is Eno’s primary mode. Eno’s first recorded work was the sound of a pen hitting a lamp. Who deserves credit for that—Eno, the pen, or the lamp?"



"What became increasingly clear in the seventies was that Eno’s embrace of possibility and chance wasn’t as free-form as it seemed—it was a specific aesthetic. His name shows up on very few records you would describe as hard or aggressive, and his love of the perverse has never been rooted in hostility. Eno fights against received wisdom and habit, but rarely against the listener.

In fact, as Eno found more ways for technology to carry out his beloved generative rules, his music became less and less like rock music and closer to a soundtrack for meditation. The same year that he released “Another Green World,” he also put out “Discreet Music.” The A side was a thirty-minute piece that was written as much by machines as by Eno. In the liner notes, Eno wrote, “If there is any score for the piece, it must be the operational diagram of the particular apparatus I used for its production. . . . Having set up this apparatus, my degree of participation in what it subsequently did was limited to (a) providing an input (in this case, two simple and mutually compatible melodic lines of different duration stored on a digital recall system) and (b) occasionally altering the timbre of the synthesizer’s output by means of a graphic equalizer.”

The result is an area of sound without borders or time signature. There is no rhythm track, just layers of monody, lines programmed into a synthesizer and playing over each other. It is hypnotic, and fights your attempts to focus on it. In 1978, he started to use the term “ambient music”: the concept stretched back to describe “Discreet Music” and the work of earlier composers, like Satie, who coined the term “furniture music,” for compositions that would be more functional than expressive. In the liner notes of “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” (1978), Eno wrote, “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”

But “Music for Airports” was not nearly as docile as Eno wanted it to be. Though the music is gentle enough to be background music, it is too vocal in character and too melodic to be forgotten that easily. I can recall entire sequences without much difficulty. As much as Eno wanted his music to recede, and as potent as the idea was, he failed by succeeding: the album is too beautiful to ignore. But, in some ways, history and technology have accomplished what Eno did not. With the disappearance of the central home stereo, and the rise of earbuds, MP3s, and the mobile, around-the-clock work cycle, music is now used, more often than not, as background music. Aggressive music can now be as forgettable as ambient music."



"“I have a trick that I used in my studio, because I have these twenty-eight-hundred-odd pieces of unreleased music, and I have them all stored in iTunes,” Eno said during his talk at Red Bull. “When I’m cleaning up the studio, which I do quite often—and it’s quite a big studio—I just have it playing on random shuffle. And so, suddenly, I hear something and often I can’t even remember doing it. Or I have a very vague memory of it, because a lot of these pieces, they’re just something I started at half past eight one evening and then finished at quarter past ten, gave some kind of funny name to that doesn’t describe anything, and then completely forgot about, and then, years later, on the random shuffle, this thing comes up, and I think, Wow, I didn’t hear it when I was doing it. And I think that often happens—we don’t actually hear what we’re doing. . . . I often find pieces and I think, This is genius. Which me did that? Who was the me that did that?”"
2014  brianeno  sashafrere-jones  music  johncage  marcelduchamp  eriksatie  scenius  collaboration  notknowing  uncertainty  constraints  rules  obliquestrategies  art  process  howwework  happenings  bryanferry  improvisation  generative  possibility  chance  genius 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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