I haven’t written since “finishing” the 365 Days of Performance. Mostly I’ve been finishing the last semester, starting a new summer term, and this week, traveling with Alarm Will Sound. On this particular tour, Nigel Maister and others piece together John Cage’s “Song Books” from a series of smaller individual pieces. The resultant work is almost a mosaic of live performances including everyday objects, video, lighting, sound, and action.
Although it is meant as a piece of music, it feels more like a theater work, and even has aspects of audience participation brought social media. (you can follow us on twitter @cagesongbooks). Cage explores the idea that if music is a series of predetermined sounds, created by predetermined actions, then predetermined actions are inherently the source of the predetermined sounds. The sounds are often arbitrary and recognizable, but in the context of order, these same sounds can be considered “music,” and therefore artistic, purely because they were produced through specific instruction and can be reproduced faithfully. The most banal example is the direction to chop an onion, or take a nap (when I perform this, my snoring is considered music!)
This show has been one of AWS’s most complex to produce. Merely transporting and acquiring the right prop is tedious but essential. I give a lot of credit to Jason Varvaro and the other production staff foraging it possible. This has been a pure work of art in itself!
The tour has certainly been fun, for me at least. As I write this, though, our sound design/trumpet player Jason Price is suffering with food poisoning. He’s been overworked already, for sure, and this is not going to make his job easier. Good luck buddy!
Although Amsterdam is a truly beautiful city, I had the most fun in Cork, Ireland listening to all the local Irish traditional
music. I was so inspired, I brought back three books on the subject! I’d like trying try to play these on the bass, but I’m definitely going to pick up a violin and learn them on that instrument too. This is totally different music than jazz, but the way musicians gathered around a table reminded me of a jazz session. Also, when they get going, the music has a serious groove. I gravitated towards this stuff immediately!
Looking forward to being home soon. Here’s a pic of Cork from Auldley Place and a tall ship I toured at the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam: