bilateral kellerberrin

May 12, 2005

Kellerberrin Thursday 12 May 2005

Filed under: education?,keller dailies,pointlessness — Lucas @ 9:29 pm

More and more, I have the feeling that we are getting nowhere, slowly. As the talk goes on, we are getting nowhere, and that is a pleasure. It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else…Here we are now, a little bit after the beginning of the third unit of the fourth large part of this talk. More and more, we have the feeling that I am getting nowhere, slowly. As the talk goes on, slowly, we have the feeling we are getting nowhere. That is a pleasure, which will continue. If we are irritated it is not a pleasure. Nothing is not a pleasure if one is irritated. But suddenly, it is a pleasure, and then, more and more, it is not irritating. And then, more and more, and slowly. Originally we were nowhere, and now, again, we are having the pleasure of being slowly nowhere. If anybody is sleepy, let him go to sleep.
-from John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, 1949.

A quiet day, yesterday. I hid myself away mostly, reading Fluxus scores and listening to John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing.

I was preparing for today’s workshop at Cunderdin High. The students wanted us to expand out from “games” and move in the direction of “music”. I thought I might perform John Cage’s 4’33” for them. You know, stir ’em up a bit. I couldn’t find the sheet music for that one, but I did have a lot of fun sifting through the Fluxus Performance Workbook which is freely available to download from the web.

For the uninitiated, Fluxus is an “art movement” which began in the 1960s. Fluxus is all about the absurd and the profound. Fluxus artists often created performance events (called Fluxconcerts) in which pianos were destroyed, trumpets used as peashooters, music was made with food, etc etc.

Since many of these pieces were seriously intended be taken as music, the instructions on how to carry them out have been written down, as musical “scores”. In this way, other Fluxperformers can play the Fluxpieces, just as an orchestra might play a piece by Mozart. The Fluxpieces are sometimes very short in duration, and sometimes ridiculously long. Many are impossible to perform and thus exist simply as “concepts” (or even poems, I suppose).

A few of my faves from the Fluxus Performance Workbook:

Turn on a radio. At the first sound, turn it off.
(George Brecht, 1961)

Symphony No. 5
I before hearing
II hearing
III after hearing
(George Brecht, 1966)

Music for My Son
Do not prepare for
the performance and
even try to forget that
in a short time you will be
performing. When the time of the
performance comes, simply do something
(Jed Curtis, date unknown)

Magic Trick #2
Walk on stage with a sledge hammer, an egg and a tape recorder. Place the egg on one side of the stage. Place the tape recorder on the opposite side of the stage. Turn the recorder on in the playback mode. Walk back to the egg. Pick up the hammer. Raise it high. Wait 30 seconds and smash the egg. Stand and wait.
After 15 seconds, the tape recorder plays the noise of a chicken.
(Ken Friedman, 1993)

Calls, Canto 6 (Letter)
Open an empty envelope with both hands and talk loudly into it. Then close the envelope quickly and post it to anyone whom it may concern.
(Bengt af Klintberg, December 1965 – June 1966)

Sanitas No. 35
Blank sheets are handed to the audience without any explanations. 5 minutes waiting.
(Tomas Schmit, date unknown)

Sanitas No. 151, Fluxvariation 1
All the piano keys of a chromatic scale are nailed down.
(Tomas Schmit, date unknown)

Duet for Performer and Audience
Performer waits silently on stage for audible reaction from audience which he imitates.
(Emmett Williams, 1961)

* * * * *

I suppose all this interest in “nothingness” and absurdity has always been in me. But it was re-ignited by the Cunderdin kids themselves, who (quite seriously) asked me “what’s the point?” about my own art, and sent me down the path you are reading now. It’s perverse, I know, (but fun!) to take pointlessness seriously.

So when the students said they wanted to look at music for this next workshop, I immediately thought of John Cage. His 4’33” (in case you don’t know it) consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. The musician wields an instrument (any instrument will do) and begins: playing nothing. Whatever happens to be audible in the room constitutes that particular performance of 4’33”. Chairs creaking, audience members clearing their throats, giggling from the back row. It’s all part of it.

Since I’m not a musician, I thought there was probably not much I could offer to the students in the way of musical production instruction. But what I could try to get them to practice is listening.

If we consider any sound in the world to be just as interesting as music, then we will never be bored. And learning how not to be bored is a pretty important skill, I reckon.

* * * * *

Speaking of all of this, I should mention that the heavy rains are back! A big booming thunderstorm last night, followed by solidly drumming drops ’til the wee hours, and more flooding under the craft barn door this morning. The meteorological electrics prompted ever-efficient Felena to disconnect all the IASKA computers from the power source, in case of a “spike.” I took a risk and left mine on. I figure my machine is breathing it’s last gasp anyway. It’d probably be a good way for it to go out. Better to burn out spectacularly, rather than to splutter away like a 1970s Ford Transit Van you just can’t bring yourself to stop repairing, right?

2 Responses to “Kellerberrin Thursday 12 May 2005”

  1. bilateral kellerberrin » Kellerberrin Sunday15 May 2005 Says:

    […] on the other side of the wall from my computer. I know I’ve been carrying on about John Cage – the ability to listen, and thereby turn any local “noise” into interesting music. But t […]

  2. Reagan Denius Says:

    Ah – nothingness. 🙂 Nothingness has been a part of my life for a very long time now, the entire concept of it and the idea that, nothing, in it’s slef, not the physical aspectual (word or not?) idea of nothing, but just pure —- … is the only form of perfection! But enough of my ramble…

    It’s funny I’m finding out more about this “fourth large part” thing…

    I wrote a track, called it Fourth Large Part, and it has a sample of that exact same thing, and for the longest time i’ve been trying to figure out what is is where it’s from etc, and now I have a little more insight into the idea. The song’s been signed to a label, it’s electronic music, dunno if your interested, but if you are, check it out @ h

    peace! 🙂

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