Sunday, November 17, 2013


I find myself seeking beauty at the blurred boundaries where words lose their meanings or gain new ones, where performances may or may not have begun, and where voice, instrument, and the sounds of the environment merge.

I’m inspired by what I think of as ‘soft-edged’ or ‘fuzzy boundary’ artistic experiences. Things like the way that (at least judging by the archival film footage I've seen) a traditional Northern Territory indigenous ceremony can emerge seamlessly out of an apparently informal and diffuse social setting. 

Or the Cagean sense of a musical sound world that is utterly porous in the relationship between willed gestures and incidental sound, something addressed in different ways by the improv language developed by Jim Denley and collaborators in their West Head Project, and by some laptop and lo-fi artists explorating the soundworlds of air-conditioning units and other ambient machine presences. 

Looking back I realise that a couple of key early adult performance experiences were characterised by this sense of gradual transition and uncertain borders. In 1986 I saw the Wooster Group perform L.S.D. (...JUST THE HIGH POINTS...) at the Adelaide Festival, a work that was full of the informality of simultaneous streams of readings, chat, synchronised and diffuse movement and lo-fi audio-visual reproduction. 

And even earlier in 1984 I participated as the otsuzumi drummer in the first Australian production of the classic Noh play Kiyotsune at the Seymour Centre in Sydney. While Noh is on one level full of overt structure and formality, the glacially slow ritual of taking up our positions within the space created an interesting ambiguity about what was and wasn't 'the work'. And the fact that my 'drumming' patterns (at least as I remember them) consisted of about 25% hitting the drum and 75% vocalising also created an odd ambiguity about what was 'the music' and what was a kind oif bi-product or aid to achieving just the right arm gesture in contacting the drumskin. 

Come to think of it, one of my favourite recordings of my 1980s band oNe oVer Zero is one where the sounds of glasses clinking in the pub and voices talking to each other is louder than most of the music we were making.  

I'm not sure where this attitude comes from. Perhaps I have some basic resistance to things being too clearly defined and delimited. Or perhaps I find the separation of parts of life into performance/not performance, music/noise, significant/ordinary etc threatens my sense of coherence and the meaningfulness of existence. 

Food for thought...

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