Philippe Hode-Keyser – drums, percussions
Marc Couroux – piano

Live at the Redpath Hall, McGill University

Montréal, March 5, 1997

Cover picture: Mer de Canada by Robert Smithson


 A Theater of Entropy

psycho-drama musical


If the theater is like bloody and inhuman dreams, it takes much more to manifest and anchor in each of us the idea of a perpetual conflict and a spasm where life is determined every minute where everything in creation rises against our state of consituted beings to perpetuate in a concrete and present manner the metaphysical ideas of some fables whose very atrocity and energy suffice to demonstrate the origin and content principles.

That said, we see that, by its proximity to the principles which poetically transfuse their energy, naked theater language, language not virtual, but real, must enable the use of magnetism nervous man to transgress the ordinary limits of art and speech, to make active, that is to say magically, in real terms, a kind of total creation, where it remains for the man to take his place between dreams and events.

Antonin Artaud, “The Theatre of Cruelty”

The system was breaking down. The one who had wandered alone past so many happenings and events began to feel, backing up along the primal vein that led to his center, the beginning of a hiccup that would, if left to gather, explode the center to the extremities of life, the suburbs through which one makes one’s way to where the country is.

John Ashbery, “The System”

On the whole I would say entropy contradicts the usual notion of a mechanistic world view. In other words it’s a condition that’s irreversible, it’s a condition that’s moving towards a gradual equilibrium and it’s suggested in many ways. Perhaps a nice succinct definition of entropy would be Humpty Dumpty. Like Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There is a tendency to treat closed systems in such a way. One might even say that the current Watergate situation is an example of entropy. You have a closes system which eventually deteriorates and starts to break apart and there’s no way that you can really piece it back together again

Robert Smithson “Entropy Made Visible”

All right. The problem is that there is no new problem. It must awaken from the sleep of being part of some other, old problem, and by that time its new problematical existence will have already begun, carrying it forward into situations with which it cannot cope, since no one recognizes it and it does not even recognize itself yet, or know what it is.

John Ashbery, “The Recital”

A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tapdances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an “exhibitionist”.

How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, “Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!”

Kurt Vonnegut, “Bluebeard”

As the techniques of the cinema and all forms of recording become better and better, so the painter has to be more and more inventive. He has to re-invent realism. He has to wash the realism back onto the nervous system by his invention, because there isn’t such a thing in painting any longer as natural realism. But does one know why very often, or nearly always, the accidental images are the most real? Perhaps they’ve not been tampered with by the conscious brain and therefore come across in a much more raw and real sense than something which has been tampered with by consciousness?

I think that Velasquez believed that he was recording the court at that time and recording certain people at that time; but a really good artist today would be forced to make a game of the same situation. He knows that the recording can be done by film, so that that side of his activity has been taken over by something else and all that he is involved with is making the sensibility open up through the image. Also, I think that man now realizes that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason. I think that, even when Velasquez was painting, even when Rembrandt was painting, in a peculiar way they were still, whatever their attitude to life, slightly conditioned by certain types of religious possibilities, which man now, you could say, has had completely cancelled out for him. You see, all art has now become completely a game by which man distracts himself; and you might say it has always been like that, but now it’s entirely a game. And I think that that is the way things have changed, and what is fascinating now is that it’s going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to be any good at all.

Francis Bacon “Interviews with DS”

The course of this work is made up of the violent filterings of the energies liberated through the dexterity and bodily flexibility of the performer. As in Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty, each area of the work calls forth resonances from different parts of the total organism performer-instrument-context. This, for me, is “drama in music”.

Brian Ferneyhough “Time and Motion Studies”

For me, sound has always been primarily an extension of physical presence, or else physical presence has always been strongly inferred by sound. I assume that sonic contouring is, among other things, a metaphor for bodily comportment and its associated aura of emotive connotations: this makes the “grain” of sound a tremendously powerful compositional tool. Even the experience of time manifests itself to me largely in terms of degrees of resistance to the free flow of discursive energy, so it’s clear that performer mediation and articulation of this aspect of things lie at the root of the listening experience.

I’d say my music was more anti-virtuoso in intent, since it takes a very special sort of person to put both their professionalism and their “natural” approach to their instrument on the line when passing through the early stages of the sort of learning process that much of my music demands. In each case a very personal key has to be found in order to being the task of reunifying the uncoupled planes of mental perception and bodily reaction offered by the score.

I like performances in which the accumulated psychic and physical momentum of successively confronting lengthy spans of material lends the interpretation an unearthly radiance—the performers themselves are changing before our very eyes.

Brian Ferneyhough “Socratic faxes”

L’attitude d’un artiste postmoderne se définit par rapport à la structure de son discours, pas nécessairement par rapport à la surface. En musique, depuis quelques années, il y a des compositeurs qui essayent de dévoiler le squelette de leur musique, donc la structure. Pour aller plus loin, il faut accepter d’autres prémisses: pour tous les arts, mais en musique spécifiquement, il y a beaucoup de composantes. Par exemple les textures, le rythme, l’harmonie, les couleurs, l’orchestration, et, bien sûr, la forme. Mais il faut accepter le principe que ces éléments musicaux se trouvent dans un agencement combinatoire qui permet à un élément de dominer tous les autres. Et étant donné que tous ces éléments font partie de la structure globale de l’oeuvre, si un compositeur décide qu’il va minimiser les éléments 1 à 7 mais faire ressortir l’élément 8, il fait alors en sorte que cet aspect de la structure soit tout à fait audible. De ce point de vue, la musique répétive est, sans aucun doute, une musique postmoderne, car les autres éléments de la musique ont été subordonnés pour mettre en relief l’aspect rythmique comme un aspect clairement structurel. Il y a donc création volontaire d’un déséquilibre, et c’est ça qui est révolutionnaire.

John Rea, Qu’est-ce que le postmodernisme musical?

(in Circuit 1/1)


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