No one portion of time can coincide with another

“Until very recent times, the sound object, fleeting and tied to the passage of an irreversible and irrecoverable period of time, presented as a human phenomenon much more than an objective fact. There is, in fact, no object of scientific study that cannot be repeated, discerned from the chaos, isolated, and able to coincide with itself when it is examined. Now time – the medium and facilitator of the phenomenon of music – is beyond the reach of the experimenter. No one portion of time can coincide with another. This is so true that we could only apprehend the sound object in the two ways it presented itself: either as a project, a score, or as a “memory” of the performance. (But the performance, no sooner here than gone, and retained only haphazardly by the memory, is all bound up with the complex psychology of the concert.) Hence there is a twofold uncertainty in the understanding of the phenomenon of music, and in particular a twofold limitation, one accepting only “notatable” sounds as material for music, the other accepting only “performable” works – and therefore, in the main, performance itself – as an expression of music.

And this is not all. The concealment of the musical object is also due to the distinction made between sound and noise. For, since there have been men who listen, civilizations have painstakingly divided what they hear into two categories: on the one hand sounds (musical or similar), and on the other noises. It is difficult to imagine, unless there were to be some flagrant proof of its necessity, any suggestions to revise this age-old classification, and the appearance of a musical object that, a priori, would not be called either sound or noise.”

(page 133-134)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

The air is breathing you

“How do we enter trance states? I would prefer to ask ‘How do we stay out of them?’ In the middle of a dark night I wake up, how do I know I’m awake? I test for consciousness by moving a muscle. If I block this impulse to move I feel a tremendous anxiety. The control I exercise over the musculature reassures me that ‘I’m me’. By tensing muscles, by shifting position, by scratching, sighing, yawning, blinking, and so on, we maintain ‘normal consciousness’. Entranced subjects will sit quite motionless for hours. An audience ‘held’ by a theatrical performance suddenly find a need to move, to shift position, to cough, as the spell breaks.

If you lie down and make your body relax, going through it from feet to head, and loosening any points of tention that you find, then you easily float away into fantasy. The substance and shape of your body seem to change. You feel as if the air is breathing you, rather than you breathing the air, and the rhythm is slow and smooth like a great tide. It’s very easy to lose yourself, but if you feel the presence of a hostile person in the room you break this trance, seizing hold of the musculature, and becoming ‘yourself’ once more.”

(page 154)

From Keith Johnstone, Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1979.

I read about this book in another book, then found it on the shelves of a house I was staying in in Seattle.

Disrupting established taxonomies, disciplines, mediums, and proprieties

These museums create multi-temporal remappings of history and artistic production outside of national and disciplinary frameworks, rather than opting for a global inclusivity that pulls everything into the same narrative. An apt term to describe the results of these activities is the constellation, a word used by Walter Benjamin to describe a Marxist project of bringing events together in new ways, disrupting established taxonomies, disciplines, mediums, and proprieties. This approach is, I think, highly suggestive for museums, since the constellation as a politicized rewriting of history is fundamentally curatorial. For Benjamin, the collector is a scavenger or bricoleur, quoting out of context in order to break the spell of calcified traditions, mobilizing the past by bringing it blazing into the present, and keeping history mobile in order to allow its objects to be historical agents once again. Replace ‘collector’ here with ‘curator’, and the task of the contemporary museum opens up to a dynamic rereading of history that pulls into the foreground that which has been sidelined, repressed, and discarded in the eyes of the dominant classes. Culture becomes a primary means for visualizing alternatives; rather than thinking of the museum collection as a storehouse of treasures, it can be reimagined as an archive of the commons.”

(page 56)

Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig Books, 2013.

 

The relationship of the sound object

“Present musical knowledge is, in reality, only a sort of musical phonetics and the rules of a completely fabricated art. The study of musical structures hasn’t even been embarked upon, except for the study of what are quite improperly called “forms” (sonata, symphony, etc), which are simply customary ways of packaging sound ensembles. If we happen to wonder why the melody quoted in chapter 11, figure 15, readily resolves with a symmetry, we are in fact bringing in Gestalttheorie, not the rules of harmony. Only the theory of forms inquires why a given symmetry is deemed to be desirable and preferred by both the classical composer and the listener. This new approach is concerned with the relationship of the sound object to the person who chooses or composes it and the person who recognizes and shows himself to be sensitive to it.”

(page 133)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

A public-relations department for the real mind

“I see the ‘personality’ as a public-relations department for the real mind, which remains unknown. My personality always seems to be functioning, at some level, in terms of what other people think. If I am alone in a room and someone knocks on the door, then I ‘come back to myself’. I do this in order to check up that my social image is presentable: are my flies done up? Is my social face properly assembled? If someone enters, and I decide that I don’t have to guard myself, then I can get ‘lost in the conversation’. Normal consciousness is related to transactions, real or imagined, with other people. That’s how I experience it, and I note widespread reports of people in isolation, or totally rejected by other people, who experience ‘personality disintegration’.

When you’re worried about what other people might think, personality is always present. In life-or-death situations something else takes over. A friend scalded himself and his mind split immediately into two parts, one of which was a child screaming with pain, while the other was cold and detached and told him exactly what to do (he was alone at the time). If a cobra dropped out of the air vent into the middle of an acting class, the students might find themselves on the piano, or outside the door, with no memory of how they got there. In extremity the body takes over for us, pushing the personality aside as an unnecessary encumbrance.”

(pages 153-154)

From Keith Johnstone, Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1979.

I read about this book in another book, then found it on the shelves of a house I was staying in in Seattle.

The appropriateness of repetition

The first point [of the Ljubljana Moderna Galerija's manifesto] states the fiscal reality: due to budget cuts, no new display or catalog are possible, so recycling is necessary. Four further points argue for the appropriateness of repetition: rather than succumbing to the pressure to give consumers the new, the museum advocates the value of rereading; repetition is one of the fundamental features of contemporary art (video loops, re-enactment, etc.), so it is appropriate to repeat an entire collection display; repetition constructs history – through publications, research, the art market – so a repeated display retroactively helps to construct responses that produce history; finally, repetition is driven by trauma, and in Ljubljana this is twofold – the traumatic absence of a contemporary art system and the unrealized emancipatory ideals of communism.”

(pages 50-51)

Claire Bishop, Radical Museology: Or What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig Books, 2013.

 

A relationship between subject and object

“Art, if it can possibly be attained, is born at the moment when the aesthetic result is in direct contact with the technical means. All science is good, every technique is good, if it leads to an Art that is concerned with both the subject and the object; art is a relationship between subject and object. The exercising of this relationship is the very stuff of art.”

(page 130)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.