rethinking why performance matters through the matter of performance
3. Potentials of Performance

30 July 2012

Dear Devin


Dear Devin,

   It feels like ages since last time we have written. We have chatted, we have spoken – true – but we have not written. Since the last time we wrote, I have been thinking. I have been thinking about:

- The relations between parts and wholes; microscopes, telescopes, lenses of all kinds; our drive to break things down in order to find truth;

- Fire and ashes; water, electricity and hydrolysis;

- Gustav Metzger's Auto-Destructive Art:

- Rituals of all kinds, old and modern; ritual as space of discovery of the transcendence within; ritual as godless space of encounter with the unbearable strangeness of the real; the fetish;

- Christoph Schlingensief's 'Fluxus Oratorium':


- The objectness of words spoken, written, whispered, sung;

- The unfathomability of the face (and, perhaps, the voice);

- Ligeti's 'Lux Aeterna' for 12 solo voices...:

-    ... and his 'Poème Symphonique pour 100 métronomes:



- Your own writing, as in:

"Rebecca snips her black hair and crumples
white paper in a gallery in Philadelphia
and 'indeed could this sound fragment be
described *in itself*, when 'the causal' and anecdotal perception was soon over and
when it presented itself to the listener as an 'object', always identical yet
always capable of revealing new characteristics when heard over and over again?"

- Samples and nosy/failed repetitions, that "over and over again"


Dear João,

   It's true, so much has happened. I got married. I travelled around the US for a spell. I've been spending time indoors during a heat wave. I've seen pictures of you climbing what I think is a soccer stadium on facebook. Since I like the format you've set up here, some responses, and some additions:

- Geologist Kenneth Deffeyes, in John McPhee's Annals of the Former World, suggesting that the viscosity of piano wire, 10^22 poises, is about that of the viscosity of the Earth's mantle, what continents float on.

- In Chicago, recently, and now in New York, there is an opera on called The Hunchback Variations, written by Mickle Maher with music by Mark Messing. The opera is for two people – Beethoven and The Hunchback of Notre Damme – and comprises a series of short panel presentations they give on their collaboration. The collaboration was to come up with a sound for a famous stage direction of Checkov's The Cherry Orchard: "Suddenly a distant sound is heard, coming as if out of the sky, like the sound of a string snapping, slowly and sadly dying away." They were not able to come up with the sound.

- Pete Townshend, Metzger's most famous student, applying what he learned to his guitar:


- Louis Zukofsky using optics as a metaphor for his poetry: "An Objective: (Optics) – the lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus. (Military use) – That which is aimed at. (Use extended to poetry) – Desire for what is objectively perfect, inextricably the direction of historic and contemporary particulars."

- Or Basil Bunting, Zukofsky's friend, writing in Briggflatts:

"It looks well on the page, but never
well enough. Something is lost
when wind, sun, sea upbraid
justly an unconvinced deserter."

-    Nancy Grossman's Heads:


-    The nested mixing bowls friends sent as a wedding present that broke in the mail:


- "But there could be another kind of opera, if opera is no more than storytelling and the evocation of an imaginary landscape in the form of music. There could be a kind of microcosmic opera, no bigger than – and as powerful as – hand magic, card tricks and disappearing coins, at a six foot distance. An opera to match our fascination with the microscopic world, an opera that has the tempo of very small things. This would differ dramatically from our old fascination with the tempo of very large things, the Coliseum, the Pyramids, the huge Russians with deep voices, the tempo of political change. We could live with an opera of extraordinary speech and extraordinary intricacy." Robert Ashley, Outside of Time

-    Stuart Sherman:


-  Janet Cardiff's 40 Part Motet:


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