It's already the middle of a busy period for me, writing-wise - and it's not even the end of January! Two interesting projects are included amongst the melange, a new piece for Canadian percussionist Noam Bierstone and a major new piece for The House of Bedlam.
I'll probably write a more comprehensive blog post about each of them in the coming weeks, but I thought I'd briefly introduce them here.
The new piece for Noam Bierstone is currently emerging under the working title The Severing. It's for body percussion (sort of) and - despite what the name suggests - all limbs remain fully attached throughout. Instead, the title refers to a concept in philosopher Timothy Morton's latest book Humankind: Solidarity with Non-Human People, which is a real kaleidoscope of ecological leftist ideas.
Morton reminds us of Lacan's distinction between Reality and The Real, re-framing it from an interesting posthumanist lens. Here, The Real is understood as a gaze upon the world where the human and nonhuman are ultimately indistinguishable. Reality is a constructed state, allowing ourselves to bifurcate a notion of the human from the non. The process by which we tear ourselves out of The Real and into Reality, Morton calls The Severing. (I'll do a better summary of that in a future post).
In essence, the body-percussion (sort of) piece, is about body-to-instrument relations when the instrument is the body. It also seems to be playing with an idea of a nonhuman music for a nonhuman realm (The Real), where action and audibility are positioned in a state of dialogue with one another. Either way, he's covered in personal lubricant throughout.
My new piece for The House of Bedlam, under the working name Meeting the Universe Halfway, takes its title from the subtitle of philosopher Karen Barad's book of the same name, which I've written about lots of times before and won't repeat again here (suffice to say her ideas have had a huge influence on my work in the past few years). I last worked with Bedlam way back in 2009 when I wrote This was not a film about a drowning man (I was only 25 :-/) as a response to a Bill Viola triptych I was obsessed with at the time. It's great to be working with the group again.
The piece is an extension and explosion of my ongoing work with the instrument/device-building I've been doing as part of The Apparatus Project (which you can read more about via that link). I'm combining these custom/devised setups with 'conventional' or 'Western orchestral' instruments for this project, in this case flutes, saxophone, cello and guitar.
Those familiar with The Apparatus Project will know that the basic premise is to devise acoustic sound-making devices where "human input is passive, minimal or repetitive and yet the sonic output is active, dynamic and chaotic." Or, to put it another way, in an apparatus setup, the device's materiality of the device is making the primary decisions regarding the nature and timing of the sounds that come out. At present, it looks like I'll be pairing these rigs with the absolute opposite kind of music-making in the more conventional instruments, using musical materials that are absolutely human-controlled - entirely abstracted in a sense. And transitioning between those states. I'm draw back to notions of melody (for the first time in about eight years) to begin to conceive of this, although that's a much longer post as to why...
All being well, The House of Bedlam will be giving the premiere of Meeting the Universe Halfway in May. I'll update you with more details as they emerge.