full score (instructions)
murmur our divine aphasia for Jacobo Hernández | luke martin v February 2016
this piece is for solo performer.
(an alternate version of this piece, titled bland perception transition system (spring wordy rhizome wings), was written for Sara Cubarsi-Fernandez)
each sound should be played as if it could be part of the environmental sounds filling the space.
as un-intrusive as possible. on the threshold of discernment. in a space of collective uncertainty.
though the above instruction will often result in extremely quiet playing, it does not demand quiet playing. rather, it asks that the intentional sounds exist in a space where the difference between them and the environmental, unintentional sounds in the space dissolves – a state of indifference.
this is not to imply that finding this space is an easy task; it is nearly impossible.
there are three initial tasks to complete before performance: 1) complete a text association chart provided by the composer, 2) record the space of performance when empty, and 3) become familiar with a new system of notation for silence.
the text association chart will allow for the creation of at least three ‘overtone’ speeches based on Lucky’s monologue in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. the structure of the speeches will be a chance-determined combination of Beckett’s, the performer’s, and the composer’s associative mental space in relation to the original Beckett text. the resulting mass of text will serve two main functional purposes: it will cover the entire score and it will be recorded by the composer onto at least three separate cassettes (to be played back in performance, at the performer’s discretion). the number of overtone poems and cassettes is contingent on the number of microphones used to record the empty performance space. the text acts as a liminal, fog-like space in which Beckett’s, the performer’s, and the composer’s ‘minds’ may mingle. it is a textual space open to wandering, combinations, re-combinations, and slippages.
the recording of the empty performance space will provide the majority of the sonic material for the piece. the composer will transcribe this recording – all of the unintentional sounds – with silence notation; the resulting notated sound objects will be embedded randomly on the score with(in) the text. thus, on the score, the sounds of the physical space of performance may slip into and combine with the textual space. the recording should be done with at least three microphones, spread throughout the space. ultimately, the performer will interpret the transcription of the field recordings on their instrument.
regarding duration: the piece has a minimum and maximum possible duration. these limits are contingent on the length of the field recording of the empty space, which may be of any duration. the minimum length of the piece equals the length of the field recording; the maximum length of the piece equals the length of the field recording multiplied by the number of microphones used. for example, if the recording is 20 minutes long with 4 microphones, the maximum possible length of the piece is 60 minutes (20 x 4) and the minimum length is 20 minutes. the duration of the piece should be decided on prior to performance and a timer should be used. this timer will be located on one stand.
the new notation system is a method for notating ‘silence,’ or more accurately, unintentional sounds. it is based on Lasse Thoresen’s system for the spectromorphological analysis of electronic music. a PDF of the symbols will be included with the score.
layout of the space:
the exact layout should be discussed based on the performance space.
in general: three or more music stands spread throughout the space (# of music stands = # of microphones used to record the empty space). one small table with a chair, in any reasonable location. on this table will be a cassette player and four unlabeled cassettes. there should be some space to comfortably put down an instrument when sitting at this table.
[two important initial notes]
1) there should be nothing overtly dramatic about any part of the performance.
2) do not be afraid of being silent during the performance. you always have the option to be silent. allow the space itself to become activated. allow the unintentional sounds during the performance to become more and more perceivable. sound with them. allow your listening to wander.
while, ultimately, i leave the amounts of sound and silence to your discretion, i want to emphasize again that silence, even a large amount of silence (even the entire piece), will never be seen as an incorrect choice. what i am asking is that sound and silence be given absolutely equal consideration and value when navigating the piece. from this starting point, there are no ‘incorrect’ decisions (whether the piece is entirely filled with sound, silence, or a mixture of the two).
each stand will have a score on it. one stand, or the table, will have a timer. alternatively, or additionally, you may wear a watch to help keep time. otherwise, the timer will be your central time-source.
once the piece begins, you may wander from stand to stand at will. the wandering/walking should be slow and focused/purposeful. for example, you may start at one stand, not play anything, and then walk purposefully over to another stand and continue to not play anything.
the scores themselves are also places to wander/dwell. they will be fully covered with text and sound objects (notation), with no specific direction given as to how to navigate them. that is up to the you.
score - sound objects: after becoming familiar with the definitions of the notation, you will have the option to interpret/play them on your instrument. the sound objects have no temporal position on the score and may be repeated as many times as desired. they have pitch position (high to low, though the range is up to you), with the top of the page as high and bottom as low. interpretations of the sound objects may evolve over time, or remain the same. you may also ‘play’ the sound objects in your head, without making any external sound.
score - text: the text is to be read, for the most part, silently. you may read it in any order, horizontally, vertically, diagonally, randomly, syllabically, fragmented, etc. if you have a significant desire to articulate a part or phrase of the text aloud, you may whisper it sparsely (the dynamic of that whispering should be slightly above the dynamic level of the ambient sounds in the space).
table with cassettes: you must sit down when operating the cassette player. the volume should be low, but definitely audible. the cassette player and the cassettes should be laid out neatly on the table and returned to their position after use. you may play a cassette for any duration and change cassettes at any time. this includes, if desired, playing a cassette and then leaving the table to perform at one of the other stands while the recording is still playing back.
instrument position: you should hold your instrument in playing position at all times. within this, there should be an ‘inactive’ position and an ‘active’ position. there should be a very subtle difference between the two. for example, while only reading or while walking between stands, your instrument should be in ‘inactive’ position. ultimately, however, the changes between those two positions are up to you.
there are three terms/concepts important to this piece: wandering, movement/stasis, and aphasia.
this piece is filled with calls to wander: the recording of the performance space while empty captures the unintentional sounds wandering within the space; the randomized combinations of text associations from multiple sources into overtone poems; my choice of how to transcribe the recording, i.e., i wander between the recordings of the microphones in real time as i transcribe; the layout of the text on the score; the scattering of the sound objects accumulated during transcription on the score; the combination of those two elements on the score, creating a thick mass of information to get lost in; the physical wandering from stand to stand during the piece. while perhaps traditionally viewed as a something to be avoided, i would argue that wandering is an absolutely essential act. wandering allows for the perception of perception ... a map without fixed points ... the potential for new and unrecognized constructions and deconstructions. wandering is a kind of neutrality that is just as primed for intensely beautiful combination as it is for intensely beautiful dissolution. in silence, too, the listener must wander through the massive density of unintentional sounds, allowing their own perception to create and dissolve paths along the way. the experience is at the same time intimately their own and collectively shared.
there is also a paradox of movement and stasis, a perpetual ‘coming and going’ or ‘undulating’ without ever reaching a pre-determined goal or destination. this combination of stasis and movement can be found, for instance, in an empty room: after listening carefully for a period of time, one becomes more and more aware of the huge number of sounds surrounding them, moving, shifting, darting back and forth – yet the room feels somehow still. it is as if the closer the space approaches a pure stillness, the closer it approaches an extreme, even infinite, density of movement, a vibrancy.
finally, there is aphasia, or the difficulty to communicate properly. this concept, this struggle, seems tied to any attempted articulation of silence. in my desire to create a notation system for silence, i am faced with my own kind of aphasia. namely, how do i notate something that is, on the surface, un-notatable? silence, in its pure form, is something we simply do not experience. it is an infinite, a limit to be approached. it is translated from this virtual realm – actualized so we can perceive it – into unintentional sounds. in trying to articulate silence, to translate it into the realm of the perceivable (and performable), i find myself aphasic. the silence comes through in fits and starts. i can only do my best to point toward it, to implicate its existence with a quiet desperation.