WEISSLICH 4 – Composer/Artist Interviews

Tomorrow at 8pm, WEISSLICH returns to Hundred Years Gallery to present the first concert of our 2015-16 season. Beforehand we asked each of the six featured participants to respond to a few prompts about their contributions. Read on for responses to the following:

[1] What’s one thing you would like the audience to know about your piece / thing?

[2] Tell us an anecdote that relates to your piece / thing.

[3] It’s Halloween and you’ve turned into a werewolf! Who would you have replace your slot at WEISSLICH?

Robert Blatt – All Together Now
[1] Sitting still is optional.

[2] Florida is a region known for sinkholes, which are mostly naturally occurring collapses of surface sediment into often large underground cavities formed by the dissolution of limestone. They can emerge suddenly, and some people have been swallowed alive by these geological events. I moved to Miami a little over a year ago, and not long after arriving, I started to feel tremors shaking my house. I became concerned. Was the earth about to eat me?

I soon found out that Miami is a region with a very low probability of sinkhole formation of any substantial size; however, living in the outskirts of the city, I happen to reside not far from a quarry. Periodically the miners find it necessary to blow up the bedrock. Their blast schedule is even posted online. It turns out the sinkhole I was worried about my house collapsing into was fiction. I was merely feeling the formation of a different type of hole in the limestone, but in this case caused by the use of dynamite.

[3] Guillaume de Machaut

Eleanor Cully – new work
[1] This is my first solo performance of my own music.

[2] ppppppp

[3] My friend and flautist Marta Buzow, whom I am staying with at the weekend. We used to play together every week in the brilliant New Noise ensemble at Brunel University and she taught me in my final year there.

Beavan Flanagan – No sweeter sound than my own name
[1] It’s about a person, it’s about an object, it’s about a person being an object.

[2] It was pointed out to me that the piece had certain scatological undertones. I personally think this was a reflection of the people who thought this more than of the piece itself :-)

[3] Gary Numan (on one condition: he wouldn’t be permitted to perform any of his music from the mid 90s onwards)

David Pocknee – Cipher For The Lighthouse Twins
[1] It was premiered last month in Miami by Inlets Ensemble.

[2] I swear the printer was laughing over the phone when they confirmed my order for this piece was ready.

[3] Trond Reinholdtsen or Parkinson Saunders. 

Leo Svirsky – singer-songlewieser medley
[1] I’ll be doing a “singer-songleweiser medley” with songs and miniatures from Michael Pisaro, Christian Wolff, and Antoine Beuger, with some liberties taken in the Wolff songs.

[2] When he came to the Hague, Christian Wolff told me that Cardew’s only political song that really made it into the working class repertory was the “Bethanienlied”, a protest song against a free clinic being turned into a center for contemporary art by the city of Berlin. Cardew organized a concert with Christian Wolff, and Frederic Rzewski which the working class audience was pretty bored with, except for one point where Cardew performed his variations on the Bethanienlied. The audience sang along with the theme, and booed when the first variation came (instead of the second verse).

[3] Jeromos Kamphuis, even though he’s a vampire.

[1] Skateboarding is a supremely beautiful art which makes cities more interesting, more liveable and tells us things about space we couldn’t know otherwise. Skaters are urban dowsers of texture, angle and energy flows; to be able to witness what they do is a privilege and we should support them. Long Live South Bank.

[2] Anton Lukoszevieze had a birthday coming up, and it was a number which ends in “0”. He joked he would like a piece as a gift, something “which will make me feel I’m not getting old, like about skateboarding.” I was reading a book about skateboarders and their use of urban space at the time, and had already been thinking of doing something about skating.

[3] Tony Hawk

We look forward to having you along tomorrow!


Better Know A Weisslich: David Pocknee

Political activism, text score calendars, and reconquering musical complexity for the untrained performer are all part of WEISSLICH co-curator David Pocknee‘s unapologetically eccentric output. In a random order, here are some of the things that I love about his work.

The New Fordist Organisation, a group of composers and artists of which David is a part, who apply the principles of industrialised mass-production to artistic creation. Three of my favourite things that David contributed to their exhibition at GEMAK, The Hague, in 2013 (although the many wonderful things they create deserve to be explored in full) include:

a computer-driven method for composition, which lets you improvise an orchestral piece with a MIDI controller and simultaneously writes the score. Efficiency is maximised to the point where you can produce a 10 minute orchestral work in 20 minutes.

An efficiency-saving method for painting which uses a computer to analyse an image and break it up into individual brush strokes of different colours. Any untrained painter can then reproduce the image by copying the brush stroke he or she is told to apply by the computer, which projects these onto the canvas.

An efficiency-saving method for showing untrained performers how to play the piano by transferring the notes of a musical score into a sequence of lights which is projected onto the keys of a piano, showing the performer which key to press at which time.

What I especially like about these works is that they walk the tight-rope between irony and po-faced seriousness beautifully, something which comes back again and again in David’s work. Yes, the whole thing can be read as a critique of (post-)industrial capitalism, but the works the New Fordist Organisation creates in the process are so formally and conceptually interesting that could just as well be appreciated in and of themselves. So you go between these two poles, unsure as to whether the pieces should be seen only as criticisms or whether you are meant to enjoy the sounds/shapes/movements/words they make. Also, check out their beautifully produced exhibition catalogue.

Augenmusik III: The Picture of ASKO|Schönberg (2012) is best described as a concert hall work of musico-political activism. In this piece, the instrumentation and musical material reflects the fact that between 2009 and 2012, Asko|Schönberg ensemble received the fifth highest amount of state funding amongst Dutch ensembles, and, in 2011, spent more than half of their concerts performing one piece, Kurt Weill’s Threepeny Opera. The piece does what so much music wants to do but shies away from: talk explicitly about what is necessary for musical practitioners to receive state subsidies for art and culture, a process which, as is made evident in the piece, is too often embroiled in

appealing to the only criteria that modern western-european governments think is a judge of quality: profitability and popularity. – David Pocknee, Augenmusik III: The Picture of ASKO|Schönberg (2012)

The performance comes complete with diagrams showing the flow of public subsidy for the arts in the Netherlands.

On a similar theme is Economics (2010), a piece saturated in socio-political irony where the performers throw money on each other’s scores to dictate how and what they play. The score notes that

It is probably best to make a note of how much money you put into the piece before starting. This prevents fights. Players can ask the audience for money. This is a form of public subsidy. – David Pocknee, Economics (2010)

A wonderfully raucous recording can be heard below, where one performer in particular is being pretty heavily invested in.

The first time I got to know David in flesh and blood was through the Text Score A Day project, which had him brushing each tooth with an individual toothbrush, finding all the possible permutations of four plastic cups, and shouting at an imaginary dog to ‘drop it’ for an unadvisedly long period of time, at the first WEISSLICH concert in 2014. The Text Score A Day project involved one text score comprising no more than 140 characters being tweeted each day, every day, for one year between 2012-2013, on the Twitter account @textscoreaday. True to text score tradition, some are thought experiments, provocations, statements, meditations, temptations, fantasies or witticisms as much as (or as well as) instructions to action. The project has now been turned into an online calendar which will renew itself for all eternity. You can see what today’s text score is here.

As well as making concert hall music, art installations, and online text score libraries, David writes essays and publishes journals, tackling subjects as diverse as sadomasochism, virtuosity, human sexuality or indeed public funding and sub-prime culture. You’ll most likely find some strand of conceptual thinking in his piece for the upcoming concert. What I’ve given you here is really the tip of the iceberg as far as his output is concerned, so for the curious amongst you who want to open the pandora’s box that is his brain, I strongly recommend visiting his website: http://www.davidpocknee.com/

-Louis d’Heudieres