Better Know A Weisslich: Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies 2

A transcription, a representation, and a poetic response of/to Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies 2:

* * *

…uh, someone splashing into a pool
uh, someone making bubble sounds
uh, uhmmuhm, applause, crowd clapping
aaa baby, uhm some church bells really kind of slow and long
aaan then there’s this kind of synth sound
someone blowing bubbles into water, kind of, an, uh, electronic buzz
really high pitched bubbles
someone crumpling a piece of paper, uhm rain
uh, a kind of filtered rain
falling on the roof
tennis, someone coughing, uh…
slightly lower pitched
um, someone doing a pump
um, water dribbling?
someone panting, kind of breathing really heavily
oh! it’s a hair dryer or like a vacuum-cleaner, or like a, a machine or something
it’s quite loud
it’s getting louder
oh, filter sweep
oh!! tennis again!
church bells uh, out in the street
uhhh, and then, uh there’s a kind of, uh, low drone, uhm it’s somebody talking I think
uhm, uh, another pump going
uh, some mout(h)—
white noise
white noise getting louder
white noise getting louder
few suds in the background
uh, drums.

* * *

* * *

uh, hmm, I can’t swim
and the glare of bubbles eluded me as a child
pop pop pop, one exaggerated step away from Community and applause, take a bow
too familiar to be generalised, yes, church was slow and long
I’m told that old men become obsessed with their synths
they start making impossible spheres underwater, frying their boards, catching the waves
pip pip pip
metaphorically trashing their receipts, calming, fixating
and then fascinating, or wait, is that the right order?
um, asthmatics dread a courting with April showers, speaking ahem, croup, personally
or maybe candidly, whatever that might mean Robert Ashley
£5.97 friction fictions found online
splip splop or glarble gibpt dropp?
gnashgnawgrumble and grump, whew!
OH! wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, err, veeeeeeeeeeeee, or maybe cheeeeeee?
come again?
does that mean come closer?
p! POW
what a, a scent
the world turns, or moves, vibrates, can you feel the vibrations man?
err, peddle faster, repetition — effort can never be misplaced
wait! I was abou—
plip plip plip
wonder how my brother is keeping?

* * *

As part of WEISSLICH 7, Michael Baldwin and Andy Ingamells perform Louis d’Heudieres’ Laughter Studies 2.

Better Know A Weisslich: Andy Ingamells

There are three films which I really like, all of which have, on paper, terrible premises:

Phone Booth (2002) – Colin Farrell in a phone booth for an hour and a half.

Buried (2010) Ryan Reynolds in a box for an hour and a half.

Locke (2013) – Tom Hardy in a car for an hour and a half.

Yet all of these are fantastic films due, primarily, to the way in which their verbal description and the experience of that concept are fundamentally different things.

Perhaps one could add to that list the following performance:

The Ticklish Subject (2013) – Andy Ingamells is tickled for an hour and a half.


Sol LeWitt claims in his “Sentences On Conceptual Art” that “Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.” He is wrong.

People often talk about “conceptual” art work as if reading the description of a work is the same as experiencing it; as if someone’s detailed first-hand description of being attacked by a shark is the same as being attacked by a shark.

And a loosened concept of authorial ownership allows me to claim that the last shark attack was actually a work of art by myself. Or Andy Ingamells.


At its best, Andy’s work joyfully shows the beauty in the most banal ideas through a finessed execution. Take, for instance, his recent Composing music for 11 minutes dressed in 18th Century costume (2015) for ensemble and video, in which that act of composing becomes the sounding result, the process of writing resonating through the ensemble as they echo the construction of the notation in realtime.

Here, as in the best of his work, Ingamells directs us outwards towards several historical markers, the “18th Century costume” of the title worn by the composer and the musical material, and the contrast of candlelight with the harsh blue iridescence of the laptop, creating an historical anomaly.

Other times, the idea is so simple that only the most inept execution could kill it, such as his much seen Solo (2010), which combines pornography, masturbation and slide whistles to a sublime degree.


There is:

music which doesn’t take itself too seriously

“music” which doesn’t take itself too seriously

music which doesn’t take itself too “seriously”


“music” which doesn’t take itself too “seriously”.

Andy Ingamells does a bit of all four.

Much like the work of the squib-box group of artists, Andy’s work plays at the corners of visual art, music, and comedy – a trend perhaps most obvious in his Packaged Pleasure (2015), a 27-minute video combining many of his works into a hilarious meditation on vanity and narcissism.

Packaged Pleasure (EXCERPTS) from Andy Ingamells on Vimeo.

Included in this work are extracts of several previous works worthy of mention: His Bowmanship, Tape Piece and a realisation of @textscoreaday’s #180: “Run 10km to a concert hall & immediately go onstage. The piece finishes when your breathing has returned to normal.” He was one of the contributors to the @textscoreaday project and performed the première of this work which involved him running 10km to a concert in Huddersfield with 3 bike horns in his mouth.

As part of WEISSLICH 7, Andy will be performing Bowmanship, Shh, and Tape Piece.

Better Know A Weisslich: G Douglas Barrett

The ideas of a “cannon” and a “canon of works” have one thing in common: to use either seems pretty outdated. However, it would seem churlish to ignore the popularity of a particular work and its prevalence in concerts, even if we baulk from referring to it as a “classic” – a word which, whether referring to a musical work or a car, seems designed for middle-aged white men. One work which has become a frequent feature of concerts of experimental music is G Douglas Barrett’s A Few Silence (Location, Date, Time of Performance), a work which would classify as being over-played, if it wasn’t for the paucity of experimental music concerts and, more importantly, the way in which its construction is so contingent upon environment, performer, and instrument that each iteration reveals a new type of richness. A Few Silence engages with several recurrent aspects of Barrett’s work – transcription and the grid.

A Few Silence asks the performers to textually transcribe the environmental sounds over a five minute period and then to play their transcriptions using a pre-selected set of musical instruments or objects. The work forces the performers to articulate the nature of their listening, transcription and playing in a way which necessitates the insertion of multiple perceptual, imaginative and material grids between the original sound and its re-creation, resulting in an abstracted version of the original which foregrounds the traces of its cognitive and physiological journey. In the same way that a No-Input Mixer tells us how a particular mixer hears and “speaks” through the articulation of silence, Barrett’s piece uses the “silence” of environmental sound to show how a performer hears, how they describe that hearing, and how they interpret that description.

The idea of the grid comes back in his Derivation series of works, in which this abstraction is fed back into itself in a way that spirals each consecutive iteration further and further from its origination. Each work in the Derivation collection of works is a transcription of the previous one in the series, like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, each foregrounding its mode of listening and mode of transcription. a quantization of a quantization of a quantization…

Much like David Kant’s Happy Valley Band ( series of works, in which the disparity between human and machine listening is highlighted through performances of computerized transcriptions of popular song, here the aim seems to be to crowbar the act of transcription from any pretence of a faithful replication of “reality” and instead use the resulting void as a space for creativity.

Which brings us to the work being performed at Weisslich 6 and 7 A Few Marlenes (Where Have All The Flowers Gone), here, once again, the grid re-asserts its presence; Marlene Dietrich quantized and filtered through the physiology of three different performers. Film asks us to fill in and interpolate the movement between the 41.67 milliseconds that lie between each frame of a movie run at 24 frames per second. Here that grid is increased and orchestrated, and somewhere in that gap something else occurs.


Better Know A Weisslich: Solomiya Moroz

Recently I have started telling people that there is a short story by Jean-Paul Sartre about a virus which lives in the vocal chords of humans and is transmitted to others via the host speaking a specific language. This is not a Jean-Paul Sartre story, in fact, it is the plot to the video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. All this is to say that you don’t need a dead French philosopher to present a good idea, and that, much like this piece of writing attempts to do, sometimes approaching big ideas from oblique angles can illuminate facets that would otherwise be unseen. In her bigger, collaborative music-theatre works, Solomiya Moroz frequently does this – tackling big concepts with surreality, absurdity and a studied childishness (like being told about linguistic parasites by a man named “Skull Face”). In Short Wave Apocalypse or the Box, a collaboration with Eva Aukes, Marko Ivic and Margherita Bergamo, concepts of digitization and militarization in the work of Paul Virilio are combined with the caped adventures of superheroes and phone sex. The result marries recurrent aspects of Solomiya’s work – gestural controllers, theatre and multimedia – in a parade of increasingly bizarre theatrical, choreographic and musical episodes that points to the material from a distance, through a mist of dada-ed abstraction.

Superheroes and the Apocalypse teaser from Solomiya Moroz on Vimeo.

As well as her work as a composer, Solomiya works as an improvisor, flautist and electronic musician, frequently performing her own work and that of others. Continue reading “Better Know A Weisslich: Solomiya Moroz”

Better Know A Weisslich: Carolyn Chen’s Adagio

…perhaps I am looking at living maps that outline a way of emotionally and
facially navigating any listening experience…

On the face of it, Carolyn Chen’s Adagio is a deceptively simple piece. A performance of the piece presents three or four performers wearing headphones and making slow-motion facial expressions over the course of seven minutes. Seemingly absurd, Chen’s piece is perplexing and has challenged me to think anew the dynamic relationships between facial expressions, slow-motion movement, copying, and private/public activities of listening.

To be more specific about what is going on during a performance of Adagio:

  • A group of performers listen
  • They listen while wearing headphones
  • They listen to sounds being sent through headphones
  • For each performance those sounds take the reliable and reproducible form of an excerpted recording of Sergiu Celibidache’s remarkably slow expansion of Anton Bruckner’s adagio from his 7th Symphony
  • While listening, the performers slowly move their faces (each an assemblage and territory of emotional expressions) in tandem with the recording
  • Their facial movements translate, project, and give body to a simultaneously private and communal experience, amongst the performers anyways, of listing to Celibidache’s recording wherein “phrase [is stretched] into environment”
  • Their facial expressions wander through a Romantic environment

Because the headphones conceal the sound of the recording and Carolyn’s facial guide is memorized/embodied, during the performance an audience is confronted with an ‘incomplete’ picture of the work. The diagram above [click to expand] is designed to illustrate not only the intricacies of the work that underlie the construction and performance of Adagio, but also serves to represent terminology I have adopted in constructing a response to what I think is a fascinating question that this piece poses: What might it mean to an audience to be presented with powerfully evocative expressive and emotive facial expressions that are unexplained, where headphones privatize listening experiences and paradoxically tether facial expressions to the implication of sound (an idea of listening) and the external reality of silence?

In my search for an answer to this question, I started thinking through an idea I had that a presentation of this piece is an invitation to participate in voyeuristic listening, a following of someone’s private and intimately emotional and facial relationship with some assumed sonic referent. Relatedly, I contemplated the idea that the piece excavates bodily listening practices and reflects them back onto the audience. However, my readings of Chen’s piece subordinated the foregrounded facial expressions to an assumed and precise sonic referent, ignoring the fact that an ontologically discernible aural reality has been deliberately obfuscated by the use of headphones. Instead of assuming that the headphones signify some specific sonic referent, I became interested in the idea the headphones could more generally signify a type of personal listening experience detached from any particular sounds. To me, this shift in emphasis from facial expressions being beholden to some particular listening experience restores primacy to the facial expressions and imbues their movements with a sense of agency.

It seems appropriate to focus on the facial aspect of Adagio given the fact that a performance of the piece is essentially a retracing of Chen’s facial wandering through her listening of Bruckner’s music. In conversation with Chen, she describes her attraction to Celibidache’s interpretation of Bruckner for the way that phrases are stretched into environments. In making Adagio I imagine Chen facially wandering through the Romantic landscape of Bruckner, retrospectively making notes from her journeys, and mapping those journeys onto Bruckner’s score to form a guided dérive for other people. By withholding the exact musical terrain trekked during a performance of Adagio and presenting only the performers’ facial movements, I have the sense that the piece presents an audience with of a living map for grafting, through emotional and facial steps, leaps, pauses, distractions and fascinations, the terrain of Celibidache’s environment onto the general experience of listening. The performers of Adagio become scores for future listening experiences. This is a model of listening where faces hear and modulate their environment.

To illustrate the full ramifications of this idea, I offer an anecdote recounted by Guy Debord about “a friend [who] had just wandered through the Harz region of Germany while blindly following the directions of a map of London.” To be clear, what I am suggesting is that a performance of Adagio could be détourned, read, and utilized as a psychogeographic map for listening to any other musical or sonic landscape in resonance with another human’s facial wandering through one of Bruckner’s sonic cathedrals. For me at least, this reading makes sense of the seemingly absurd situation of a ‘loud silence’ in Adagio. It expands what the piece means to me; it expands my appreciation of the facial facets of performance in general; and, perhaps most importantly, makes me excited to present this work for an audience of other thinkers, movers, and feelers who will undoubtedly respond to the piece in their own unique way.

Come and pour over Chen’s map at performances on 23rd April in London and 30th April in Manchester and let me know what you think afterwards. In the meantime, you can watch Chen alongside Clint McCallum and Ian Power as they perform Adagio in the video embedded above. And if you’re interested in giving my proposition of the piece a test, you may find it interesting to mute the video (to remove background hiss) and listen to some other music or sounds of your choosing while copying one (or all) of the performers’ facial expressions…

Or perhaps you’d like to try my proposition with this equally intriguing video made by Ensemble DieOrdnungDerDinge in preparation for performances of Chen’s Adagio in which they wander through an excerpt of Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra:

-Michael Baldwin