Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gaburo's Maledetto, Performance Report/sound files &...

Reposting this writeup here, with some further commentary, something I posted a month or more ago otherwise. Because last night was the first among (so far) 5 performances of Kenneth Gaburo's Maledetto to be performed thru the late winter. One of only a couple nice reprieves so far during this very bad, very sad month. Grandmother died last night during the performance, found out today... But on a conversely happy (or warming) note, it was beautiful to see so many people come out last night in the heavy rain, especially those who I worked with on this piece last year, the students who performed this work as their poets theater project for the semester. Many thanks to those who participated...

The program runs about an hour and a half, with our ensemble performing our own short works for about 30 minutes, then intermission, then Maledetto, which runs at about 55 minutes. Our short pieces are as various as our backgrounds: composer, poet/multi-media artist, theater / performance historian, students, alumni. Mine I'm still plodding along with and are 4 short pieces, two transliterations from my book just out, Occultations, 1 a riff on David Buuck's "Side Effect Master," and another from Hannah Weiner's The Fast. For Maledetto, since I'm Speaker A, and not a particular good version of it either, I am voicing a "lecture" (un-self-reflexively getting off on what amounts to the screwing of people by social orders--post-colonial capitalism--) that seeks to be undermined by the other 6 voices in various modes--round, choral fugue, etc. Speaker A does not stop & ranges from 70 words per minute to almost 300, often switching tempo abruptly and in synch or at odds, with the tempi of the other entities. So, if there's one thing I'm sure of, that I've discovered, it's that it's NOT a particularly good idea to take my allotted medications, many of them "downers" i.e., to do anything else than what I did last night, which involves taking the meds that keep me alive an hour later than scheduled. Which is fine. Some pain involved, a little seat o the pants, but that works well with the violent and non-self-reflexively boorish speaker that A is, the proverbial scholar-of-screws, the pedant who remains speaking, at various tempi, for a full hour lecture on the history, function, shipping sequence, and etc., of the screw (doubling as both noun and verb form). Or, the "endless screw" as, at one point, A calls a particular sub-set of this device AND (again, un-self-reflexively) social (& social-structural) action upon another.

Performance, which was a friendly crowd of about 100 here in Olympia, went well. This was our first audience, and was billed as rehearsal, which it certainly was, given that by no means did we (pardon the pun) nail it. But very happy with our progress decoding this difficult score. We'll see how things go in Eugene, or next stop, Saturday (performance for the annual Radical Philosophy Conference). A bit more about Gaburo the composer, from a prior post on the subject:

I'm working in concert with six others, including usual partners in crime Arun Chandra & Elizabeth Williamson, in crafting a performative panel discussion, principally for the 2010 Radical Philosophy Conference. This year's conference, in Eugene Oregon, is devoted to discussing violence, oppression & society. Broad set of issues, but narrowed thus (from the conference website):

With the US engaged in imperial wars around the globe and amidst the collapse of the most recent mode of global capitalism, we at the Radical Philosophy Association have found reflection on violence both timely and imperative. The theme for our upcoming Ninth Biennial Conference will, therefore, be “Violence: Systemic, Symbolic, and Foundational”. Unmistakably, violence shapes our social world. Oppressive systems are founded in and maintained through violent action. Capitalism demands and enforces conditions of starvation, brutalization, and alienated experience. Patriarchy thrives on the threat and reality of physical and sexual assault and pervasive psychological debasement. Racist and colonial structures demand occupation, enslavement, and incarceration.

We want to both riff of this rather full thesis and complicate it, composing as well as performing extant work that discusses a notion of violence as emerging from, a la Benjamin, lack or closing off of opportunities, access. Yet complicating that now widespread causal position. In Minima Moralia, Adorno notes that "every potential work of art is a crime to to be committed." Where, in performance, we hope to express that the inverse is also, especially currently, true: that every crime NOT committed is potentially a work of art.

In parallel with this conference we're working on Kenneth Gaburo's Maledetto, Lingua II. Which we all feel embodies the concerns and quasi-positions we're testing. This is the very piece my students last year performed for our poets theater week (at end of our poets theater/guerilla poetry class), and performed beautifully--so, bar is high. I actually liked my students' work on the piece better than I do Gaburo's own (1974) version, the very good (but a bit slow) version on UBU WEB. Still, both provide interesting contrast to the rehearsal tape excerpt I have here.

This piece for seven virtuoso speakers is challenging, and I'm loving it. The large score (which serves as prop during live performance) is something to decode, is deeply unconventional--a work of art in itself. Rehearsals are becoming reprieves. Of particular difficulty is the varying tempi needed to be kept in mind while syncopating the voices. The work itself is what we might call performed violence, and though Gaburo's work in cognitive research and linguistic expressionism (not to mention seriality and minimalism) might appear to be "purely formal" and (as I'd thought when I worked on this piece for the first time around) disembodied, Maladetto is rather deeply political and subtly embodied--embodied in the sense one might think of Beckett's Not I as embodied--the shorn body present in its absence or furious neglect.

Gaburo himself was a deeply influential (even if not well-known) composer who worked mainly out of the University of Illinois, though he also did crucial work with Lingua (also founding Lingua Press around this time) while at UC San Diego. A self-described feminist, Gaburo was an anti-war activist, an ecologist, as well as an instrumental member of faculty unionism in the 1970s and 80s. I read Maledetto as principally an anti-capitalism, feminist piece, a work in which six voices perform their own failure to undermine a main lecturer, a foil of a pedant expert in "screws" and "screwing," (this is my voice) the various glottal voicings of the other six under constant siege, in fact, oscillating between protest, complicity, and internalized resignation to their positions as bodies to be raped, voices to be made sublingual, or at least sub-cognitive, in effect sub-human. "To screw" thus becomes the metaphor around which several social planks driven turn. Of course, as an avant-garde composition, and a procedural piece, Maledetto is by no means didactic. Even here--the description I give regarding the work's concerns--is defying the work's invitation to say something not yet familiar or normative about social orders, contexts, and composition, sound, voice, etc.

So I think embodiment in and of this work, and Gaburo's work more broadly, needs be explored in ways I'm not sure it has yet. A very different piece of Gaburo's, RE-RUN, was composed after 20 hours of self-imposed sleep deprivation. Gaburo, not unlike myself for various pieces (in Occultations & Hospitalogy as series), explores both extremes and subtleties of bodily subjugation or vulnerability, corporeal practices' relation to compositional process and output. Why?

To get at that question, I'm now beginning to work on a piece for live voice and taped voice (2 channels) that hopes to read RE-RUN, or translate it, as text--to do a poetic reverse engineering on it. Never mind that my audio is not cooperating at moment. The lovely thing is that unlike many of my venues, this one in Eugene I have pictures of (sent graciously by the curators of the conference). This way scouting can be done, and the piece can utilize the aspects of the (very large) room. How we translate the tailored work for the ensuing tour becomes another problem--a good one to work on as (yikes) I prepare for teaching this week.

After Eugene we'll hit Seattle, Portland, and then, hopefully, SF. Then home to Olympia for a final performance.

Last, here is part 2 of the performance rehearsal excerpt of Maledetto, Kenneth Gaburo; where here polyvocalism is denser and I've plucked various parts I think you, dear readers/listeners, would find the most interesting. Check back here for upcoming performance dates.

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