In a conscious effort I have really wanted to go against the pervading body of research into musical haptics, and in a hope to inspire much more research into acoustic musical instruments as the great tools of human expression they are. Artistically I have taken this to its logical conclusion in asking also other species, such as plants, to participate in human musiking. While this is a story in and of itself, I feel that the lowest and basest sense has been given a bad name, even when it has really been discovered in music and gaming. Yet the nature of touch, usually perceived in its dualistic form, pushes what has become known as haptics down utterly unsustainable paths of material expansion and consumption. Simultaneously my works like Sonic Independence reveal a body of research into the problems of sustaining economies by marking growth as pathological.1
My portfolio of original works consist of nine works all starting from the making of a musical instrument. Following the argument that the body, when it comes into contact with the musical instrument becomes a cassa di risonanza, in musical terms this could be called becoming sordino. As the audience amass to the instrument they change it’s timbre with their touch. In general the pieces suggest an aesthetic of presence, individuality, and modalities which are simultaneously experienced in a tangible place.
Fourteen Times In Touch serves as an introduction to the concepts of touch attention or skin-listening and the touch’s body of senses from the point of view of a silent-voice-instrument. It consists of fourteen text compositions written down in a booklet. These compositions ask the musician to perform certain touches and to pay attention to certain things in those touches.
Pickhammeraxe distances the body’s senses from the sounding touch through prosthetics and turns the everyday into a sounding surface by making noticeable the articulation of the environment with a tool. It consists of four jewel like instruments that are used like rings on the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger and the ring finger. These instruments are made from fake leather, wood-bark, string, and silver. To me it seems that pickhammeraxe is the beginning of a series of works where my audience, more or less, by coming to contact with my instruments become objects but also gain autonomy, or individuality with the instrument.
Trio brings us back to music’s body by consisting of slightly modified (but not extended) traditional notation. It consists of a score of traditional notation for three instruments. The notation mixes two main elements by which it is representing and directing the music.
Violino-Piccolo extracts a single instrument from Trio and exscribes the instrumental body out of the body of music in order to approach music from the distance. It consists of three material copies of the ¼ size violin. This three refer directly to the violin sonata form of Maurizio Cazzata. Each copy is made from different materials: paper, cardboard, and wood, and while looking the same they all sound and play different to each other and different to the original.
Heel opposes Violino-Piccolo, it looks at the detail at the moment when touch is extended at the beginning and how the body of touch’s senses disperses notation and mixes perceptions available for representation. It consists of three notational parts of a single action or fingering on the paetzold. This fingering includes touching the instrument with the heel: a graphic score which illustrates the feeling on the heel when touching the instrument; a metal tool that can be used to simulate the feeling of touching the hole of the instrument with the heel; and the instrument itself which acts as a notation of the composition.
The Land Singing takes a new start and extends the body proper to look at how the body of music and the body of touch can result in a music that is not bound to humans but that can include plants. It This piece consists of two wooden sound-boards that hang by guitar strings form large canvas resonators installed on the ceiling. On top of the soundboards are placed ceramic vases which contain plants.
Twang & Twang II (Seeding Tonality) take the string from the Violino-Piccolo and The Land Singing and extends its scale to alter its relations to the body and movement. So far this piece has two instances. Twang consists of a twelve meter long piano string and two wooden parts, a bridge and a tuning peg which is designed to wrap around a corner and which has a specially designed harmonic bridge that touches the string when it vibrates giving it a longitudinal signal as well as a vertical vibration. This string can be fingered against the wall. Twang II (Seeding Tonality) consists of a twenty two meter long piano string that is strung by a piece of wood and a piece of metal between two holes in walls in an abandoned theatre. The string is placed over a concrete hand rail and can be fingered on this rail or can be bridged with a sound board.
Sonic Independence alters music’s body completely and interrogates the sound that plants touch makes and whether humans and plants share something communicative in the body of touch’s senses. It consists of an area of eight to ten ares and currently of one hundred and fifty trees, and instruments where the musician can touch the trees and where the trees can touch instruments. The instruments act because by remaking them all the time they grow at the same time as the trees. Growing the players and the material, this again is a duality of objectifying the audience and giving it independence.
Valigia Avvolgente synthesizes all of the ideas I have worked with and combines touch’s body with music’s body so that the music and touch are represented by themselves as an instrumental body that affords its music in touch representation. It consists of five wooden boxes that each contain different materials like piano strings, nylon strings, metal bars, drum skins, metal sheets, marble toy, piano mechanism. Each box has one or two holes through which the musician can play the instrument inside and the surface of the box can be played by either hitting or by different touches.
APPROACHES AND CATEGORIES AS RESEARCH RESULTS
My approaches to the thematics which my research growth bloomed in were four themed categories, which in turn hold actions, relations, perceptions, and communication. This thematic modularity yields a synthesis of semantic elements by formalizing the process of their exchange in a three part structure where there are two categories and the one theme. The themes and subcategories are:
Touch and Instruments
BMI ---- Building and Making Instruments
PLI ----- Playing and Learning Instruments
RLI ----- Re-learning Instrument
MI ----- Modifying Instruments
T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, …, ----- Touching one instrument, or touching more then one instrument
PBS ----- Playing and building simultaneously
CT ----- Collaborative touch, touching instruments together
Touch and Relationships
TRM ----- Touch and its relation to music (the touch of music)
TRS ----- Touch and its relation to space
TRTI ----- Touch and its relation to time
TRO ----- Touch and its relation to order
TRW ----- Touch and its relation to writing
TRN ----- Touch and its relation to notation
Touch and Senses
WST ----- Watching and seeing touch
HLT ----- Hearing and listening to touch
TST ----- Tasting and smelling touch
TIT ----- Touching and imitating touch
PS ----- Playing the skin
SST ----- Speaking and saying touch
Touch In and Out of Discourse
TWF, TWS, TWD -----Touch as way-finding, stumbling, and discovery
TAA ----- Touch as Allegory
TA ----- The Touch of the audience
HRT ----- Historical research into Touch
RPTR ----- Retaking the poses and positions of seen touches as composition research
To demonstrate the form I will take keywords and exchange them in the form: Structure and Focus become those of Intimacy and Dis-agility and attaching this to a category of the first order Touching Instruments I am able to invent titles that talk about my free musical practice. To demonstrate how they become organized I have shown how the creation process is not smooth but sequential, one iteration leading to another iteration:
Intimacy and ableness in Touching Instruments
- Making Musical Instruments Healing with Prosthetics
- Psychology of Success: Defying death and injury in ropeless free-climbing and soloing through instrumentalizing touch memory.
- Copernicus’ Dilemma: grasping the planets image as a relation motion while destroying the narration of their story
- Henry Moore: The Feeling of Music, (research based on Henry Moore archive in Leeds)
- Focus rather than form as a defining aspect in tactile musical structure
- Playing music to others senses
- Listening alone to your own body playing
- In a hit, is sound faster to the ear through the air or through the body?
- Notation as figure rather than representation
- Designing musical instruments with touch
- What does the touch of Exeter Cathedrals’ musical miserecords sound like? Touch as a methodological approach to sonifying the postures and poses of sculpted musicians.
- Prosthetics and Religious Observance: Tefillin and Mezuzah as a Spiritual Prosthetic method.
This mapping reveals how and where in the act of performing the body of music I have defined with my categories are the most intense parts of my musical portfolio. In order to make clarify this point fully, I would call them the pieces loudest points. This distribution in the form of music is different for each piece. For example, in Trio the mapping shows how the making of the notation was an intense point, while the act of touching the instruments together was less intense. While demonstrating my methodological process of musical construction, it simultaneously directs the attention towards the place where indeed, the instruments to be used in the performance of Trio will be touched together, say while loading them into the car. But I think my research is important not just because I have found an interesting way to combine thematic materials to yield interesting research topics that imaginatively combines sound and touch.
THE AESTHETICS OF MIXED SIGNALS
What to me is equally interesting is the artistic practice in the rare field that cross-disciplinarily applies ideas that have circulated in electronic music, in a way that makes sense in acoustic music and in this way that speaks to the orchestral body of music in which the most intense reading, in the perceptual sense, of music happens. This is because, as Adorno argues, the orchestras historical origin remains palpably implied long after music has broken from any collective practices. Polyphonic music says “we” even when it lives uniquely in the imagination of the composer without ever reaching another living person. But the ideal collectivity that music still carries in itself, though separated from the empirical collectivity, enters into conflict with music’s inevitable social isolation and with the expressive character that is imposed on it by this isolation. The quality of “being heard by many” underlies music’s objectivation, and when music’s being heard is obstructed, the objectivation is necessarily degraded almost to something feigned, to the arrogance of the aesthetic subject who says “we” whereas it is still only an “I” and is indeed actually unable to say anything at all without also positing a “we.”1
This collective origin is the myth of music, and its interruption can be seen in the institutional location of the orchestra, the organisational structure of which is rigid, hierarchical, and integrally related to power. The orchestral community, if it in fact has ever functioned as Adorno suggested, has failed its original social function in participating in the structural myth of society. In Nancy’s terms, ‘[t]his is what constitutes the interruption: “myth” is cut off from its own meaning, on its own meaning, by its own meaning. If it even still has a proper meaning.’2 This hierarchical and rigid structure of power is precisely that which my Ark of Seeds aims at dismissing by creating an orchestra, or ensemble, that is more like a dynamic network ‘acquiring and losing nodes and ties, developing and reconfiguring clusters all the time’.3 This arises on my part through the influence of Antonio Negri, and his concept of multitude: what emerges from this is a self-organising network community.4 In my works I create instruments specifically designed to interrupt the tactile habits of an individual. I use the aesthetics of touch music to cut them off from the structural myth, while the instruments, as score, act as the blade in this process, to produce what I would call a ‘[l]anguage […] out of dispersion’.5 The individual stops being the mythical individual in society and remembers the music through the instruments and their agency to interrupt themselves. She becomes the musician touching the edge of the instrument. Even when she has never used a bow she knows what to do with it without explanation.
Figuring an instrument in touch with the body forms a body of knowledge that is unfamiliar to any instrumentalist. These touches are new touches, they can be extended to include wider swaths of skin be extending the figure throughout the topology of the skin. This way, the act of playing becomes similar to that of making because the instruments touches throughout its lifetime are included in the music.
1 Theodor W. Adorno, Philosophy Of New Music, trans. by Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), p.18.
2 Nancy, The Inoperative Community, p.52.
3 Rodrigo Nunes, Organisation of the Organisationless: Collective Action After Networks (PML Books, 2014) <http://www.metamute.org/sites/www.metamute.org/files/pml/Organisation-of-the-Organisationless.pdf> [accessed: 15 November 2016]
4 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004).
5 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. by Gayatri Chkravorty Spivak (London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p.232.