days 16 & 17 @ sf

day 16 came and went without the numbers we needed to have the rehearsal. day 16 was deferred to day 16. In the event, day 16 was very odd.

Paul sat at the piano, Erika on a barstool: If there were a style we’re making a pastiche of, what would it be? This is the setting for the ‘song’ “fun at the soap factory” (pages opposite) Paul’s talking about. What had I in mind? Well, there are five lines in: 1) Guillaume Appolinaire’s “Suicide” set by Dmitri Shostakovitch in Symphony 14 (why? because “trois grands lys” sticks in my mind as a beautiful setting); 2) the cicada rhythm zero of Shostakovitch’s Symphony 15, at the end of the final movement, which for some reason always reminds me of Anton Chekhov’s minimal human activity, a sort of entropic (and pathetic, empty-cherry-orchard) humanity, a propos here; 3) the rhythmic turnarounds of The National’s “Fake Empire” on their Boxer album; 4) Kurt Weill’s blend of the bar room, the Biedermeier and the broken rhythms and dissonance of a popularised (socialist) high avant-garde; and 5) the Colony Room Club singalongs around the piano if there were such things and a piano at the Colony Room in the 1950s in Soho (although we know of Sod (nee Edomie) Johnson’s, who was also known as “the buggers’ Vera Lynn,” club nearby [The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Daniel Farson, p. 41]). Paul composed, being brilliant, and we watched, Anja saying she felt herself privileged to see this writing process in action. day 16 was odd because at a certain point the various actions diverged. Erika and Barney wrestled. Then Anja and Barney improvised these sort of sexualised shapes of a frustrated familiar, the Ida character, the K. character ignoring her Felice-like advances. This last was leading and interesting but I still don’t know entirely what it means.

The Ida character we decided needed the force of her sexuality to come through, her frustrated sexuality. She needed an answer beyond the passivity of her spectre-like presence as the forgotten character: how to make the lack of dialogue, which is a theme for the actors, work for the dancer theme; the gestural (anticipatory) anacting becomes spectral in the dance but in so doing the effect on the dancer as character is to make her (in this case) a sort of repository for the unexpressed between actors – regardless of their characters – and therefore gender her passive, play into the cliche of the lifted, pulled, pushed, killed, fucked female Classical dancer. Give her sexuality – not a gift, balls, an erection – and what happens.

day 16 this was the thinking but I think now as I did at the very outset of considering the dancer theme that there has to be some other point of view she provides, some other eye on the proceedings of which she is a part. I’ve got no idea how to get there and the best clue I’ve got on how to get there is her laughter in her interaction with the actors … something that has to be worked back from in order to arrive at how it works, counteractualised. Really, I suppose, I want to synthesise the conditions that give rise to this involuntary joyful and optimistic laughter. As usual it is the wholly fortuitous which holds the greatest interest. So, let us return to Francis Bacon. And Gilles Deleuze.

Sick of the hollow ironic laughter. Look at the dancer.

day 17 we are at Paul’s scoring the song: the sun is shining on the bay and Paul says, I might vomit at the inadequacy of these chords, these notes, this lack of a power to pull me out of cliche. Very like Bacon. Out of the rehearsal environment there’s nothing to bring the process of musical composition back to performance, to his performance. Hence a performance anxiety, awful, with Erika and I sitting on his shoulder. We shudder along and sketch out the eclectic borrowings which might make a musical structure. And it becomes a question of choosing the patch-work over a straight composition in D major, say. Don’t know. But we get through. The harmonic language begins to gel. A B goes down to an A, a two octave slide, to a low A. We discuss hemiola. Talk out the rhythm. Igor Stravinsky keeps calling. But you know nothing dates a piece less than its references.

You know also strategies of appropriation and ironic distanciation, working at something like an n+1 dimension, mock the idea of a whole with the mutiny of its parts. And these parts claim for themselves the autonomy of having histories and dates such that they cannot have imposed upon them a sense in excess of what they already possess, a modernity of which they will already have taken possession. It’s this previousness, this pre-supposition of modernity which makes postmodernity date so quickly, so badly.

The over-reaching of modernity in postmodernity is a semantic precursor to the same movement. Yes, there’s a dimension to be overcome but it’s already immanent – as the future – in the reference to the past. It never arrives, having had its arrival in its beginning, in its expropriation from a context deemed past but in fact present, to the work – as present as a question mark. So the imposition of sense on a work aware of its references, its polemic, its ‘internal’ argument with referentiality, does not mean an imposition from the outside, from the now, onto materials gleaned from the then, whether such materials form a whole or not (whether they are ‘digested’ or ‘incorporated’ or not). The compromise with found materials exists insofar as an extradimensionality is inferred from them, which, in the case of the contrast between postmodernity and modernity, is temporally overdetermined, signifiant.

The problem of a past that supervenes in the present by asserting its futurity is not the same problem as that of the work in its identity with its time or that of its adequacy to its time. But do the identities and adequacies or inadequacies of works and images nest into their time, entrain? Is the problem then the problem of the self-identity of a time? a time being given a certain character? Or can we say that the problem and those that nest into it lies in the relation of a given character of a time and the passage of characters through it? Wouldn’t we thus avoid the essentialism of even those essences, like postmodernity, which subsist sous rature but seek to prevail nonetheless, and those types of relation which form – and perform – hierarchies before they generate events?

You may know these things but Paul in a later conversation confides it’s because he takes music so seriously that putting his composition out there turns his stomach. He says, I’m inured to the nakedness I have when performing, as an actor. But he lacks similar defenses writing music, similar self-defenses. And this is where the idea that you can write in character comes in. What else is finding one’s voice – as a writer, a poet, a composer, an artist – than settling for less, for the alterity of a recognisable, dependable and, above all, identifiable character in which to write, versify, compose, consist? Formal constraints inform a character. And there would have to be a whole theory – of individuation and morphogenesis – of character to which lack of character would not be opposed. Character, once it ceased to show good character, would be an answer to the problem of identification, but more so, perhaps, an answer to the problem of incorporation. The mask to the skin.