Thursday, May 21, 2015
Growing out of my response to the review of my set at The Penthouse NQ a couple of posts back, and a longer discussion of whether it was 'disrespectful' that I haven't finished or posted yet, I've been thinking about what I want to explore next with Tear Fet.
Last year it was shortform improvs and quiet. Quiet meaning quiet vocal sounds, extended 'silent' passages, and small vocal and breath sounds amplified. Both of these remain areas I want to play with.
This year I'd like to develop my flexibility, and give some thought to my performances going forward.
Flexibility is easy to explain, and I have ideas of how to rehearse it. Put simply I want to be able to change pace, pitch, timbre, which elements of my vocal apparatus I'm using, basically almost any element or combination of elements in my voice much more quickly than at present.
That will mean rehearsing all the parts of my voice much more and strengthening them individually as well as practicing changes. I think I'm also going to have to identify (or create) tracks that I can use as templates to rehearse changes when I get to that stage.
Performance is a more complex problem. I'm interested in the embodied voice, in the physical aspects of it. Sometimes as a kind of abstract aural analogue of self-portraiture. At the same time I have significant problems with rock n roll cliche and the romantic myth of the unique individual (often male, often tormented) genius. The cult of self isn't very interesting, and gets in the way of the art.
I'm still not sure how to reconcile this. I guess it's time to head back to the videos and actual events of live art for some pointers. Dropping some vanity would help for a start though.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
That event was Gary Fisher's Noise Above Noise Residency performance featuring Gary, Helmut Lemke, and me. And to be fair to the review, at Disposable Dicta, the reviewer didn't much like what I had to offer. The review is well worth reading, and gives a very clear and fair analysis of how the writer viewed all the performances. I certainly agree wholeheartedly with what they wrote about Gary and Helmut.
Go and read the review, I'd also encourage you to stay there for a little and read some of the other stuff there.
Back to my ramblings. I decided to leave a comment, reproduced below, discussing my own unhappiness with elements of my performance.
Interesting take on the evening, thanks. I especially agree with you regarding Helmut and Gary's performances, which were very strong, and engaged with both making sound and listening to sound. Incidentally, it's Helmut Lemke rather than Lake, but that's a minor quibble.
Where I depart a little, obviously, is regarding my own performance. Minor thing first, Tear Fet is my performance identity, not the name of the piece.
I wasn't entirely happy with my performance, for reasons alluded to above: I felt that alongside two performers who both foreground listening and environmental sounds something more performative (and therefore running the risk of cliché) was going to suffer. There was also the additional risk inherent in improvisation that it might fall flat on its face, or just never work at all.
This was my second reason for unhappiness, the whole thing felt aimless for much too long. I did feel that after a while I managed to get some sort of form into it, and a couple of people seemed to like the performance. But they were people I know, and it's honestly more useful to have dissenting opinions.
And so onto my only real major quibble with your review. It comes here:
'each noise was a pale representation of a noise humans make in distress or in rawer moments in life. As my friend Amelia pointed out, it seemed disrespectful to people in real pain or struggle, that make noises such as this involuntarily.'
Some of those sounds were indeed exactly as you say slightly poor echoes of genuine sounds of distress (but also of pleasure, silliness, and various points in between, not to mention non-human sounds). Where I differ is in the view that this is disrespectful. Some of those sounds were derived from the very genuine distress of someone very close to me, and it took a great deal of thought and effort to make them. But I felt that it would be dishonest not to reflect them in my performance. I very strongly believe that art should face difficult situations, ideas and emotions. Whether that works is a matter of opinion. Obviously it didn't quite work for you, and you've articulated well why that is, and I respect that. I'm also absolutely certain others will agree.
More broadly, and trying not to explain too much, Tear Fet is still very much a work in progress. I am still developing my voice, my flexibility, my still limited extended vocal techniques as well as my singing. I'm also particularly struggling at present to develop a performance mode that I'm happy with. I don't want to fall into rock n roll cliché or cult of personality, both of which can be a risk when you put your voice and body front and centre of what you do. For instance I'd like to be able to switch between emotional registers, or even drop out of them altogether, without them being read literally as what I feel or am trying to express. I'd also like to fit more non-human sounds in there. But it's more than just the voice, it's the physical presentation, I have begun to wonder wearing a mask, or otherwise removing my physical presence from the equation might help. Or perhaps learning how do exactly what I currently do while remaining more static and impassive. All these questions and more are an ongoing negotiation.
There's much more to be said, but I may say it on my own blog when I finally get round to listening to my recording of the performance and posting it there. Thanks again for a clear and informative review.
If you have 19 minutes to spare you can listen to my performance below, and decide for yourself what you think.
I'd like to clarify a couple of points from my comment.
First, when I wrote, 'Some of those sounds were derived from the very genuine distress of someone very close to me, and it took a great deal of thought and effort to make them' it wasn't my intention to claim that my link to the sounds invalidated any criticism. I've seen that argument used too often to justify bad poetry. My point was that I was aware of the potential for offence, and that I made a conscious decision to make those sounds after a great deal of thought.
By the way, I suspect the sounds the author of the review thought were 'a pale representation of a noise humans make in distress or in rawer moments in life', were different from the sounds I had in mind.
Second, when I wrote, 'trying not to explain too much', I should have split that off into a separate point. In fact, I'm not even sure why that clause is where it is. What I meant, and should have said, was that I don't want to start explaining my influences, ideas, intentions and sources for my performance.
This is for similar reasons to the first point; if the piece doesn't work without subsidiary explanation then it just doesn't work. Or, it may not work for you, but may do for others.
There is an element of self-justification at work in the comment I left. I did want it to be obvious that the sounds made were not unconsidered, or just thrown down, even though improvised.
With all that said, I still forgot something that I'm not entirely happy about now that I've listened back to the piece. There's too much sound. I would have preferred more moments of silence, more (and longer) quiet passages, and more purely abstract sounds. But as I said in the comment, Tear Fet is an ongoing project, every performance, every recording is a learning experience. For that matter so is every warm-up and rehearsal.
And then there's that question of how to perform, how to present my work live. At present it's very meditative and internal. I'll have more detailed reflections on this at some point soon. I hope.