(In a Forest of Signs)

APPENDIX I: Future iterations

In addition to the work mentioned thus far, the score has been used, and continues to be used, in a number of contexts beyond the main remit of this research.  These have included a solo saxophone performance held over two days at the I Don’t Know Where We Are Going But It Sure Sounds Nice exhibition,[i] a structured walk around the Isle of Wight, a piece of live performance art, performances by a musical quartet, and as the basis of a forthcoming exhibition series. 

In the first instance, the saxophonist Colin Tully used the score as a means of contextualising and bridging existing musical material.  Although their practice was based on traditional Celtic-folk forms, the score encouraged them to expand their technique to include a number of elements rarely explored in their day-to-day practice - over-blowing, multiphonics, drone, and physical manipulation of the instrument, such as removing the reed altogether, or playing the keys percussively.  Pragmatically, the performer's approach was to take the whole score as one large, continuous work.  The performance took place in an art gallery, where the pages of the score were hung on large sheets upon the walls – allowing the performer to not only perform any section in any order, but to physically move throughout the space as they did so.

The structured walk, by comparison, involved a single score card chosen at random, followed by a period of study by its performer, Layla Tully. The text was broken down into various actions, and applied to what little was already known about the surrounding area.  Decisions were made as to the route to be walked, and the length, based upon the intersection between the text and prior experience of the environment – words such as ‘threshold’ were linked to the position of local buildings, whereas descriptions such as ‘arc’ or ‘double-back’ would be treated as much more literal instructions to locate the walker in their environment.  In turn, their path was augmented by relating the materiality of the environment (such as the discovery of glass or hay) with similar descriptions within the score - opening up further interpretations of the text that could then be applied to speed, direction, and intent.

The performance artist Duncan Harrison chose a single page of the score, using it as the basis for a 45-minute performance.[ii] Literal interpretations of the text (open a window) were mingled with more abstract responses, such as critiquing perceived ethical assumptions within the text.[iii]   In order to delegitimise the contours of the performance space, the performer undertook a pretend sound-check, before pressing play on a tape player containing recordings of the pub beneath the venue, and going home.  Aware that he was well-known within the community that was his audience (it was a monthly night in Brighton, at which the performer plays regularly), the performer instigated the ‘short reflection’ specified in the score by leaving the space set up so as to suggest his return – resulting in an awkward 40-minutes in which his audience shivered by the open window, staring at the spines of three books left upon the empty stage and listening to the loudly amplified recordings of the people downstairs. 

These one-off versions aside, the Line-making score continues to be used in a number of ongoing performative contexts.  The Distant Animals quartet[iv] was a group comprised of violin/guitar (Kev Nickells), French horn/violin (John Guzek), organ (myself) and electronics (Barnabas Yianni).  Although initially formed as a means of observing how the score might be interpreted without any input from myself as the author, I found that I could best document others' responses to the score by acting as a ‘silent’ member of the group, allowing the three other players to make the vast majority of the critical decisions, with my role being to help smooth out any problems in understanding the score and adjusting it where necessary.  The performers picked 11 pages from the score that were turned into 8 short musical vignettes. Two cards would be selected for each rendition, with the performers choosing to perform from one, both, or neither cards on offer.  As with other interpretations, some text was used in a literal manner - to indicate the number of notes to play (“eleven”), the nature of changes over time (“a waning of spirit or deterioration of ________ such as is found in weather more than people”), or where to hit the body of the instrument (“into the flesh, along the box, cleaner than a whistle”).  In contrast, other sections were used to inspire more abstract responses, such as ‘there have been xx seconds since our last theft’, which involved the electronics player manipulating a recording he had made several years earlier of the violin player in a different context.  As he played it back, he orchestrated a call and response between himself and the violin player who, having ‘stolen’ the French hornist's horn, was attempting to mimic his earlier, long-forgotten playing on a new instrument. 

[i] Appendix B: I Don’t Know Where We Are Going But It Sure Sounds Nice exhibition photographs (usb).
[ii] Appendix D: New Communions, Duncan Harrison photographs (usb).
[iii] In particular, the performer took exception to the following section - “a short reflection upon the fact that those on the outside have as much right to be here as any of us that their voices carry through the walls and if they don’t they should”, explaining that he was fundamentally opposed to the idea that art should contain any form of social function.
[iv] Appendix D: New Communion, The New Comunions Quartet photographs (usb).
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