3.1: Introduction to the Interpretations

(Photographs: Agata Urbaniak:

The lines of the kinship chart join up, they connect, but they are not lifelines or even storylines. It seems that what modern thought has done to place - fixing it to spatial locations - it has also done to people, wrapping their lives into temporal moments. If we were but to reverse this procedure, and to imagine life itself not as a fan of dotted lines - as in Darwin’s diagram - but as a manifold woven from the countless threads spun by beings of all sorts, both human and non-human, as they find their ways through the tangle of relationships, in which they are enmeshed, then our entire understanding of evolution would be irrevocably altered. It would lead us to an open-ended view of the evolutionary process, and of our own history within that process, as one in which inhabitants, through their own activities, continually forge the conditions for their own and each other’s lives.

(Ingold, p.3, 2007)

Throughout this research project, performances of the score upon its formative instrument – the modular synthesiser – were held approximately every four to six weeks.  Each of the 15 or so performances[i] sought to engage with the themes of this research: site, temporality, shared space, responsibility, expectancy, emergence, resonance and community.  A practice initially based upon scoring abstract movements across a synthesiser evolved into a more holistic approach to space in general, involving not just playing music but exploring, sounding, or highlighting the resonant qualities – stonework, audience members, found materials – of its site of performance.  Passages were introduced that pertained directly to elements of the physical environment (“the curvature of the ceiling, the number of steps from the street to the door”) and its community (“a private note for the lady at the back”), designed to be explored either physically (as instructions) or emotionally (as themes).  In practice, this involved incorporating objects and actions into the event of performance, often with a view to critiquing the emotional, cognitive and physical participation that already takes place within the ritual of a musical performance. 

Ingold’s concept of line-making was fundamental to my practice, synonymous with a practice concerned with the movement of a performer through their community.  To consider performance as a form of line-making in this way, not only prioritises the movement – and by proxy the distance – between the participants in the art-event, but equally reifies the act of cognition rather than knowledge itself.   As with wayfaring, the objects of the world - be they people or artworks - are only discovered in the instant of their resound, the mediated act of their communication.  Rather than dealing with pre-ordained, generalised knowns, line-making demands that destinations, outcomes, and ideals are given over in favour of a lived reality, in which “for the inhabitants, the line of his walking is a way of knowing. Likewise the line of writing is, for him, a way of remembering. In both cases, knowledge is integrated along the path of movement” (Ingold, p.91, 2007).  This knowing-as-movement is reflected equally by both the performer and the audience within my work.  In the first instance, the musician is required to physically move through and draw lines between otherwise distinct parts of the synthesiser, only producing sound[ii] (sense) by doing so. 

The score relies on a similar movement, with comprehension (sense) only occurring by the autonomous joining of numerous strands of thought in order to create new resonant potentials.  In the second instance, I sought to circumvent my audiences’ expectations, so as to avoid a critical engagement that amounts to no more than judging how successfully a work adheres to the terms of its genre.  Subtle, barely perceivable changes between musical materials (rhythms, timbres, frequency) were favoured over more clearly defined structural changes, scored physical movements were buried in non-descript acts (such as drinking from a glass or laughing), and associations raised but not followed through (via the incorporation of culturally significant pre-recorded material, texts, images, objects and so forth), with the conceptual links between the elements presented often wilfully obfuscated.  A tension was wrought between the manner of the work’s staging – a performance with a significant theatrical element, not least in its reliance on a physicality that existed beyond the requirements of its instrument – and the reality of a practice that seeks to obscure the significance of the acts of which it is comprised.

[i] Appendix C: Modular synthesis as a process of line-making, photographs (usb).
[ii] The modular synthesizer makes no sound until its distinct elements are physically patched together by the operator – lines are drawn via cables to link section to section, with the outcome – particularly in the use of pseudo-random modules (comparators, sample & hold, noise) – being unknown until the moment of its sounding.  While there exist sensible/traditional ways to patch a modular synthesizer, these pathways are by no means the only, nor most intuitive paths to follow.  Outputs can often double up as inputs, and paths can be split or influenced by additional voltages at will, offering new potentiality to any point within the audio chain.  Due to the complex nature of its module’s interactions – at once autonomous and co-dependent - it is rarely possible to return to a prior state with any precision.
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