Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-08-13 - 9:35 a.m.

I drove to Loughborough in the late afternoon up the M42 and then across country over to Charnwood Forest - the wild country that the M1 goes over before it crosses the River Trent going North. The place was quite easy to find. It was a meeting of people from the Manufacturing RnD centres in UK Universities mostly. Effectively the same group of people who went to the Milan event last December which conveniently coincided with the Laurie Anderson retrospective.The host is John from DTI and he had some interesting things to say about whats going on there at the moment. The net effect was that overnight I dreamed that I still worked there – but I slept much later into the morning – at last getting off the Lycian time cycle.

There was a good dinner with interesting conversation and I ended up trying the Kawai grand piano – Making Whoopee, Nightingale in Berkeley Square, Funny Valentine etc

In case there was an odd moment in I downloaded an e-magazine – First Verse – about Cindy Sherman by Lauren O Neill Butler . I went to a Sherman retrospective last summer at the Serpentine and when I saw the Anderson in Milan it gelled – also with the Bill Viola at the National Gallery. These are all NYC artists who adopted expensive hi-tec to pursue their vision in the 80s and 90s – partly thanks to corporate sponsorship from the likes of SONY and Microsoft.

The Sherman article links with two people that I read on holiday – Judith Butler and Rosalind Krauss. Butler is professor of rhetoric at Berkeley and has developed what is known as queer theory – a block of theory which looks at how language is used inclusively/exclusively and performatively. It is linked to Derrida, Foucault and De Leuze. One can start with the observation that the term “queer” used to be perjorative but that this has now reversed – queer and proud of it. I took a book of her essays away with me to Lycia.

Rosalind Krauss was one of the key figures in the art critical magazine Artforum and I read an oral history of how this mag engaged with art debates in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Two of the key figures – Krauss and Michelson went on to start their own mag in the 70s – October. Krauss has ended up as professor of art criticism in Columbia on Manhattan and Michelson a prof somewhere else.

One of the incidents that helped close Artforum was when Linda Benglis bought an advert and used the space for a photograph of her nude and oiled holding a dildo to her crotch pointing outward. Nowadays this looks like an entirely legitimate art-gesture but it caused a great furore at the time and the editors of the magazine wrote a letter to their own journal. In fact if Tracy Ermin were now to do a Benglis gesture we would all yawn rather than fall off our chairs in outrage.

The net effect of all this reading in Lycia was that I ended up writing a poem about two of the other guests using imagery from Benglis and the Artforum and Lycian mythology – also playing with the name Butler as the B in WB Yeats. Maybe I will quote from it in a later entry.

The meeting at Loughborough was good value – you can’t help wonder about the EC, though. Even if you try to be absolutely neutral, suspicions float to the surface.

There was some e-mails from Peter who is doing the sound at the MM event on 21 August – he knows Colin the bass player in the original Kirby band who I have mailed at Larry’s suggestion.

Lawrence phoned and I told him about some of my thoughts on Arykanda and also on paunch theory – a kind of Butler adaptation that I am working on.

Meanwhile here’s some news about the Well Tuned Piano:

LA MONTE YOUNG & MARIAN ZAZEELA

The Well Tuned Piano in the Magenta Lights

(Just Dreams)

Although he has been concentrating primarily on creating his own obsessively refined music for the last 40 plus years, La Monte Young began performing at Fluxus events in the early-'60s among other luminaries such as Yoko Ono, George Brecht, Dick Higgins and Alan Kaprow. At the same time, he gave rise to a new stylistic shift in music alongside his buddy from the west coast, Terry Riley, as well as such other pioneers of classical minimalism as Tony Conrad, Angus MacLise, Steve Reich, Charlemagne Palestine, and Philip Glass, just to name a few. Given the infrequency with which he performs his ongoing magnum opus, this may be the only chance many of us get to see and hear one of the 20th century's most stubbornly disciplined composers interpret his own work.

The Well Tuned Piano /was conceived in 1964, but due to the extremely particular circumstances needed to realize the project -- at least two weeks of tuning in the performance space prior to the concert -- it was only performed as a tape piece until 1974. Thanks to some serious funding, Young first had the chance to perform the piece live at a festival in Rome. Young has continued revising the piece for live performance at various times throughout his life. This recording takes place in 1987 on the Dia Custom Bosendorfer Imperial Piano that was custom built for the occasion of performing The Well Tuned Piano.

The piece generally consists of gradual rises and falls in density from quiet and sparse harmonics to dense rolling waves of overtones. Over the six-and-a-half hours, Young has ample time to explore the full range of dynamics available to him at the piano taking advantage of his instrument's capabilities through customized tunings using a system of just intonation which uses intervals from beyond the first seven harmonics commonly utilized in western tuning.

Not one for short attention spans, the piece systematically weaves its way through various interlocking chordal patterns over six hours, slowly folding in and on itself, each time revealing new directions. Technically speaking the DVD sounds absolutely fantastic and the visuals do a pretty fair job of documenting the performance, focusing primarily on La Monte Young at the piano documentary style, as well as Marian Zazeela's The Magenta Lights light installation that always accompanies the performance. And we even get a glimpse of the audience, already lying on the floor 30 minutes in.

This more affordable second edition of the DVD comes in a much nicer DVD case with a 40-page booklet detailing the history concepts and general circumstances around the piece as it has developed over the last 40-years. If you can foot the hefty price tag this is a highly recommended document of a seminal work that, due to its relative obscurity, has been written about probably far more then it's actually been heard.

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