The Crowds Have all Gone Home, Now: Chorally Yours xx
Prelude: “… to start a series: to make something …” (Ulmer)
A map, a drawing, through (a drawing-through, like a thread, of writing) writing, of a place vaguely remembered, where something happened that slips my mind. Still, if I tell you about the landscape and scribble a few lines (eight) and play you the music I heard there and … then perhaps I’ll know how to get back, if ever I need to.
Line one: “in the first variation, it curls up into a ball, then it weaves …”
My friend Suzy Treister gave me a book. It’s called Sheep’s Afternoon, a book of poetry by Kazuko Shiraishi, with etchings by Suzy. I love this book. Here’s one poem:
M i l k y  W a y
last night in Kitakami I went drinking with Kikuchi-san
we traced back 5,000 years
to the Sahara’s marvelous butterflies, people’s lives
we spoke of bones
and walls around houses
5,000 years from now
Kituchi-san and I will be
drinking potato wine in the Milky Way
as we gaze at the appearance
and disappearance of butterfly-like planets
but there will be no way for fossilized Kikuchi-san and I
to touch illusion and poetry
and the night before last
we traced back even 50,000 years
The companion etching is the outline of a butterfly -; balanced on what might be a small ladder -; which looks like a map; along each side of it is a row of bones, above it is a bone-like roof with a heart inside each rounded end and the body of a butterfly in the middle, making the bone seem like another butterfly. This could be the way back, it could ‘do’ as my map. Still, at this moment I’m unsure whether this butterfly-map is drawn from above or below or ahead. Anyway, it’s all there at once, as is the white page. The white page is part of the map too. It’s not a map on a white page. The map (butterfly) looks like this (with my sites marked):
(I look at Suzy’s etching again, and see I’ve drawn the butterfly upside down, and drawn less bones (for example)).
Line two: “in the second [variation], it stretches out; and then it wakes up: it pricks, it knocks, it glows …”
Chora is the name of this space that I take (up) in-and-with writing, a live-space, which is not empty before I start, but murmuring. In remembrance, for time itself. I wonder why the music of Fila Brazillia (FB) sounds as it does, how it comes about. With its combination of beats, rhythms, laughter (‘Lieut. Gingivitis Shit’ on Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight), pulses, all electronically made. Why are there sharp and flat chords, and what lays over/under what. How is it there, present, simultaneously, equally. Is it quiet music, or loud. Does it really sound like a brass band one moment and an orchestra the next. “Timing is the skill of playing with silence, of distributing it cunningly, of hiding it so that the listener comes upon it with surprise and delight  - ; like the Russians hide painted eggs at Easter for the children to find. And in a story what is it that silence means? The unsaid, no?” (Berger) I’m writing about FB because they lead me up the garden path. They lead me into silence which is sound, like writing is silent (and makes silence) while still writing. It lead me to small forests and clearings, and to voices that stay amongst the notes. And it seems baroque, not afraid of melody. “Often too it’s [silence] marvellously there inside a sentence. “When I lie in bed in the evening I think ever and ever of money and of Kate Creevy.” It’s the unsaid that makes this sentence go on twisting in the mind.” (Berger) FB’s music stretches out (and twists) like this, in the ‘scene’, in the space of listening. While a busy fast drumming/beating goes on, two notes are repeated, plus a short bass guitar riff, and a winding/unwinding sound, and other sounds (‘Hell’s Rarebit’) - I can’t pick them all, I hear overall, while they are still all separate, somehow falling apart, or about to. An array, fragments together, close, and beautiful. Perhaps it’s left-over music. Music gathered from remains. A furtive joy, when it’s too late, abandonment is done (is complete), and an awful glow fills the heart. So, this is what it feels/looks/ sounds like … FB’s ‘Rustic Belly flop’ is this event, a plane of calling  -  which turns into another event, where voices are treated like found objects (used, abused, broken, etc), and a hiss, like a whisper, consistently forms another a beat (as if it might have a secret to tell).
Line three: “in the third [variation], it rises, it extends: aufgeregt [excited]
An emergency frightens me. An emergency is sudden, unexpected (this is ‘enslogic’, while trying to keep ‘slog’ as itself, as a word, that is), an emergency ‘crops up’ (an ‘emergency man’ was (in Ireland) a bailiff’s officer, recruited for special service, especially eviction). A war is an emergency. So is an accident, or a heart attack. Every attack is an emergency. Whereas to ‘emerge’ is to rise, to come up out of the liquid in which one has been immersed, or, generally, to come into view: from the mist a figure emerged. In FB’s ‘Heat Death Of The Universe’ the ‘tune’ emerges from a light tapping-like sound, it comes (arrives) into hearing. Derrida on Joyce: “An aimless wandering, a random trek, led me one day to the passage … in the course of which Bloom names “the coincidence of meeting, discussion, dance, row, old salt, of the here today and gone tomorrow type, night loafers, the whole galaxy of events, all went to make up a miniature cameo of the world we live in” … The “galaxy of events” was translated into French by “gerbe [‘sheaf’] des évenéments,” which omits the milk and therefore the milky tea that runs through Ulysses, turning it into a milky way or “galaxy”.” (Derrida)
The ‘e’ here acts upon ‘merge’. From the diving into, from the dipping, sinking, bathing (from sub-merging) one emerges. The emergency brings us to the very surface of ourselves. We, our bodies, yield, to the immediate enveloping matter. We must turn, run, assist, hide, scream, retreat, quieten. The emergency is never finished. It survives, is memorized, frequents the cells, makes skin crawl. Brings fever. Writing, is this fever. There is no recovery. One sinks to the bottom. Then comes the ‘emergency’. Pack your bags. Remember (to take) the map. Otherwise, make a map … not a merger.
Line four: “in the fourth [variation], it speaks, it declares: someone declares
himself …”
John Hassell: “If you have a constant background like a drone, you can project your own nervous system against that background. You become aware of listening high, listening low, listening foreground, listening background … When you’re playing for four hours and you’re trying to tune up perfectly on various intervals, occasionally it happens that out of those four hours you might get ten minutes when everybody’s in tune. Then you feel the floor begin to lift. You hear this wonderful crystalline world happening in the overtones. People are slightly off, and then you’re getting these combination tones, as they struggle to reach the same pitch, so there’s this incredible silvery world going on out there. Some music is not recordable.” (Toop)
The floor begins to lift, there’s a silvery world out there.
Time goes slowly (time is so old). Linking like scent. Sampling. Keep it open, said John Cage. Syllables. I’m listening for footsteps. It’s dark, already. It’s cold. Anticipation. It’s likely, no-one will arrive, the map will fail. Even though I told them about the pink lakes (on the left) and the inland sea (on the right). It might be that “a soft breeze” put them off. Or an “azure sky”. Or is Hull too far away. FB live in Hull. This music is called “downtempo or chill-out music”. Descending (submerging) music. Gently, so that it seems ascending (opera samples ‘glued’ to a slow house beat”. Sweet flow + heat, “… something hyper-subtle that flickers between dance beat and jazz breaks, zonked-out electronics and tight instrumental solos and continual shifts and morphs between whole worlds of sound.” (Marcus)
Line five: “in the fifth [variation], it showers, it comes undone, it shudders, it rises: running, singing, beating …”
“Here in the dark you come upon a fusion of the unsayable and the invisible. It sounds tricky that, tricky and vague. But it isn’t. Because it’s all tattooed on the imagination, point by point, with a needle of longing.
“And if you don’t think about a book, and you think about a tune? The unsayable, the invisible, the longing in music, they all become clear. They are what music is about.” (Berger)
I wait: listening to FB’s ‘Serratia Marcescens’ on   - Old Codes New Chaos  -  the story of involuntary LSD tests on US Troops.
The body is never still. Some bodies are everywhere. Barthes calls Schumann’s (or, the Schumannian body) “a stunned body (intoxicated, distracted, and at the same time ardent). It sounds electric. A body, a music, which is of (in/en) the ‘intermezzo’. The intermezzo, he writes, keeps discourse from “returning obediently into the culture of development … At the limit, there are only intermezzi: what interrupts is in its turn interrupted, and this begins all over again. One might say that the intermezzo is ‘epic’ (with the meaning Brecht gave this word) …” (Barthes)
Do I, will I, flinch. Is to-flinch to-read. To be running and singing. To feel the heart beat. To be inside that beat, to think of a word. To fold the word into the beat. Yet to keep going, writing the word-folds one by one. An incessant movement: the chora. An architectural practice, there are always complications. Where to begin (for instance), how to end. Folding: a reading, an encounter, texture. Now, the map  -  the butterfly, the bones, the ‘Milky Way’  -  is far off. Blown apart perhaps. Only because lines are separate, available for exclusion, inclusion. Even here, form is favoured, implicated, worked. An architectural practice of chance. “Deleuze distinguishes two ways of playing the game of chance  -  the one determined by pre-existent rules, and the other “that always includes the possibility of new rules; and to play the game one must thus, in making each move, affirm all of chance at once.” (Rajchman)
And so, there is no absence before writing. No writing from nothing. Just the continuum of the chora, like the ‘pre’. Writing: always (the) writing (of) the pre, the writing before the writing: lots of lines, lines in the midst of things. Things, that we inhabit.
Line six: “in the sixth [variation], it speaks, it spells out, what is spoken intensifies until it is sung …”
The music has finished, the house is still, almost. Slog: it’s been a hard ‘slog’. Slog: a spell of hard, steady work; a vigorous blow or hit. In boxing, a ‘slog’ is a wild punch. And to-slog is to walk heavily or doggedly. Slog (in a nutshell): to labour ‘away’. En-slog. The ‘en’ is a space, half the width of an ‘em’, which is a (square) unit for measuring the amount of printed matter in a line or on a page. En is also ‘on’, like en route, en suite. And there’s been trade, migration, between ‘a’ and ‘e’  - ; embush became ambush. There’s ‘enable’ and ‘enact’. En in French seems to mean ‘un’ or ‘in’ or ‘as’. En-slog, then, might be to-be in the midst of labouring away. Working away. But where, how far away, toward or for what. Working for a song.
Line seven: “in the seventh [variation], it strikes, it beats …”
The beat of FB is one of panic, and one too of reserve or calm. Of an uncertainty that is interrupted, undecided. On the one hand the disaster is recognized, as ongoing, and on the other there is ‘life’, not a sign (of life), not an expression or a metaphor or a translation, just a thingness (of life; a tune, an object, a writing); a containment, self-sensing, which is fluid, given, relaxed, stealing, sleeping. (“What does the body ‘do’, when it enunciates (musically)? And Schumann answers: my body strikes, my body collects itself, it explodes, it divides, it pricks, or on the contrary and without warning (this is the meaning of the intermezzo, which always comes ‘like a thief’), it stretches out, it weaves … (a)nd sometimes … it speaks but says nothing: for as soon as it is musical, speech … is no longer linguistic but corporeal; what it says is always and only this: my body puts itself in a state of speech: quasi parlando … this is the movement of the body which is about to speak …”) This oscillation counters indifference (the terror, the tragedy). Within a fabric, or texture, a consensus is not reached, homogeneity is declined, kindly, imperceptibly (almost).
Line eight: “in the eighth [variation], it dances, but also it begins snarling all over again, beating …”
Lines are planes. Ways of going away. “While recently ‘away’ writing and music merged … Trouble began.” The trouble was a low-level emergency, I suspect. A signal (a flashing light), like wanting to recall a name  -  in my case a place  -  and being mute, stumped. Writing is not music, writing is a lover of music. A lover of the layers of FB, of the thick ambience and the thin oceanic motion of repetitious notes, phrases, voices. A lover of ‘composition’, of beauty and harshness. There’s a lesson, a knowing, that comes with moving, with dancing, to the other’s actual medium, shape, intention.
“‘The hardest thing’ for Ronald Shannon Jackson to do in Betty Carter’s group ‘was to learn her arrangements, because you could be going along at a fast tempo and instantly change into a ballad.’ Moreover, within the same piece, ‘you might have to change from sticks to brushes or switch from playing bebop to a march-type thing.’” (Berliner)
Lispector does this in her writing  -  shifts writing’s stage, its ‘scene’, asks the reader to follow her, for the brief (slow, old) time of the text, to move with her, not with an acquired desire, but with ‘her’, whoever she might be at that time. At that time when ‘she’ writes: “Even though all she possessed within was that tiny essential flame: the breath of life. (I am having a hellish time with this story. May the Gods never decree that I should write about a leper, for then I should become covered in leprosy.) (I am delaying the events that I can vaguely foresee, simply because I need to make several portraits …” (Lispector)
I’ve come close to the end, to the end of the eighth line, to the end of what I imagine as a ‘score’ (lines one to eight), a country road, or a collection, an etching … “Music, then, is what struggles with writing.”
The music of FB is precise, but it cannot be translated into this, writing. The manner of its weaving, which is the weaving of all music, is beyond writing. Writing might be an intermezzo-continuum, whereas music might be a theatre-of-intermezzi. In the poetry of Kazuko Shiraishi there is a resemblance of this theatre-of-intermezzi. Not unlike, of course, the montage work of Burroughs, but different too, in that it carries an illusion of wholeness. The intervals are internal, as they are with Fila Brazillia:
A   R e d   B i r d  F r o m  K a l i m a n t a n
A red bird from Kalimantan,
hysterically standing upside down in the cage
you pick out good customers and bad ones
While the sky lets the heat of gold fall down.
with its overgrown leafy branches the big benjamin tree constitutes
the great shadow and the wind;
is it the ruin of a royal palace
or are we still within a dream?
The bird from Kalimantan can’t tell …
Linda Marie Walker
Gregory Ulmer, Lecture One, Chorography (a map), paragraph 5
Roland Barthes, Rasch, in The Responsibility of Forms, 1991 (on Schumann’s Kreisleriana (Opus 16; 1838) (The eight lines follow the opening of the essay: “In Schumann’s Kreisleriana …, I actually hear no note, no theme, no contour, no grammar, no meaning, nothing which would permit me to reconstruct an intelligible structure of the work. No, what I hear are blows: I hear what beats in the body, what beats the body, or better: I hear this body that beats.
Here is how I hear Schumann’s body (indeed, he had a body, and what a body! His body was what he had most of all:
in the first variation, it curls … etc.”
Kazuko Shiraishi, Sheep’s Afternoon, etchings by Suzanne Treister, 1997 (‘Milky Way’ translated by John Solt; ‘A Red Bird From Kalimantan’ translated by Tetsuya Taguchi)
John Berger, Preface, in I Could Read The Sky, Timothy O’Grady & Steve Pyke, 1997
Fila Brazillia, Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight, CD, Pork 045, 1997; Old Codes New Chaos, CD, Pork 014, 1994
Jacques Derrida, Ulysses Gramophone, in Acts Of Literature, 1992
David Toop, Ocean Of Sound, Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds, 1996
Tony Marcus,
John Rajchman, Folding, in Constructions, 1998
Paul F. Berliner, Arranging Pieces: Decisions in Rehearsal, in Thinking In Jazz, The Infinite Art of Improvisation, 1994
Clarice Lispector, The Hour Of The Star, 1992
Ensemble Logic