Manfred Werder sent me an email I had written to him about a six-hour project called No Meaning from 2002. Here are the details of the project:
- Date: Saturday, June 8th, 2002
- Location: Roof of 74 Varrick Street, New York, NY
- Trombone: Craig Shepard
- Electric Guitar: Tom Crean
- Contrabass: John Eckhardt
- Composition: stück 1998 by Manfred Werder
- Curated by: Craig Shepard
- Presented by: Mark Shepard, AndInc.
- Mike and Dave Geres, recording engineers
Here's the email:
June 10, 2002
Getting back to work after a lazy Sunday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Getting things organized, thinking about the project and what I need to do for performances coming up. I like this work.
The project went well. I think the roof-top and the presence of the ambient traffic noise set up a more open situation for the music. In order to get into the building, one comes through the main door and sees a program with a red arrow. A series of these arrows directs one to the roof. Stepping out onto the black tar, one sees about 8 green folding chairs, carpet squares (for people to lie down), three music stands, the recording equipment, microphone cables and microphone stands, 6 black pipes ventilating the building, and in the background a lower Manhattan skyline. In one corner is a table with CDs, small sandwiches, and things to drink.
Most of the audience felt free to move around, and some did, some didn't. Some took photos, one or two would get up to get a beer. During my performance was a very attentive audience. And I got a real sense of stillness. The sun was very bright and a little hot. The hour breaks in between were nice. People talked, got something to eat, caught up with one another, asked about this and that.
During the second performance, the sun was going down, and by the end it was fairly dark. The cooling off of the city brought in some wind, which you can hear on the recording. Some people came in who weren't into the performance, did not respect the music. It's strange, no matter how loud the background sounds, or how quiet someone is, you can always hear when someone is disrespecting the music. In this way, the listeners are very important in this music. I think this opens up a question/problem to be worked through. In what situation can one encourage real, deep listening?
My trombone playing was very good. Tom played great. He found this clear sound on a Fender Stratocaster with a tube amp. His atmosphere was present without being imposing. It was interesting how much of the personality of the three players came through in this performance. Tom chose a 3 1/2 octave range. His volume level balanced that of the traffic and you could hear him all over the space. My volume was a little lower than the ambient noise and you couldn't hear it all over the space which made for some interesting situations. People said they thought they heard the trombone everywhere, even when it wasn't there.
John chose a 5 octave range. What was interesting is when his rhythm was really good, the rhythm created a silence. The tones were just there. It's when he stopped that I became aware of his playing. His tone and dynamic were beautiful too, and created a 10 meter circle of audibility. I positioned myself just at the edge of this, so a lot of the tones I didn't hear. Halfway through John's performance, a group of people came in who were headed out to the bars. I was really there, but they brought me out of the moment. Others there noticed it too. Unfortunate.
Mike Geres and Dave Geres were amazing. They have a nice personal approach to sound and great ears. Very supporting without getting in the way. We had some great conversations about sound and how one lives with sound. I am anxious to hear the recordings.
Overall I think the project was successful on a number of levels. The performances were strong, the recording added a dimension to the piece-it was clear that someone was listening. The situation worked very well.
One thing that came up is that the time of day is very important. I don't think having a performance from 10 to 11 encourages active listeners. That's a time that people go to bars. Bar music is often designed to be ignored. I wonder what would happen if the project was, say, Sunday morning from 7 until noon. What kind of listeners would come out for that?
We have some documentation, and we can start thinking about that when I get back. Mark Shepard is talking about making a page on the ANDinc website for this project, and I think he has some questions for you.
For me it's amazing how much stück 1998 has to give, and I am even more curious to see how it works in a train station, with people who aren't listening.
The piece really operated as a frame which invited people to be present in the moment. It's interesting, very few people commented on the music. A lot of people commented on how they had never heard sound like that before.
Some listeners knew the space very well, had been to parties and installations there, and said they had never heard the sounds that they hear every day like they had that night. I think your idea of having no meaning was very very successful, and it was very compelling. It was almost as if the piece didn't exist and at the same time, the experience would have been impossible without it.
peace and joy,