David Toop, Rie Nakajima, Angharad Davies and others performing Mieko Shiomi’s piece from 1963, Boundary Music.
Coming through the doors of a ground floor gallery at the Whitechapel, each member of the audience was shown into the centre of the space and encouraged to wander. When I came in I asked if this applied to the performance too, little knowing that the performance was already in progress. There was no stage but seats were spread around randomly. People sat around the edges of the space, some with paraphernalia spread before them, a couple holding conventional musical instruments. A single floodlight on a stand illuminated the centre of the space but around the walls edges and corners became indistinct. Some of the performers were already engaged in making sounds and moving through the room. Someone walked around carrying a set of chimes, another was positioning lights under tissue paper and setting off small battery driven motors. Gradually each performer began to engage with the instruments or with the room like sleepers waking. Movements, gestures, sounds were all marginal, almost tentative. As the room filled up the blurring of audience with performance increased. The sounds of chairs being moved, the brief cry of a baby, murmured conversations all merged with the intentional micro-sounds of the piece. At one point I moved my foot across some piece of metal on the floor and another audience member turned round expectantly as if this too was part of the work. One of the performers peeled an apple and handed out the slices, another offered small wooden boxes and then, minutes later would wordlessly retrieve them. One person filmed throughout, many others took photographs but none of these actions were intrusive. At the time there seemed to be no obvious structure to the performance and it was truly immersive with participation enacted through the mere act of being there. Reading the score afterwards I realise that it is all structure…an instruction so simple that each sound and movement falls within the framework.
The piece ‘ended’ as it had begun, without anything to mark its edges. The sounds trailed off, some of the audience drifted out, performers began to pack their stuff away. No applause, no announcement. ‘Boundary Music’ is, in effect, still being performed.
Making drawings as I moved around I felt as if these too were part of the work. I usually edit the drawings in these posts but in the spirit of the piece I have included all 25 of the drawings I made here. Speaking to David Toop in the space later he talked about the possibility of failure that is inherent to the work. I found myself wondering how failure might manifest itself here, what imbalance might occur between the various participants and how we would recognise it.
Two startling nights at Cafe Oto. The first in the Project Space billed as an acoustic set and the second in the cafe with Russell Haswell. On night one KH’s performance was preceded by an announcement concerning the vocals: ‘..these are part of sound rather than actual singing.’ The ‘songs’, that book-ended instrumental improvisations, included versions of ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Cosmic Dancer’ and ‘Strange Fruit’. Night two included a dense, spatial solo set by Russell Haswell, a complex duo and another episodic collection of solo improvisations with more ‘songs’ from Haino. On this occasion he was introduced thus: ‘he’s a music machine and a singer.’ This time round the selection included ‘Yesterday’, ‘People are Strange’, ‘Song to a Siren’ and, once again, an extremely unsettling rendition of ‘Strange Fruit’.
Haino’s work occupies a space that allows a ‘singer’ to not sing and, at the same time, it is in the uneasy, overlapping zone of ‘music machine’ and musician.