KAFKA THINKING STATIONS: A CHORA(L) SONG CYCLE is a text developed from five short sentences found in the notebooks of Franz Kafka. The piece was first developed and presented as part of TESTING GROUNDS at the Permanent Gallery, Brighton on July 18th 2009. On the 24th April it will be recorded in London as a choral radio play, directed by Joseph Thorpe.
The score is preceded by the following text, and for the performance on the 24th this is the only part of the text that performers will see prior to the event:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PERFORMERS
This is a text for a chora(l)* recitation to be performed by any possible number of performers, who may or may not be physically present in the same space.
The distribution of texts amongst performers should be decided by the performers themselves as a reflection of the desired or actual group process. All parts of the text may be regarded as vocal music, stage instructions, process notes or documentation and be performed or not as deemed appropriate.
No instructions are included as to pitch, rhythm, tone, or speed. These are determined by each performer as emergent through sequential acts of word-concentration.
*CHORA: “a temporary articulation, essentially mobile, constituted of movements and their ephemeral stases.”
At the Permament Gallery KAFKA THINKING STATIONS took the form of a three part vocal performance with myself, Olivia Armstrong and Johanna Linsley. The piece was rehearsed once, and I distributed the following quotation by Jackson MacLow:
Performers must become acutely conscious of both the sounds they themselves are producing and those arising from other performers, the audience, and/or the environment. It is essential to the realization of Asymmetries that all performers choose as many aspects and details as possible of their individual realizations within the context of as clear an awareness of the total aural situation at each moment as performance circumstances allow. In many circumstances -as when performers are dispersed within the space (e.g. around or in the midst of an audience or when performers and audience are identical), a procedure often followed in performances I’ve directed – each performer’s impression of the total aural situation will necessarily differ from those of the others. What is asked for is concentrated attention to all sounds perceptible to the individual and an attitude of receptivity and responsiveness such that choices are made spontaneously, often seeming to arise from the whole situation.
Schematically, this “whole” can be represented by concentric spheres: the inmost is that of the individual performer; next, that of the whole performance group; next, that of the larger social group, including audience as well as performers; next, that of the performance space including room acoustics, electronics etc.; and finally, the larger spaces within which the performance situation is situated: the rest of the building, the surrounding streets, neighbourhood, city (or rural area), etc., all of which may affect significantly the aggregate of sounds heard by each individual at each moment. The spheres are best conceived as transparent and interpenetrating – not static shells but concentric ripples travelling simultaneously out from and in toward each center.
SOURCE TEXT: Jackson MacLow, THING OF BEAUTY: NEW AND SELECTED WORKS (University of California Press, 2008), 80-81.
We agreed that we would read sequentially through the thirty pages of the script, reading what we wished from each page, in whatever order. We held our separate performances together by agreeing that we would turn the page at the same time.
One discovery of this process was how much more connected we felt when absorbed in our individual acts of reading than when we tried to read looking at each other, making the script into a too obvious fake conversation.
For the performance on the 24th, ten performers, director, writer, and sound engineer will spend one day together. The script will be read at the beginning of the day, enabling everyone present to identify questions and issues that determine the contents and approach of the ensuing workshop. The afternoon will be given over to a series of performances, each unfolding out into group led discussions and explorations that inform further readings. The resulting sound recording will be broadcast online as part of the PLATFORM RADIO PLAY PROJECT. More details to follow.
In preparation for this performance, I went through the original script and made a series of annotations and drawings in black marker pen. I was trying to focus on the materiality of the page itself, focussing on my presence as a writer within a collaborative performance project. When I met with Joe it was fascinated how he translated this markings into his own concerns as director, developing a through-line for the text as a whole.
Whilst invaluable preparation, both of us will be leaving aside these interpretations in order to experience what emerges from the collective workings on the 24th.
A WRITER IN THE REHEARSAL SPACE: I am currently thinking through what it means to be a writer in a rehearsal space, how I can function, not as a provider of meaning and interpretation in regard to the text, but as some sort of facilitator regarding how its language, space and propositions could organise our time together.
In an indirect and sometimes contradictory way, I have been thinking about this through the following text by Clémentine Deliss:
…there remains a tension between responding on the basis of background knowledge – a certain precision reconnaissance and intentionality and travelling in the mode of the flâneur with less structure at hand. In my case, I want to know exactly whom it is that I need to talk to if i’m somewhere new. I don’t want to change the language of my practice. I know the intelligentsia is there. I just have to find it. So the last thing I want to do is to float into a location. I have to generate a meeting of intentionality between the other person and myself and for that I do the research before I go out there and I don’t compromise.
Later in the same book, an overlapping set of issues get formulated by Marc Camille Chaimowicz as follows:
I think the photograph that I happened to find in Nantes of the Café du Rêve was a good example of a simple visual form that said everything I wanted to say. It implied a kind of sociability in a place where you get a wide cross-section of people, all dealing with their own solitude. They go to the Café du Rêve for a number of reasons: to pick someone up, or to get drunk, or to find warmth, or to engage in social intercourse. But because the title is Café du Rêve it also implies something else: that one can transcend and actually go into reverie. That’s a very simple example of what you are hinting at. The everyday in this photograph is not any old café. It has specificity.
SOURCE TEXT: Jacob Bee et al eds. FIELDWORK (A/S/N MUTUAL PRESS, Edinburgh, 2009).