Program notes from Ben Mark's percussion solo
Below is the program note for Ben Mark's new percussion solo 'Passage 4 Artefact 1' from the Circular Ruins 2. It will be presented by Angus Wilson tomorrow night at Pierrot! 7.30pm at the Judy. Passage 4 Artefact 1 could be considered an artefact in terms of both definitions of the word.
The first definition comes from the archeological context:
"An object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest".
Passage 4 Artefact 1 is essentially reassembled material from Passage 4, a percussion solo that was one of four overlaid solos in my outdoor work The Circular Ruins 2. This piece sourced its material from a slowed down recording of a noisy, resonating gate that was found in the performance location at Oxley Creek Common. Passage 4 had eight sections all drawing upon the same rhythmic and pitch template. The shifting colour of the various instruments used on each articulation of the template (hi-hat, glöcken, 3 cymbals, 3 drums, bass drum), and a change in tempo of each rereading of the template, was an attempt to retell the ‘story’ of the closing gate, as if these colourful retellings could somehow change fate and the deny the inevitable closure.
While Passage 4 had this loose narrative its expressive purpose was very much tied to its relationship with the distant layering of the other solos, that made up The Circular Ruins 2, and the various environmental sounds that surrounded it: birds, planes, trains, a leaf blower, a gate, and traffic. To present Passage 4 as it is, as a denuded artefact, would be to strip it of its expressive functionality. In considering it as a stand-alone solo in a recital context, I felt a need to break the piece and reassemble it to suit its new environment. New processes were applied in its reconstruction. The larger sections were reordered and, given its loss of environmental accompaniment, new internal layerings of materials were worked in. Windows were cut out of each layer to reveal other layers, creating occasional recurring refrains, often disguised by attack or instrumentation. Within these windows are different time scales, reflecting the tempos of the various parts of the original.
The second definition of artefact is a follows:
"Something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure."
All the Passages from The Circular Ruins 2 functioned very much like environmental artefacts. They were each composed after an investigation of the sonic space and, in performance emerged from this space as ephemeral bursts of expressive energy, much akin to various light distortions (artefacts) one might find in certain photographs. In this sense Passage 4 Artefact 1 is an artefact of an artefact: a re-assemblage of an environmental emanation. The closing gate is still fundamental in some way but it's direct sound is now absent. The gate can become either much more or much less in our imaginations: a long lost story whose importance is subject to conjecture. What is of importance is what continues to resonate within the piece. It is not just a closing gate that gave life to the original but my response to it, and the artefact carries something of that response. As the gate and outdoor context is lost, the musical intent is emphasized, exposed and refined through the new, broken structures whose relationship to the original becomes ever more coincidental.