Please Blow My Mind aka Thoughts on Witchcraft

(I just wrote this on the Tonseisha blog site)

“New Work Network presents John Cage’s ‘Song Books’ performed by ex-Scratch Orchestra members alongside a younger generation of performers and composers.

The piece raises the question of the place of visual performance within experimental music and attempts to bring the Scratch Orchestra experience into a critical collision with a John Cage composition.”


I am going to see this. I hope it blows my mind and surprises me with its bold statements, not about the piece, but about art in general. I am hopeful and excited.

I think this is what I’ve been mulling over recently. Objectively, perhaps the balance has shifted to the fact that I care slightly less about the story you want to tell me, but I am exceedingly interested in the reason why you’re telling it/making art. Not that I want you to explain this to me. Oh no, no, no. I would like to experience you through your work. You’re going to do this craftily, so that I don’t notice. Your concerns, what you care deeply about, your love and your fears, this will have given birth to the piece. And that’s what carries the entire thing and gives it a life beyond the one night show, 3 minute piece, 6 month run. You are far more important than the piece but it’s the piece that I experience, crafted by you, that makes me, involuntarily, feel my own worlds so much more keenly. But, as I say, you’ve presented your piece so well that the last thing I’m thinking of is why you’ve made it. During the piece, I will be gobsmacked, breathless, my heart will be racing, I will be utterly involved and flying on the wings of the dream you’ve created. Clever stuff, huh?

I went to see a modern hip hop theatre piece recently. During the interval, I was asked what I thought. I said that I felt that it was a wasted opportunity. The theatre was full of young people, and some adults, who I assume (dangerous territory) don’t go to the theatre. For me, if you have the chance to reach this kind of audience, this is a huge gift and a responsibility. I wanted the show to sock to me between the eyes. I did not want it to give me a pale, confusing, or patronising version of what I’d be able to see on telly – the pop shows, the dance-offs, the animated SFX-heavy fairytales – or indeed in real life – go to the basement of the RFH or the Trocadero and see kids practising their dance moves.

The show ended really well – the curtain call was stonkingly fun. The performers, all great singers and dancers, finally got to – simply – do what they loved  – singing and dancing – and the audience go to enjoy this for an uninterrupted 10 – 15 mins or so. The pleasure in the room became palpable and it swelled and grew and THAT’S what you want in a live show. That thing you get in a really good dance tune? The build to when the beat drops, the swells? THAT’S what I want in a live show. Nothing is superfluous. The entire show is a massage towards the satisfying end. When you’re having sex, where’s your focus? It’s unidirectional. Who wants a baggy, saggy dance tune with no phrasing and an extra bar or two of twiddly stuff for no reason? Music, art, live performance – it’s emotional and evocative and physically AMAZING. 

(I’ve used this before, but Mamet wrote about how performers in the past were buried at crossroads with stakes driven into their hearts because those alive could not fathom how or why these people had such a powerful, supernatural ability to move them. It MUST have been witchcraft. Man, if people think I’m a witch, that might be the best compliment ever.)

Trust in yourself. Trust what you believe in, and if you’re not sure, trust that you’re questions are valid. I have NO idea about most things, but I’m getting better at asking all the “dumb” questions I can think of in the boldest voice I can muster. I know full well that they’ve probably been asked before, but other people have answered people otehr than me. My experience of finding out is valuable, and all the people I rub up along the way? I reckon we’re all sparking off each other. (Ow. Metaphor alert.)

Here’s where I should stop but I pasted the quote below and I haven’t written about it yet:

“Cage’s music is definitely art and yet, in this case at least, the closer it comes to life the better it works as art.” 
Ben Harper, Boring Like A Drill. 12 March 2012 (Café Oto review)

Music. Art. Life. What’s better? What’s art or not art? Is there music that isn’t art? Is it the craftedness, the artifice of art that reveals and reflects the reality and possibility in life? Questions, questions, questions I’m asking in life and the Tonseisha project is coming in handy as an infrastructure.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s