As Precise As Time
The work was first inspired by three musical experiments of different times and forms of expression. The first is Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by pianist Glenn Gould, composer Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962. Gould slowed the entire piece down to three-quarters of its original speed, extending the duration of the performance from about fifty minutes at its usual speed to over an hour.
The second is Eric Satie’s unperformed work in his lifetime, Vexation, a short, plaintive fragment that needs to be repeated 840 times, which later performers, including John Cage, have put into performance.
The third is Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, in which the player generates variations in the rhythmic pattern by repeating and staggering the panning timing of a basic melody with only eight claps.
All three experiments achieved exceptional results: Gould’s Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 created a strange, saturated tension, and the performance of Vexation provided an “epiphany” and “latent melody” for those remaining in the audience to the very end. Clapping Music instantly exhibits a strong sense of rhythmic and orderly aesthetic.
An underlying correlation and clue appealed to me - the relationship between precision and error, or regularity and coincidence, in musical experimentation that produces a particular aesthetic of predictable and unpredictable alternations by controlling constants and variables in the work itself and in the performance process. From imposing velocity changes on classical music with a complete musical structure, to repeating and superimposing musical bodies, to limiting only the basic rhythmic series, the development of musical experimentation as seen here shows a tendency of shrinking constants and increasing variables - the artist is generating new music through the uncertainty of variables.
I then want to make a counter-hypothesis: If we go one step further and shrink the variables by infinitely amplifying the constants, or if we control both the body and the variation of the structure, can we eliminate the possibility of music?
For this purpose, I ended up choosing time as the basic element of the work, and the ticking of the clock’s second hand as the figurative unit of sound. Ideally, it would represent only precision and order, independent of the notion of change, and by juxtaposing the clocks and activating them simultaneously, they would maintain a constant synchronization of vocalizations, and between one second and another, the vocalizations would take place in an absolute instant - which is the opposite of the logic that generates music.
The main body of the project “perform” is consist of five clocks each corresponding to five images from white to black, they shift as the ticks of the clock. The clocks trigger at the same time and continue, to achieve a “performance”.
As a result of the accumulation of subtle errors in the execution of the program and in the second’s interval itself, the images and sounds of the five clocks will gradually drift out of alignment and produce new rhythmic variations.
Each “play” and each period will create a different rhythm change. In this way, the work generates “music” with the simplest of identical constants by minimizing and eliminating the variables.
In the “album” section, I compiled eight completed pieces of “music”. The first four were 20-second samples at four different times; the fourth and fifth were the results of shortening and lengthening the samples of a period of time by numerical rules; for the seventh, I used the first six pieces as the material to generate the amplification and summary presentation of the concept of “playing”- As Precise As Time; and for the eighth, I discarded the real state of playing error, matched the images with the piano parts of Olivier Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps - V. Louange à L’éternité de Jesus, creating a false precision to celebrates and meditates on the timeless time and error of music.
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