February 2008

Les Moineaux D’entendre perform Décagé
(dedicated to Fluxus and John Cage)
February 22, 2008 The Music Gallery Toronto
The Fluxus Way
Report and photo
by Tom Sekowski

According to multi-media artist and Fluxus co-founder Dick Higgins, “Fluxus means change among other things. The Fluxus of 1992 is not the Fluxus of 1962 and if it pretends to be, then it is fake. The real Fluxus moves out from its old center into many directions, and the paths are not easy to recognize without lining up new pieces, middle pieces and old pieces together.”

In Latin, Fluxus means the flow and that just about defines the central concept of inter-media, multi-discipline art movement that places art above everything else. The thing is, Fluxus is key as it shifts emphasis away from individual as creative source to that of a communal form of art creation. It was only when the stress was placed on the event as an art form as opposed to the musical training of individual artists that Fluxus gained momentum. Artists practicing the Fluxus way would more often use whatever materials they had at hand — paper, food — to build music from the ground up. Forget about musical snobbishness, here was an array of musical swarm that was worth sinking your teeth into.

Though both are classically trained musicians, Nadia Francavilla and D’Arcy Philip Gray know how to spew their guts in front of an unsuspecting audience. Dedicated to John Cage, the two hour long performance “Décagé” (or uncaged — or should that be Un-Caged?) wasn’t exactly all about the (dare I say) “seriousness” of composed music. No way would these two bore the audience with over-the-top, over-your-head complex music that was too obtuse to decipher. If anything, this was more of a living and breathing comedy gathering of the musical sort. Not all serious music has to be purely somber and not all funny music is meant to be stupid — these two seemed to be saying.

The first part of the programme was devoted to works by young Canadian composers — Paul Frehner and Moiya Callahan. This was the solemn or serious music, as some would call it. Their take of Paul Frehner’s 2007 piece “Oracle” was haunting and very open-ended, while Moiya Callahan’s “New Piece, For Solo Violin” was vibrant and explosive at points. During one of the sections, Francavilla was stringing a piece of cloth along the strings of her violin, only to come up with a trance-inducing passage that seemed to last for hours. It was really a shame that the piece came to a close so soon as the atmosphere was so magnetic and in many ways, quite calming.

D'Arcy Philip Gray

Following an obligatory intermission came the fun. Bengt Af Klintberg’s “Orange Event Number 8” featured Gray eating an orange whole — skin included. Just the sound of the orange being swallowed, made my saliva drip slowly down the side of my mouth. Of course, I was waiting for the musical element to come, though that never materialized. Over the course of the next hour, pieces by Ken Friedman, Malcolm Goldstein, Takehisa Kosugi, Pauline Oliveros, Yoko Ono, Thomas Steigler, Christian Wolff, Martijn Voorvelt amongst others were presented, often times in quite quick succession. Time was of the essence, it seemed. Food was utilized too as rice was sifted intermittently. At one point, the duo began to run around the church and both would give out a howling yell of pain. A few minutes later, they took on a game of throw ball (though no balls or oranges seemed to be hurt in the process).

The premise of getting the audience as involved as possible in the musical happening was only met halfway. Why weren’t we asked to throw balls at Gray while he swung his bat? Why weren’t we allowed to sift grains of rice in metal bowls or eat oranges wholesale to help in the music-creation process? Despite this minor shortcoming, as the church lights came back on, the crowd was clearly dazzled, somewhat perplexed and clearly satiated. Isn’t that what every great live event is supposed be all about?

We welcome your comments and feedback
Tom Sekowski
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