On Perception

April 1st, 2017

There was a moment, a little over a year ago, when three people, each independently and unprompted, suggested I read the same book: Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees about the artist Robert Irwin.

I must have been putting out the feeling of searching for the next step. I was preparing a performance and installation of Apparitions of The Four Pillars for the 2016 Avant Music Festival and I had become increasingly fixated on the "non-musical" elements in the room. As I have been refining and focusing the musical content of my work I have felt free to start concentrating on things like the light in the room, the way it feels when you walk in, &c.

I've always been concerned with the total picture my work was presenting. I'd wonder sometimes why I was so adamant about the quality of the printed program, or so bothered by the visibility of recording equipment. When, several months later, I finally began to read the Irwin book I felt a great kinship with his early experiments. I was aware of Irwin's work, had seen a few pieces in person, such as his Excursus: Homage to the Square³ and his Untitled acrylic disc works, which I loved. This book was really a revelation, especially having recently experienced Walter De Maria's Lightning Field.

While working on the premiere of Apparitions of The 27:28 Symmetry under The 72:81:88 Cirrus at the Transit festival in Belgium, I had several epiphanies. I'll discuss the bigger epiphany in my next post, but as I sat there, listening to the premiere, the room completely suffused with nothing but blue light, verging on pitch black, I began to see.

Suddenly the dark room was not so dark, and I could see every detail around me, the way the audience had arranged itself, the textures of the walls, even the expressions of the performers, barely illuminated by the projections around them and their congo blue stand lights. I was (to borrow Irwin's term) perceiving the situation around me, and it all started to lock into place. As much as I am a composer of music, I am also a composer of experience, the shift to making my own visual environments has been fruitful, and this new work with TIGUE is the most developed one yet.

See Also:
Transit Festival in Leuven | news item | October, 2016
Abstract | news item | February, 2017
Recording The Four Pillars | news item | August, 2016
A Cageian Dream | news item | January, 2013
Fred Sandback | news item | June, 2016
Epiphany | news item | April, 2017
Light and Space | news item | March, 2017