David Ryan



























Fragments after Lucretius and Negri
for Voices, Video and instrumentalists (2017) (c.48 minutes)





Text for Cambridge Performance 2017


Recitativo – Fragments after Lucretius and Negri is part of an 'open work' that integrates sounds, words and images. Central to this project is the creation of a spoken text that interweaves aphoristic statements from Lucretius' philosophical and epic poem De Rerum Natura ('On the Nature of Things') and, as a contemporary intervention, Antonio Negri's political reworking of these ideas in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The work is conceived as drawing on a 'palette' of materials: images, text fragments, sounds and music.


Why Lucretius and Negri? Both are involved with presenting ideas around materialism and power; in Lucretius's case, he unfolds a theory (closely following his 'master', the earlier Greek philosopher Epicurus) of atoms and nature, and a refutation of active, intervening, punishing gods. Negri, a controversial figure of the political Left who was imprisoned for many years in Rome for his activist communism, once said that Lucretius was 'his book' during his incarceration, one that helped him formulate Alma Venus, Kairos, Multitudo (1999), which was related to the writing of Empire (2000), authored with Michael Hardt. Negri's thoughts on time (deeply bound up with his politics), are foregrounded here. In particular, the emphasis on 'Kairos' (the right or opportune moment) as opposed to 'Chronos' - continuous sequential time – underline this. His reflections on time find its parallel in the moment of the 'decision' or the timely moment of agency that can change our conception of things and how we collectively operate in the world itself (in Lucretius's arguments, this is the swerve - the clinamen - of the atoms that deny a purely mechanistic motion underpinning the atomic motion of the universe – the possibility of intervention, change and choice).


This version of the piece is in two continuous parts: the first, after a short introduction, is marked by rather randomised editing of images from the Museum of Classical Archaeology; it is the suggestion of an independent visual sign system drawn from the bodily gestures of the statues developing a kind of 'address' to the viewer (this might echo the evocation of the address to Memmius or even the 'plight' of the body in Lucretius). Before returning to the cast images, it also explores ceramic artefacts from the Temple of Artemis in Sparta, also housed in the museum, including ritualistic masks from the associated blood cult (many of these artefacts are associated with sacrifice), and this sacrificial cult was later appropriated by the Romans as entertainment. This, of course, would be anathema to Lucretius, and evidence of the, "blood-curdling declamations of the prophets" blighting our well-being, and for Negri pointing to the brutal power of transcendence. Likewise, the texts here are an amalgam of both writers, with Negri exploring the nature of a power emanating from a materialist perspective, and Lucretius exploring free will as opposed to the slavery and 'darkness' of superstition. The second part looks more to the nature of sensation and perception in Lucretius, including his musings on sound itself and uses longer more static shots. The understanding of the nature of matter was central to Lucretius, and the piece ends with images shot from Solfatara near Naples, a volcanic landscape that the Romans though was the gateway to Hell itself, something Lucretius was at pains to refute in 'On the Nature of Things': "There is firstly no need to imagine that these places are gateways to the underworld, or indulge in further fancy that by this route spirits are drawn into the infernal regions by infernal gods […] How far this is from reality".
(David Ryan)

With many thanks to Sophie Hawkins and staff at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge
Kelcy Davenport – speaker
Cristina Grifone – speaker/voice
David Ryan – video/direction
Joe Zeitllin – cello
William Crosby – Guitar
Justyna Latoch; production assistant


William Crosby is a Cambridge-based composer, (eco-)musicologist, sound artist, writer, guitarist, and teacher. He graduated from a BA (Hons) Music degree at Anglia Ruskin University with First Class honours in 2015, where he was awarded the Mark Devin Music Performance Prize. He currently teaches classical guitar at ARU, and holds an Associate Lecturer position in performance studies and composition/improvisation for moving image. As a composer/artist William has been commissioned by organisations such as Tate, Kettle's Yard Gallery, and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and has had recent music performed by members of Club Inégales, Colin Currie Group, Gemini, The Vocal Constructivists, and West–Eastern Divan/AAM/OAE Orchestras. William will shortly be enrolling at University of Huddersfield to complete a Composition by Research MA, investigating intersections and lingua francas between ecology/eco-political discourse and contemporary composition/music making, and is currently finishing a book collecting the private letters of Australian composer Percy Grainger (alongside scholar, Paul Jackson), to be published later this year.


Kelcy Davenport is a visual and performance artist based in Cambridge. She is a current research student at the Cambridge School of Art, studying for a PhD in Fine Art. Recent work includes: 2016: From Basrah to Cambridge and Back, with Geologist Dr Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab, at the New Basrah Museum, Iraq. 2016: Manifesting Monuments, with SIX Collective, as part of Art Language Location, screened at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, also Mumbai and Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. She has performed in Recitativo Fragments (after Lucretius and Negri), with David Ryan and William Crosby, 395 Project Space, Southwark, London. 2015: Recitativo - Fragments from Lucretius and Negri, with David Ryan, William Crosby and Justyna Latoch, video and live performance, Aid and Abet, Cambridge. 2015: Creative Reactions, as part of the global festival Pint of Science, with Scientist Philippe Giabanelli, at Cambridge University. She is currently organising a conference and exhibition around the theme of 'contested landscapes'.


Cristina Grifone is a Baroque music specialist, currently based in Amsterdam. Cristina's versatility as a vocalist is key to the Recitativo project, as she is able to initiate a relationship between more abstract vocalisation and a more traditional singing voice. Christian Wolff piece in Naples (2013). During 2014 she started collaborating with Antonio Florio's "I Turchini" Orchestra, performing at numerous international festivals such as Lausanne Bach Festival and Actus Humanus in Gdansk and recording the oratorio for Glossa "Santissima Trinità" by Gaetano Veneziano. Since 2016 she has been living in Amsterdam and formed the Ensamble "Cappella Estense" sponsored by the prestigious cellist Anner Bijlsma, debuting at the Muziekgebouw during the Biennial of 2016. She has also performed 'Cantico' for soprano, recorder and electronics at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.


David Ryan is a visual artist also actively involved in contemporary music. He studied at Liverpool and Coventry Polytechnics, and also on a travelling German Scholarship to Hamburg, Lubeck and Berlin. He is currently reader in Fine Art at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, where he was awarded a PhD by publication in 2010. Exhibitions include Transfer at Keith Talent Gallery, London, and the touring exhibition Crossing Abstraction at Kunstlerhaus Bethianen, Berlin (2009), and the Kunsthaus and Forum Konkrete Kunst, Erfurt, Germany (2012). Other projects include At the Point of Gesture (2014/15) at the Lion and Lamb gallery and Wimbledon Space. In 2015 he curated a large-scale exhibition looking at the relationship between drawing and musical notation at the Stephen Lawrence gallery, university of Greenwich. Ryan has performed for Danish Radio, BBC Radio 3, Resonance FM, and numerous Festivals, including Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival, Nuova Consonanza Rome, Italy (2009); Aperto Festival, Reggio Emilio, Italy (2009); All Frontiers Festival Italy (2011); Freedom of the City, London (2003/2010); Sonic Illuminations, British Film Institute, London (2009); and Namusica (2013/14), Naples, Italy. He has recently participated in the Venice Biennale (2015), a collaboration with Italian composer Nicola Sani, and the AngelicA Festival, Bologna (2016) and Screenings of his video works have taken place at Konzerthaus, Berlin; Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire; Issue Project Space, New York; Darmastadt Ferienkurse for Neue Musik, and Qo2 in Brussels, Belgium and recently the Maria Della Scala Museum, Siena. He has taken part in various ensembles performing works by John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cornelius Cardew, and has been involved in premieres of pieces by Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, Ennio Morricone (Cadenza, 2003, Multipla, 2009), and Phill Niblock, amongst many others. In 2016 he was an Abbey Fellow at the British School at Rome.

Joe Zeitlin started the cello at the age of nine. He obtained music scholarships to Wells Cathedral School, The Purcell School and The Royal Academy of Music. A keen chamber music player, Joe has performed at St John Smith's Square, St James' Picadilly, on a recent NAXOS recording, as well as working professionally with the LSO and Philharmonia. Graduating from the Academy with a first class honors Bmus in 2005 under David Strange, he then achieved a DipRAM award in his Post-graduate Diploma under Colin Carr and Felix Schmidt. During this time he won the May Muckle cello competition, reached the final of the RAM club prize, and won the Moir Carnegie award for the best post-graduate final recital. He also studied improvisation under Neil Hyde of the Kreutzer quartet. Joe recently gave a performance of Haydn's cello concerto in C major with the Norwich Mozart Orchestra. He has taken part in masterclasses with Steven Isserlis, Gary Hoffman and Steven Doane.
His passion for pushing boundaries in contemporary music has taken him into many other different areas of sound and music, both as a performer, composer and improviser. Merging the cello with computers and electronics has seen him play concerts across the world in Peru, Germany, Spain and England.