David Ryan



























A composition for Architecture and improvising Musicians (2012)



Tower explores the relationship between performing improvised music and the space in which it takes place. In this instance, it features two improvisers, Jennifer Allum, violin and Ute Kanngiesser, 'cello, performing in the medieval tower of St. Augustine in Hackney, London. Ultimately it explores the tension between the film as a document of performance and as a thing, a composition, in itself. My interest lies in the way film and video can allow one to inhabit performance in a different way, but also asks questions about the structure of both film and music, sound and vision, and how each of these interact.


Why is this film referring to a 'composition' - when its subject is improvisation?? here I think, Jacques Attali's idea of an open-ended notion of composition is relevant to me, with its questions of time, collaboration, and reinvention for oneself (not necessarily innovation per se).  To go through these various levels associated with 'composition', firstly, Attali sees improvisation as a key mode of transgressing the templates laid down by the stockpile of objects: "Each [composition] entity can call its program into question at any moment; production is not foreseeable before its conclusion. It becomes a starting point, rather than being an end product; and time is lived time, not only in exchange and usage, but also in production itself." Improvisation not only entails this positioning of oneself at the centre of production, but also an exploration of the body in relation to the sensuality of materials or instruments ("in composition, it is no longer, as in representation, a question of marking the body; nor is it a question of producing it, as in repetition.  It is a question of taking pleasure in it."), through a direct experience of temporality ("composition liberates time so that it can be lived"), as well as the destruction of the codes of normative communication ("Inventing new codes, inventing the message at the same time as the language"). 


It does not replace, or undermine, of course, any traditional sense of musical composition, but simply looks at the possibility of binding diverse threads, the possibility of the development of another tradition even.   Attali looks towards how these individualized moments can reshape the idea of the collective, ultimately displacing what he calls 'stockpiled' time, through a composition that refigures 'lived time'.  This can seem, of course, utopian, but I feel that it has also been on the agenda of much contemporary art practice of late (even if not couched in the same hyperbolic terms as Attali's text).   Within these various 'networks' of composition outlined above, another aspect is seen as an important tool for the development of composition: video. In its infancy at the time of Attali's text, video recording, as he sees it, was a potential tool for expanding composition, moving from the "visual stockpiling" of concerts to "becom[ing] one of the essential technologies of composition."  Here Attali looks at the potential mutation of the correlative video image to music (in documenting concerts, early 'music video') into its own contributing force.  I rediscovered a resonance within this position when filming Via di San Teodoro 8, and perhaps Tower - a Composition for Architecture and Improvising Musicians is even closer in some respects…


DR 2012