Thursday, February 11, 2016

Days Eight, Nine, Ten:

Moving from the second projects into John Cage material worked quite well. By focusing on process the idea is that students would have a greater understanding of Cage’s methods than merely just reading about them. I must admit that the students who abstracted a process and used it to shape the result of the piece offered some really good insight into usefulness of this idea. Direct application, while interesting, tended to reveal itself fairly quickly. Building off of these projects we had students create a Cage inspired soundscape. Essentially a process piece with the timeline and intensities laid out, but with sounds to be filled in by the students.

The results were fascinating – similar arc – but lots of variety within that arc. The megamix of all seven projects (three from the first section and four from the second) show where the pieces began to pull away from each other in time.
The Cage day was mainly devoted to the exercise and to exploring some of his scores, 4’33” and a video on a prepared piano. Cage then becomes a lead in to Reich and Eno.

As I have done in the past – we had students listen to Reich’s Pendulum Piece – microphone suspended over amplifier – as a means to discuss process. Then it is on to a listen of “Come Out.” This pieces, though 13 minutes long, is a great example of process and product collapsing into one idea. Reich merely sets the loops in motion (with some after the fact tinkering). The point that came up in both classes is that what we listened to was unlikely to be the first time he tried this. The question then is – how long did he experiment before he found something he thought worthy of listening to? This is the big change in the Gen Art class from last time – a greater attention to the role of the artist in all of this. While skill and technique get put into question – concept or idea is moved to the forefront.

Reich gave way to Eno and we looked at his 77 Million Paintings and ipad app – Scape. What was unique about this time is that Bob created the suspended, melting sculpture that periodically released pebbles onto xylophone bars creating a ringing sound. Impossible to predict the next sound, the dropping pebbles animated the entire class time and provided a good basis for discussion. We did notice that the dropped pebbles, due to the shape of the bars, tended to cluster into specific areas. A nice strange attractor for us to address with the chaos material.

We ended the class urging the students to begin thinking through the material we have covered so far. The goal with this is to circle back around and discuss ideas, techniques, and how they relate to the SSC material. This is an optimum time to do this – to take stock of where we are – and help shape the rest of the term. One thing that I always forget about these project courses is that they tend to feel a bit wander-y – as if we are just floating from topic to topic. It seems to take longer in these courses for a clear picture to emerge of the subject. We are right at the point where it will start to emerge. That leads us into the last project of this section before we dig a it more deeply into indeterminacy.

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