difficult

everybody loves difficult music
a performance and discussion series at machine project

and, running concurrently at machine project…

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you, too, can play difficult music
a series of audience participation performances
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feb 4 through may 6

Featuring…

sat feb 4 – mark menzies
sun feb 12 – adam overton, mark so
thu feb 16 – michael pisaro
sun feb 26 – michael kudrika (4pm)
sat mar 4 – liam mooney, thadeus frazier-reed
thu mar 23 – hands on’semble
(postponed) – earbees for kids (sara roberts) (11 AM)
sat mar 25 – stina hanson, douglas wadle, vitamin wig c [robert hansen + aaron spafford]
sun apr 2 – corey fogel, lorin edwin parker
fri apr 7 – mark trayle
fri apr 14 – notecard event (james orsher)
sat apr 15 – clay chaplin, joseph kudirka, phillip stearns
fri apr 21 – april guthrie and cassia streb
sat apr 29 – vinny golia
sun apr 30 – harris wulfson
sat may 6 – stephen “lucky” mosko memorial

Everybody loves difficult music

We decided to have an event series at Machine about difficult music, and the first stage is figuring out what we mean by “difficult”. Difficult like doing calculus? digging post-holes? holidays with the family? We’re going to look at what difficult could mean for composers, for performers, and for the audience. Machine has planned a series of performances, accompanied by discussions with the composers and performers, and a publication of essays and scores from those participating. Some questions we hope to address:

Expectations. What do you expect to hear? Chris Mann, performer of spoken music, says that we’re usually listening for, not listening to, music. We have the attitude that we’ll know it when we hear it, and we’ll listen for that, not to whatever happens to be there.

How does one tolerate, even enjoy, all this ambiguity? To quote performance artist Laetitia Sonami, how do you even know it’s responsible ambiguity?

Trust. This music tests the trust between the composer and performers – can the composer trust the player’s instincts if he leaves things open to interpretation? Does the audience trust the performer, trust that it’s worth the work of overcoming ingrained expectations and ideas of how to respond to music?

We aim to look directly at what makes some kinds of music difficult (and exciting) for performer and audience. The performances will invite listeners to experience the music; talks and discussion about the work give some insight into the intention of the composer, how performers learn, play, and feel about these demanding pieces, and how this work is experienced by the audience.

You, too, can play difficult music

We think of the performance of traditional music as requiring arduous musical training and virtuousity. Some of the most interesting new music, instead of attempting the precise reproduction of a score through rehearsal, creates structures that collapse the barrier between audience and performer – the audience plays the piece.

To perform this work you do not have to read music, be in perfect time, or have well-honed instrumental skills. These works depend on you to be alert to the moment, to rely on your judgement and your reflexes. They ask you to continously examine your notions of what constitutes music. When technical virtuosity is replaced by something else, what remains? A virtuosity of restraint? a virtuosity of choice? By giving the performer the choice of “any sound” is there still a “right” sound? Would the most virtuosic performance be the one that chooses the most “right” sound? Many times the score is more open-minded than the composer!

In this hands-on series emphasizing active listening and casual improvisation, we invite everyone to join in – you, too, can play difficult music.
- Mark Allen, James Orsher, Sara Roberts