One of the peculiarities of the Fluxus movement in the 1960s was the writing of musical compositions in prose, with musicality even in situations that did not result in music but performances of great theatrical effect. In these rituals, the most sacred postulates of erudite culture and the conventional concept of spectacle were systematically overthrown. Here is my tribute to these «anti-musicians», in a series of scores that have the violin, a supreme icon of classicism, as well as string ensembles, as recipients.
1. Impromptus (for a string orchestra) Dress strictly with a tail coat and white collar or evening dress.
Tune all the orchestra’s instruments ostensibly and prepare to play, standing in an upright position in the chairs.
Make a moment of preparation before you begin.
Then do not play: for 20 minutes, remain totally still and silent. In the end, detune the instruments with equal theatricality.
2. Scraping (for percussive violin and sampler) Remove all strings from the violin and completely disassemble it on a wooden table on which you have attached contact microphones.
Handle the pieces of wood that formed the instrument to produce sound, clashing or rubbing them together.
Don’t try to find rhythmic patterns; instead, explore the natural sounds of the wood and allow unforeseen occurrences.
With the sampler, multiply and process the sounds obtained until you form a dense sound mass, nevertheless organized to show different dynamics.
3. In Memoriam Jimi Hendrix Connect two pickups to the violin and raise the volume of the amplifier to the maximum.
Put the violin on the floor and kneel before it.
Pour alcohol on the instrument and set it on fire.
Observe the flames rising and do not try to control the feedback produced.
4. Silence is Popular Now (homage to John Cage and Bela Bartok) For two violins and CDs. Insert several blank CDs between the strings of the two violins so that they are securely fastened. Try to play Bartok's 44 violin duos successively, allowing the CDs to vibrate. Let the sounds thus produced cut out the phrasing, so that no linearity or continuity is possible.
5.Vostell for Solo Violin The violin should be resting horizontally on a table.
Put a boiled egg on the strings and manipulate them so that you can move it to the bottom part of the strings, over the arm.
Keep eating the pieces fallling to the sides until the operation is finished, and then deal with those still stuck in the strings.
The piece will end when the whole egg has disappeared from view.
6.Intermezzo Put a violin equipped with several piezzo pickups horizontally, attached to a lathe so as not to touch any surface.
Arrange two e-bows along the strings and manipulate the resulting drones in a mixer, working its sound spatialization (for a minimum of four speakers).
7.Charlotte (for naked violinist) Get totally naked, paint the nipples and aureoles of the breasts in red bright colour, as well as the hair of the pubis, and sit on a chair.
Use the violin vertically and try to play any of the Bach cello sonatas.
Do not make octave transpositions or worry about playing well (homage to the topless cellist Charlotte Moorman).
8. String Quartet n. 00 Each instrumentalist should use his share of four different Beethoven string quartets, read on the music stands in front of him, but without instruments.
The arms and hands should be simulating their use throughout the duration of the piece while using the vocal cords to fulfill the function.
The passages to be interpreted must be timed, so that all finish simultaneously.
9. Memory Bank (for digital DJ and violin solos CD) Geared with four CD players, a mixer and effects units, use only solo violin discs: Mathieu Werchowski's «Uwaga», Malcolm Goldstein's «Sounding the New Violin», Mark Feldman's «Music for Violin Alone», Leroy Jenkins's «Solo», Kosugi's «Violin Improvisations» and Carlos «Zingaro»'s «Solo au Monastère des Jerónimos». With the recycling of these materials, perform a noise improvisation in which the typical sound of the violin is no longer recognizable.
10. Longwaves (for violin and radio) Place a small transistor, poorly tuned on Antena 2, inside a violin.
Improvise with the latter, trying to reproduce (to the extent of its possibilities) the noise coming from the radio and any melody, harmony or rhythm still recognisable.
If, during the performance, parts of speech are heard in the radio broadcast, add your voice as well.
11. Because it's Winter Put on thick woolen gloves, wear a coat, scarf and a bonnet on your head.
Try to accompany, on violin, the Schubert's Winterreise reproduced by the headphones you are wearing.
Every time you make a mistake or feel like it didn’t go well, play the part again, even if you get delayed in relation to the recording.
Whenever you are late, try to make the journey based on memory, but summarizing it or playing it faster until you’re able to reach the present sequence.
12. Fellatio Improvise in the violin, standing, dressed only from the waist up (shirt, tie and coat), while someone does you a fellatio. Do not try to ignore what is happening to you: let the music be a consequence of what is happening in your body. Force yourself to keep playing during the orgasm. Conclude when your penis withers... then, wipe yourself and leave the stage.
13. String Quartet n. 01 With the sole use of staccati and harmonics (first the violins in staccato and the viola and cello in the harmonics, then changing at every minute during the piece; total: 30 minutes), the string quartet will have to play within the limits of inaudibility .
Each time there is an audience-made noise in the room (dragged chairs, cough, voices, etc.: microphones were previously spread around the hall, and the quartet will be performing without any amplification), the four musicians should silence it with a vigorous «shhh», stop playing and resuming immediately.
If these interruptions exceed the duration of each minute, the resumption should occur in the following minute.
14. Concept One Create multiphonics with the violin (whose sound should be captured by a microphone), imagining it as a church organ.
When you feel that what you are doing is not enough to make the sounds you are idealizing, switch on a vacuum cleaner (using your foot).
The latter should be also amplified.
Take advantage of the frequency shocks between the violin harmonics and the noise of the household appliance.
15. Mandrake (for violin and computer)
Dress yourself in a magician costume.
In your computer, save the most diversified type of sounds that you yourself collected in urban, industrial and natural environments.
Throw these sound materials with the violin and control them from this instrument so that its own sound is never heard.
16. Continent Place contact microphones in various points of an open violin case.
Handle the case with a bow, sometimes as if applying it to a violin, other times for percussive sounds.
Use delays and an effects unit to raise and lower octaves.
17. Testosterone (for violinist/dancer) Work for electric violin with binary rhythm and accelerated beat.
Dance what you play and play what you dance, minding that the choreography of your feet is totally autonomous from the movements of the hands and equally complex and fast.
18. Ambient Music Fill the interior of the violin with garbage.
When you can't put more into it, start playing, even if the sound of the violin is not properly projected due to its sound box being prevented from normally performing the function for which it was designed.
Check which sounds can have a better shape and focus on those, shortening the violin’s lexicon.
19. Ornette (for left-handed violin) A right-handed violinist will try to interpret «Trinity», by Ornette Coleman, with the violin played as a left-handed, i.e., placed on the right side of the body.
The piece consists of what he can (or cannot) do.
20. Ready Made The room should be in darkness, with the projectors illuminating exclusively the violin placed in the middle of the stage.
The loudspeakers will solely emit the crackle of a poor earthing connection.
21. Painting Session The performance consists in a group of children under 6 years of age painting a violin and its respective bow with various colors.
A back screen expands what they do.
When they finish, the show concludes with the interpretation, in the same instrument, of children's melodies.
The screen shows the violinist's hands, chin, neck and left hand getting ink-stained.
22. Channel 4 An actor dressed as a Catholic priest will perform an exorcism on a violin, with the exact words and liturgical procedures intended for that purpose. After completing the ritual, he will pick up the instrument to play it, showing surprise at verifying that no sound is produced by it. The play marks the live broadcast of an exorcism by the British television on Channel 4 (February 2005).
23. Freeman Etudes Revised While pop music is played alongside a recording of sounds from a visual art exhibition's vernissage, play some of Cage's «Freeman Etudes» at your choice. Concurrently, use your chewing gum to produce and burst balloons.
24. Obsession, by Calvin Klein Enter the stage with the violin and bow in your hand. Place the violin on a small table and start applying resin on the bow. Extend this operation for 12 minutes, rubbing the resin obsessively and with gestures wide and repeating the applications as often as necessary. When the piece's duration is over, bow in thanks, pick up the violin, and exit the stage. Once out of the audience's view, play a single six-note phrase with a satiny, round vibrato. Try to make this phrase definitive, but not not conclusionlike.
25. Concept Two (strings installation for 10 performers) Strings from piano, harpsichord, double bass, cello, harp and guitar are to be placed throughout the space destined for the performance / installation, and tuned according to the principles of just intonation. The 10 performers should manipulate them with violin bows in integrated timbric games covering the widest possible range of coloration.
26. Spot Attach your violin to a target and place contact microphones on both. At the regulatory distance of target archery, and while two other violinists hold a drone with cinematic emphasis, shoot a violin bow against the instrument as if it were an arrow. The accompanying violins must stop at the exact moment of the shock. Extend its sound as much as you can by electronic means, and work on it at the modulation level. Once faded, the operation will be repeated until the violin is completely wrecked (if the bow breaks, it should be replaced as many times as needed).
27. Preparation Place four metallic tweezers and four plastic clothespins, alternately, on each string of the violin, making sure you leave the spaces necessary for the use of the bow across the width of the strings' arrangement. Play as fast as you can in this situation. Prevent the rhythmic structure of the piece, which should be suggestive but not in the foreground, from coinciding with the pulsations originated by the vibration of the attached objects. Let the resulting polyrhythmics live.
28. Le Monde Wrap the violin and bow on several sheets of newsprint (taken from the French daily Le Monde). Press the bow on the violin until you're able to obtain sounds as the paper is ripped. The piece ends when all the newsprint has fallen and the «normality» of the musical performance is restored.
29. Wireless (for stringless violin) Remove the strings from the violin. Devise a way to make it sound with the bow without their presence – you may use proximity or even contact microphones, for enhanced evidence of some of the situations, but do not neglect the dynamics and flexibleness through different volume levels. Do not try to produce percussive sounds (it would be too obvious).
30. The Great Art (homage to Rubem Fonseca) The Great Art (homage to Rubem Fonseca) Generate the sharpest sounds you can on the violin and always on a progression of sharps. Use a knife (carefully sharpen beforehand on a pumice stone) instead of the usual bow.
31. Joker (for string quartet) The base composition of the performance is Brian Ferneyhough's second string quartet. Prepare four cards, one of which must be a joker. Members of the quartet will have to choose one card each. The one with the joker will have to make a small cut on all the fingers of the left hand, except the thumb, with a blade, and perform in this condition. He will not be allowed to give up, even if he fails to play properly (which he surely will).
32. Paganini Interface Try to perform Paganini's Caprices with a wooden cross of adequate proportions in place of the bow. Hold the cross by its top so that its application on the violin causes it to appear inverted in the eyes of the audience. Execution will consist of what you can do, and nothing else; and if you do little, all the better.
33. Bandera Negra (para quatro violinos) Play a medley of various anarchist hymns (of your choice) and perform them on four violins (each with its own repertoire – ideally the four hymns, or whatever is made out of them, will sound simultaneously) breaking up phrasings, inserting dissonance in the melodies, performing them with different times, altering (or removing) the tone, and so on. That is, employ a variety of techniques and procedures that subvert the repertoire to be used, always mindful of listening to what others do and applying the notion that each contribution is only partial, part of a whole. Each violinist must be aware that they don't have to say everything by themselves, but only what is up to them, therefore being economical in the production of sounds, granting room to the others and integrating into the collective construction without servilism. For instance, do not follow an idea that came to one of your partners. The performance is intended to promote the sense of personal and collective responsibility in a situation of contractual freedom. If the collective spirit fails, performance fails (which is also to be considered as a legitimate result).
Create a particularly «rhetorical» improvisation on the violin, of short intervals and a gestural essence.
Meanwhile, talk to the audience, try enter into dialogue with them, tell them stories, ask people directly, answer them.
«Verbose» both playing and speaking, make sure that despite this coincidence, music and speech are processed in different spheres, as if the one playing was not the one talking and vice versa, but two different individuals.
Do so in order that an incongruity is perceived in what happens, although it is not possible to detect why exactly, as in ventriloquism shows.
35. Mind the Gap (for tied violinist)
Tie your feet by the ankles, in a manner that still allows you to walk.
Enter the stage playing, with slow, short steps.
Always play on the move and increase your step speed.
The performance ends when you stumble and fall, at which point it should be heard a recording made on the London subway of the «Mind the gap» warning.
The warning should play in loop until the violinist is helped on his feet and taken away (the helpers should put a blanket over his shoulders and assist him, one on each side, as with James Brown when he entered in trance and was withdrawn from the stage).
Have a string quartet play Wolfgang Rihm at the opening of a heavy metal concert. It must play impassively, no matter what objects are thrown from the audience, and only allowed to end the performance sooner if all four musicians are struck by bottles in the head (and require medical assistance) or otherwise attacked by someone who climbs the stage...
37. Phantom (for solo violin and water reservoir)
Utilize the place's resonance so that all the acoustic space is occupied, with overlapping sound layers and frequency shocks that have as consequence the production of phantom sounds, sounds that were not played by the violinist but by the architecture itself. Make these sounds «drown» your own.
38. Flag: Burning (hommage to The Wire)
For solo violin and philharmonic band in State ceremony. Interpret the national anthem backwards, accompanied by a video projection in which the Portuguese flag is seen burning. In the end, the violinist should invite those present (ideally State figures: the President, government members, MPs, party leaders) to prosecute him, in case they hadn't immediately taken the initiative of calling the police.
Form a tall pile of violins in the center of the stage.
Male and female performers, all naked, should circle the pile, lying on the floor, sitting or kneeling, and masturbate, staring at the pile without ever looking away.
The only sounds in the room will be those produced by the performers themselves during the action, picked up by microphones scattered throughout the place.
The performance ends when everyone reaches orgasm.
Those who relieve themselves must wait for the latecomers (they may smoke, pretend to sleep, browse through a magazine...).
40. Land reform
Bury a violin on black ground until its entire arm is covered. Compound the soil and mix compost and fertilizer. Water abundantly and then wait for branches to appear on the instrument. If nothing happens until five minutes later, express your impatience and leave the place of action with this sentence: «I'll get another violin from the cooperative. This one does not play.»