Silence and the Wandelweiser Group

Since buying 2 Seconds / B Minor / Wave by Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto, I’ve searched out information about the Wandelweiser Group to which Pisaro belongs and read a few essays written by Pisaro himself. Today, I stumbled on this Wandelwesier feature by Dan Warburton, which was originally published in Signal to Noise in 2001. Since I’m also reading Give My Regards to Eighth Street, the similarities between some of Feldman’s thinking and the general attitude of the Wandelweiser group struck me. In particular, Burkhard Schlothauer perception of silence caught my eye:

What is silence, anyway? Opinions can differ on the subject (even within the Wandelweiser Group). For Burkhard Schlothauer, “it’s necessary to hear the beginning, the being and the end of a sound. It’s necessary to have time to forget the sound and create a space in the mind for a new one with its coming, being and going. It’s a way of showing them respect.”

This notion of respecting sound also pops up in Feldman, and I imagine it has its roots in Cage, but for me the idea provides an avenue into the music on 2 Seconds / B Minor / Wave. It suggests another way of thinking about how I respond to music and why I respond that way. In an interview/review of the album, Crow with No Mouth’s Jesse Goin quoted Taku Sugimoto about this very topic:

We listen to almost all [music] in the same way, Sugimoto wrote in his liner notes to Musical Composition Series 2 [Kid Ailack, 2010]; one of the aims of experimental music, he continues, is to break this convention. It must be done again and again to dislocate the rigid way which we adopt when listening to music.

That “way” isn’t entirely clear to me yet, but listening to the music is clearing it up. Expectations, desires, and many other variables and factors figure into the listening equation. But, if I put my mind to it, I have no satisfactory explanation for why any particular variable holds sway over another. Realizing that, I understand a little better why Piasaro, in an essay called Eleven Theses on the State of New Music, rejects communication as a indigenous feature of art:

Words like “reflection” and “communication”—words that seem to indicate that art is a kind of “self-reflexivity” or it is something which has as its goal, the delivery of a message are anathema. The idea of a “public” is not the goal of art, it is simply one of the conditions of art. An actual public, even if it only comes down to the artist herself, is a given.

And yet, certain pieces do communicate with me. The question, I suppose, is whether I’m weaving the message from the music and creating something myself, or if the feelings, ideas, and messages come from someplace else entirely.

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