Your Center-funded project Sound Machines explores the interplay between sound and object, performance and sculpture, and as you say on your website, encourages the viewer “to imagine the hidden sound potential.” How is the project shaping the ways in which you think about the audience experience?
Kagel's Zwei Mann Orchester is not just about the sound, or the way it looks, but the relationship between the visual and the sonic—and playing with that relationship—often in humorous ways.
Zwei Mann Orchester is made up of dozens of individual "sound machines." The poetic concept behind the work is this wonderful idea: What would it look like if just two people could play all of the sounds of the orchestra? All of the instruments of the world? All of the sounds of the world?
Kagel’s score for the work is generally very open-ended. For example, while there are a few suggestions for instruments given in the score, all of them are designed and built by our team: Andy Thierauf, Ashley Tini, Scott Kip, Neil Feather, Yona Davidson, and myself. On the other hand, Kagel does give some interesting creative limitations. For example:
1) The audience should both see and hear a general impression of the full orchestra. This requires us to think about the instruments both sonically and visually, and it requires us to chase down as many instruments of the orchestra as possible
2) The whole machine is limited to three platforms. Each performer has a 12' x 8' platform, as well as a 6' and 6' platform in the middle. The limited footprint requires us to build upward, which generally creates unusual situations, like a harp on top of a piano. This in turn highlights the sculptural qualities of the instruments.
3) The performers may not stand up or move from a seated position. This is the parameter in the score that causes everything to be linked by strings and levers. This "limitation" often highlights the physical aspects of a sound’s production and gives us the chance to play with these parameters. For example, moving the cello instead of moving the bow.
Both Sound Machines and your previous Center-funded project Julius Eastman: That Which is Fundamental have incorporated performance and visual art installations. How have these cross-disciplinary projects influenced the way you approach your work as a presenter/curator?
Bowerbird has been multidisciplinary since its inception. Dance was present during our first events. We presented Xavier Le Roy's More Mouvements für Lachenmann back in 2011, and we had a major collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art on John Cage around its Dancing Around the Bride exhibition.
I think what is unique about my approach to cross-disciplinary projects is that I am interested in exploring what another discipline can help me learn about my home discipline, music. I believe that the best projects do this for the audience as well, by bringing a new perspective to whatever their background or home discipline may be.