Toine Horvers: Meetings, on the choice for artists and works for Words Live 3
with additions by Samuel vriezen about John Cage, Jackson Mac Low, Geert Buelens and Arie Altena

Samuel Vriezen is, first of all, a conceptual artist and thinker. As a composer, he has written quite a few works for groups like De Volharding and the Zephyr Quartet. As a poet, he published his first collection, 4 Zinnen, last year - the book was immediately enthusiastically reviewed in De Groene Amsterdammer. The book is more of a conceptual art work with language than a book of poems in the conventional sense. Furthermore, Samuel was the founder of the Jackson Mac Low Band, a group of artists, poets and composers based around Stichting Perdu. In the meantime I discovered his qualities as a programmer: Samuel is inventive in finding a basic structure for the successive parts of the program, such like the unbroken chain of short pieces in the ensemble part of Words live 2 or the system of starting on the hour as a possible time structure for Words Live 3. This conceptual thinking also appeared while discussing a possible transcription of a work of Vito Acconci. I heard Samuel say: for me it would in the first place be about procedure. 

The first conversations that I had with Dante Boon - a composer, pianist and presenter of concerts - quite quickly veered from music into the visual arts and literature. Dante started his career as a pianist at the age of 13, studying at the Sweelinck Conservatory, and he premiered works by composers such as Tom Johnson, Anthony Fiumara and Clarence Barlow. Together with Samuel, he recorded a CD of constructivist piano works by Tom Johnson called Symmetries: a small gem. For their part, Dante's own compositions have been performed by the Nederlands Vocaal Laboratorium, the New York Miniaturist Ensemble and Marcel Worms. Just as Samuel did, Dante has programmed and organized many concert series, in venues such as De Badcuyp and the Goethe Institute in Amsterdam. During the process of Words Live I got to know Dante as a passionate programmer with a great feeling for composition and sound in the sequence of pieces. In the above mentioned discussion about the possible 'transcription' of a text work by Vito Acconci Dante's interest was at the first place directed to the sound in this particular work of Acconci.  

I got to know Cora Schmeiser (ex-Vocaal Laboratorium) as a singer, but I would prefer to call her a vocal performer. Although she is a marvellous soprano - I've heard her many times in early music performances, in works by composers like Hildegard von Bingen - I approached her first of all because of her stupendous spoken performances, including works by Kurt Schwitters and Georges Aperghis. Cora takes part in many different kinds of projects and productions of mediaeval and baroque as well as contemporary and imrpovised music. She has performed at De Player before as part of trio UIUIUI with Anne Wellmer and Nina Hitz. Cora's interest in Words Live soon became more than performing works from her repertoine. In her advice about the organisation of the events she represents a strongly physical/theatrical aspect of sound performance that possibly was missing in the trio Toine, Dante, Samuel. Although I have always held a bit of distance regarding theatrical elements in performing musical compositions, Cora's performances are  so convincing that I am very happy that she brought in this element

As a performance artist I - Toine Horvers - have been for many years interested in language, in written as well as in spoken form. This interest grew more intense as a result of a stay in Ireland for a couple of months in 2003. I am especially interested in a more or less composed, constructed form of language, in which language takes on the character of a ritual - thus being different from everyday informative/communicative language - and how this is sounded in space by the voice. In fact I am a designer: my works consist of simple systems and procedures for making language appear in time and space and this, I think, is where I connect with the oral tradition. The meeting with Dante en Samuel was an important moment in the proces of setting up WORDS LIVE. My ideas about the sound of spoken words in time and space met with theirs coming from other traditions: poetry and music. 

I knew PJ Roggeband from his drawings and collages in 'dichters en denkers' in magazine De Groene Amsterdammer: fully open creations, not bothered by any historical, conceptual or esthetic conditions. Then I saw his 'Harsesplaat' performance in De Effenaar in Eindhoven, an oral erruption of words from one of his ongoing ritual games with language: Het Elfletterig Genootschap or The Society of Eleven Letter Words. Intentionally clumsey and hilarious, but it makes you absolutely free in thinking about what art is.   

My first meeting with the work of Han van der Vegt was in Foundation Perdu in a program about epic poetry. Han performed De Paladijnen, a long science fiction epic. De Paladijnen tells of a post-apocalyptic landscape populated by cyborg vehicles. The work was a recited text going on for half an hour, performed by heart by the poet without any acting or effects: text, words, sentences, describing things as in the tradition of Homer. It was this timelessness that most impressed me: even though the performance was accompanied by projected texts coming from contemporary navigation systems, both form and content could relate to different periods in history of art or periods in describing history.
A breathtaking experience, far beyond poetry, at the same time relating to poetry in its most ancient form, the oral tradition.   

I came to know the American composer Tom Johnson in 1997 at a festival in Cambridge, where I attended a very entertaining concert/performance of his. His work is strongly related to conceptual art and poetry. The first work of his that I heard on the radio, a long time ago, was Nine Bells. In that piece, Tom walks in patterns through a space in which nine bells of different pitch are suspended from the ceiling. With every bell that he passes he hits it while you hear the rhythm of his steps. It's a very simple but strictly elaborated process, an installation in time and space. Some of his works consists only of words and have a very playful character, and particularly when he asks the audience to participate in speaking the words hilarious situations may develop. It's proof of how small the world is that Dante Boon and Samuel Vriezen turned out to be the first who performed certain of Tom's pieces in The Netherlands. In 2006 they recorded a CD of his constructivist piano miniatures, Symmetries, for Karnatic Lab Records. 

Arie Altena is a literary theorist, media researcher and poet. At Stichting Perdu I heard him give a very interesting lecture which was his contribution to an issue of De Gids (november 2007), an issue devoted to epic poetry. In his text 'Epische Poëzie Nu' he went through the history of this oral tradition, and he addresses the relation between recited and sung texts - which he could demonstrate in his talk using older recordings of singers/storytellers in Rumania. His contribution for Words Live is a lecture called "Lezing over lezing". 

Andrea Saemann is a Swiss performance artist who reenacts existing works of art, but now in the form of a tale. She focusses especially one famous performances of important, mostly female, artists, including Joan Jonas, Valie Export and Ulrike Rosenbach. But she performs in her way, accompanied by her commentary, and extended by the use of extra props, motions, body positions, etc. She is a very entertaining speaker and her performances can be very funny. A very good example was a registration of a performance that I was showing in the video compilation WORDS 2 at Sub Urban Video Lounge: standing in front of the audience she describes the actions and thoughts of the artist (Bruder Klaus) who painted a fresco on the walls of a monastery in Switserland.  With grand motions she indicates the elements of the painting on the walls of the space in which she is standing while in a loud voice she describes the details and possible motives for the painter to make it the way it turned out.

I saw Arf Arf (Melbourne) years ago in a performance festival in Sydney. Their works - group poetry and sound performance - were very experimental, as were the films they were making. (Marcus Bergner's films have been shown a number of times in Sub Urban Video Lounge.) Their work is playful and disorderly on the one hand and very structured and clearly imagined on the other hand. Sometimes, a rather normal text may acquire a special character through very simple operations, for example by having every sentence repeated by a second voice. My offer to 'cover' some older works for Words Live met with great enthusiasm on the part of Arf Arf.

I met George Quasha in 2004 a couple of hours before the opening of his show with the Axial stones in Baumgartner Gallery, downtown New York. He asked me to come in and told me about the work and gave me his recent poetry book. He also wanted to know about the work I was doing in New York. It was a short but very intense moment. Later he sent me copies of his first compilations of Art is, which I showed in Sub urban video lounge.
In the meantime George expanded those  collections with Poetry is, Music is, and Myth is. He works hard to get all this material available on high quality on the internet.
George Quasha works since 25 years in collaboration with video artist Gary Hill and poet Charles Stein, in performances and shows, their works travel over the world. He is the founder of Stationhill Press which published many books about poetry and the collaboration with Hill and Stein. His own works concentrate on the principle of axiality, in drawings, poetry, video, sculpture, sound installation and performance. 

Vito Acconci personally gave me permission to have a voice/text-piece of his, Gangster Sister, arranged for the voices of the Jackson Mac Low Band during WORDS LIVE 3. Unfortunately we haven't managed to find the right form for it. The process did, however, result in a new composition by Dante Boon on a short poem of Acconci, called Unfinished, from his book Language to Cover a Page, The Early Writings of Vito Acconci (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachussetts, 2006)

Geert Beulens is a poet, essayist and professor of modern Dutch literature at the University of Utrecht. The Jackson Mac Low Band has asked him to write a piece for four voices, which they will premiere today.  Bas Geerts studied musicology and now works as a painter, graphic designer and poet, with a special interest in what he calls Kinetic Poetry: poems programmed in Flash (and the details of which may be generated live by the computer). Waarleomven is a poem written in 2001 which consists of four different poems, that may however be performed as one single poem in which four voices entwine the syllables of their poem in a particular rhythmic way, which results in a special kind of polyphonic text. The Jackson Mac Low Band will give the first public performance of the piece today. 

Jackson Mac Low was a New York-based experimental poet who was born in 1922 and died in 2004. He took part in John Cage's famous class in experimental composition at the New School in the late 50s, and along with some other participants (among which George Brecht, Dick Higgins) he would later be part of the FLUXUS movement; in the seventies, he became an older-generation inspiration for the Language Poets. Starting in the mid-50s, Mac Low pioneered systematic and chance based writing methods as well as polyphonic performance, improvisation and mixing music and the reciting of poetry. The Jackson Mac Low Band, founded in 2006, is dedicated to exploring experimental polyphonic language performance, inspired by Mac Low's work.  

One⊃1;⊃2;  by John Cage is part of Cage's final series of works, the Number Pieces. In the Number Pieces the title referes to the number of performers. Thus, One⊃1;⊃2; is a solo piece, and it is the 12th solo piece in the series. The Number Pieces are a very special body of works, most of which explore very innovative ways of using the stopwatch while giving performers great flexibility in determining their timing. One⊃1;⊃2; is the one piece for reciter, and one of the few pieces in the series not to be based on stopwatch timing - and also very rare for Cage, it calls on the performer to improvise certain important aspects of the piece.

related works:
Words Live 3