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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

by P-ART

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 1. Words fail in covering music  2. The Tonal Being  3. Re-Naissance of Earlier Scores  4. Intuitive Music  5. The Piano is a Weapon  6. La Séance Beethoven  7. Musical Sarcophagus  8. Ritual Dance Music

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

1. Words fail in covering music

In our western music world it is very customary to expect biographical notes when a composer is introduced: What 's his musical background? What famous virtuosi trained him? What kind of prizes and merits give him the international reputation to be listened to?

In my opinion such biographical items don't matter in the world of music I stand for. What kind of music do I compose? First of all, this is a problem of reviewers and rationalists. When I make music, I just make it. For me, questions as to whether the composition was made by conventional instruments or techniques, are irrelevant. 

In our western world it is a common fact to write and read words and to ask for full background information to understand (new undiscovered) pieces of music.

However, even IF it was possible to explain compositions from their own musical reality, still this mission would not be my own. All this is not very new, I 'm aware of that.

Words fail in covering music.
Indeed, it is the reality of sound and silence only that really counts.

I consider our western habit to frame the individuality of living beings (included tonal beings) into some whole, to be a rude aggression and an improper reduction of singularities which lose everything in abstracting them.

Of course, it concerns my compositional point of view. I think that it 's totally irrelevant trying to grasp or to make someone else understand the reality of my music in a system of communication that totally differs from it. Beethoven music: listen to the Beethoven music. That's it.

Haven't I been influenced ? Another question of the same kind! Who could elucidate influences with any amount of certainty? I really cannot state that I have been totally fettered by any composer for any longer time. Still I have some relevant names in mind of composers whom I feel a pronounced sympathy for, artists whom I share the same view with.  Whom do I have in mind?

Erik Satie (F), because of his jokes in the academic landscape of music; 

Alexander Scriabin (Russia) because of his tonalities full of mysticism; 

Claude Debussy (F), because of his impressive buildings of timbres; 

Toru Takemitsu (J) (< click to obtain more information), because he put native Japanese instruments in western compositions and because he reserved the performers to be active partners in his creations; 

Elliot Cartner (US) "For me music works as a balsam "

Jani Christou (GR), because of the ritual dimension in his archetypical music; 

R. Murray Schafer (CAN), because of his democratic sensibility for all sounds in the local environment;

Jean Dubuffet (F), because of his brutality to make primitive music; 

John Cage (US) and Margaret Leng Tan (Singapore/US), because of their attitude about time in music and the constructive aspect of silence in sound and music; 

Harry Partch (US), because of his microtonal work and his self-made instruments as active partners; 

Terry Riley (US), in his religious music-of-innocence; 

Alvin Curran in Brussels (Plan K, 1981) © P-ART

Alvin Curran (Italy & US), because of his basic respect for animal music, for his native approach to the sound of electronic sources, and for his innovative Genetically Altered Radio

Baudouin Oosterlinck (B), because of his attention towards the physical audience process and to the resonant context as part of sounds; 

Clarence Barlow (GER / US), because of his Indian ears used into western harmony; 


Bouddhistic monks' songs; Andalusian music performances; native Thai dance folkmusic and gamelan orchestra sound; experimental music makers; all jazz styles; the art of videoclips; the environmental music of birds; drups of water in my kitchen and badroom; background music stream in the shopping street; Muzak; the warm silence of Chandolin (Swiss Alpes).


To which worlds of artists do I feel closer?

- Kate Dimbleby, Barbara Streisand, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kaija Saariaho, Laurie Anderson, Madonna (early nineties), Michael Jackson (only videoclips in the eigthies), Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, Gavin Bryars, Michael Vetter, Karel Goeyvaerts, Mauricio Kagel, Georg Crumb, Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros, Alban Berg, Arnold Schönberg, Glenn Gould, Charles Ives, Pierre Schaefer, François Bayle, Toots Thielemans, Edgard Varèse, Michael Waisvisz, Wolfgang Martin Stroh, Ana Moura, Amorphic Robot Works, Af Ursin;

- Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Name June Paik, Bertrand Lavier, Stephan de Villiers, Salvator Dali, Jan Fabre, Artemis, the deep-sea diver who touches the face of the fish under water, etc.

Most of all I 'm convinced that each authentic artist with the right sensitivity in mind, is able to capture - like an aerial - new ideas of the future world. It isn't a strict individual matter to invent and make art. Artist's perception and intuition allow to create new art. 

Really, I prefer a nude enumeration of my compositions. Still IF I should say something more, I will have to deceive you by telling something about the outside of my compositions and about my story of making music. In the meanwhile, you are informed about the risks.

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

2. The Tonal Being


Composing means living very intensely, closely and intimately with the evidence of the tonal given and the development of it in the processus of time.

Composing really looks like a bio-organic process. I would like to speak about instinctive obedience to the inner logic of the tonal being: to follow your instinct, to dare to set eyes and EARS upon what occurs to you. INSTINCT means the inherited natural tendency and ability inciting an animal to action under the influence of an external or internal stimulation. In spite of the negative overtones of the word "instinct" I could not think of anything more HUMAN. As a composer I handle what is nearest to hand, without any obligation or prejudice towards oneself or the world; on the contrary I respond spontaneously - intuitively to an in-cident as it is thrown into my lap. Only then the path will open itself in an authentic way to the composer.

This involvement presupposes an evident liberty, for the sake of the music you want to shape. One should be free from imposed performing or composing standards, from any current acoustic or technical gimmick that hinder or disturb the inner logic of the music work. Making up one's mind to write a composition or to avoid touching wrong notes, doesn't benefit the composing work at all. Doesn't practice make perfect, then? I won't deny that. From my experience, it has become obvious that perfection can hinder the real art of composing as well.

I consider it to be safer to follow my immediate impulse to compose, wherever it stems from. Elaborating on a composition rationally never shows the same intensity, ripening and equilibrium as playing one spontaneously - intuitively into the evidence of the tonal being. I love first takes. Whether a real composition is developing or not, it cannot be predicted or conducted by myself. Perhaps, I am really only preparing some appropriate conditions by fostering with astonishment any sound material that emits a strong energy at a given moment. This is no flashing process either! I cannot bring it into my reach as quickly as it passes by. The whole process looks more like a gestation: something vitally original that is offered to me.

Elliot Carter says: " To me composing consists in dealing with the flow of music rather than with particular instants of sound."(1971)

I could compare it to the appearance of a beautiful woman into my life: the only act I perform is a mere act of recognition, nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise, I would be endangered to infer with what should be the way of being of that woman: her beauty. Also this act of recognition does not demand any labor, regarding the mastering of composional skills. The act of really composing the tonal being is comparable with playing games, with sensation and sensuality. It implies even a kind of therapeutical process, a protest against imposed, predictable and repetitive behaviour I have to conduct to survive in this world.

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

3. Re-Naissance of Earlier Scores


A few years ago I came upon a collection of raw scores for piano - pieces of music partially numbered - I had written by myself long ago. I had completely lost sight of them; they belonged to my earlier period. Every opus just contains a sequence of basic notes, a kind of peg to hang some pianistic devices on. I mostly indicated the melodic line and nothing else. Some scores are accompaniments of song texts written by myself.

About those songs, I can remember my search into the most fundamental mechanisms and principles that would necessarily lead them to become hits - as the popular music business would try it too. Really, I'm astonished now about this reflection by myself.

The last piece in this early collection may have been  Birds. I had completely forgotten it, and when I look at it now, this song seems a kind of rite that initiates me into a new level of spirituality, rather than a ecological statement about environmental problems.

What still pleases me in those earlier piano scores is the possibility of continually reshaping these compositions: Re-naissance of my earlier scores. I wanted to perform it. Especially after a longer period during which I had been occupied with other things, I could experience what kind of accompaniment and most of all what kind of personal evolution I had passed through in the meanwhile.

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

4. Intuitive Music


It was only afterwards that I woke up musically.  The personal reason for that doesn't matter here. The technical reason was the restauration of the inner keyboard mechanism inside my grand piano. During several weeks I couldn't play normal music without the keyboard. Exploring the rich sound body of the grand piano I became fascinated by the sound world of this classical instrument.

It is still very strange how I entered the field of making experimental music - very suddenly and still very fluently too. I started putting those explorations and improvisations directly on tape.

I never made a catalog of the pieces, because of their poor technical quality to begin with, also because I preferred the instant of the composing process over the finished product. Still these cassettes are a musical diary of my inner evolution. These intense experimental performances are to be situated in the seventies.

After this first period of tape music, I was prepared to compose and record my music with more professional recording tools.

I always recorded the music that I performed, instantly onto tape. At then, I didn't compose scores or any other written form.

I never worried about the question whether this was the most justified approach of composing or not.

My approach seems to be an intuitive way of composing. I have always loathed the highly recommended but dissectional progression by pencil, because that would mean a radical cut of musical intensity and intuition.

Listen to Jean DUBUFFET (1901-1985) about true music in his interview with Ilhan Mimaroglu (Paris 1966):

 "True music should not be written. All written music is a false music. The musical notation which has been adapted in the west with its notes on the staves and its twelve notes per octave, is a  very poor notation which does not permit to notate the sounds and only allows the making of a totally specious music which has nothing to do with true music.
It is impossible to write true music, except with a stylus on the wax, and this is what they do now in recordings. This is the way of writing and the only one that's proper to music."

Moreover, there was a banal reason for my dislike of putting notes on paper: why, for heaven's shake, should I write out detailed scores when recording on tape is far more adequate? Why should I write down music that is gauged for me?

I was very happy to dispose of a whole range of new technological devices to record sound directly, as is proper to music. Composing on paper looked to me improper to sound, misses the chance to capture the physical aspect of music and disregards the dynamic live of the tonal being.

My way of composing is still different from composing notes on a sheet of paper. For me it concerns a fluidity of the composer's intuition.

The instinctive - intuitive approach has become for me of the utmost importance. This belief does not consider composing on paper sheets to be completely irrelevant or obsolete. If I want to recognize music as a living organism, then I accept that music has its own dynamic physiognomy that cannot be predicted. I am affected to a mere state of mind and a rather mental condition I never can program on beforehand or define precisely in minutes, because ... it masters me.

I cannot agree with the idea that a composer produces compositions as if it were vegetables, houses or papers like this one. I am really happy that I don't have to make my living out of music, but that I can live by the grace of music.

Last but not least, I agree with Alvin CURRAN's statement on spontaneous music. < Please click on "spontaneous music" listening to Alvin Curran. (For his personal statement please click on the P-ART WEB OF ARTISTS).

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

5. The Piano is a Weapon

The Piano is a weapon  in the struggle to get hungry.

(© P ART)

Can I really speak about my music?

"The piano is a weapon" for voice, sanxian (southeastern 2-string fiddle) and for drum (1980) is a music piece that is based on one spoken sentence: "De piano is een wapen in de strijd voor de honger." Translated: The piano is a weapon in the struggle to get hungry.

This  saying (tape composition) comes from an unconscious store-cellar and has been thrown into my lap as a musical reality.

The Scream (1984) also has arisen from the incidental interaction between the body of the contact microphone and drinking utensils on the one hand and the expressive human voice of new life (the baby) on the other.

In these cases I cannot really speak about my music because I am only the medium for the appearance of tonal being that is born to me:
" The music is an independent entity on its own , at least if we are speaking about real music."

Nobody will (have to) perform better than me.
Whoever would have the impression he still could do it - thinking he has a better level of skills - would only make another composition - in the best case! The main problem of classical performing is a kind of situation where people supposed to feel the need - totally out of proportion - that they have to perform music written by OTHERS.

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

6. La Séance Beethoven

(Photo D. VAN ACKER)

La Séance  Beethoven (< click) (1983) has been conceived as an installation of reflection and interaction for the innocent public of concerts. It concerns a STILL LIFE:

the deaf music papers of Beethoven's piano Sonata Opus 111 on music desks;
the dialogue between the shadows of Beethoven's bust (on the table) and
the composer-performer (sitting down as a Buddha);
the life amplified melody of the bubbling thermos on the table and
the recorded live sounds of the public in the large mirror above the STILL LIFE.

A background voice evokes the message of La Séance Beethoven.

After this message the composer picks up the saucer and the coffee-spoon from the table and plays his music part.

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

7. Musical Sarcophagus


Transparent glass plate, two well sounding U-hooks, the cassette on top of the musical sarcophagus and two small pillars of primeval words


My record box Anthology (< click)(1985) deviates in many ways from the conventional idea of record boxes.

On the bottom of the art box Anthology you find a musical sarcophagus. This sarcophagus becomes an instrument for making your own music.
You open the sarcophagus by removing the glass cover that sounds well. In between two small pillars of primeval words rest the well sounding metal hooks embedded in felt that just loses its historical function.

The musical remnant of this sarcophagus is the audio cassette titled Paard (=Horse) that can be used as a prelude. You can record your own version on the other side of this cassette using the musical ingredients in the sarcophagus : the transparent glass plate, two well sounding U-hooks, the cassette on top of the sarcophagus and the two small pillars of primeval words.

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 1

8. Ritual Dance Music

Music for a ritual dance (1984) is a piano suite, that's the tape music of my Installation for ritual dance (< click)(1987). White pillars form a half circle. In this open space a horse, covered with silver brocade, dominates the royal ritual. Without training before the performance, the horse is free to move, to lie down, to participate in the music as a listener.

In a ritual site, bordered with Greek pillars, the ritual dancer, on bare feet, is dressed in a transparent piece of clothing or royal silk. He performs his ritual interpretation of primeval moving patterns on the ritual music. Everybody can be the performer in the ritual dance. Although a lot is required from the listener-performer, he only needs the authentic attitude of listening while moving through a raw sequence of dance patterns (< click).

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The Insane Hollow of P-ART Composing 2 
  Please click >here and go to the next chapters :

Part 2 

9. Open Scores

10. Intimacy Music as Foodstuff
11. Beyond the Outside of Musical Objects

Part 3

12. Spiritual Gesture in Organic Overtones

13. Acoustic versus Digital Music

14. Midi - Composing

15. Meta - Polyphony

16. Breaking Out

17. My spinet a dream

18. New P-ART editions

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