2008年8月22日 星期五

John Cage 在 I-VI 一書中說,Oh So Quiet

Art Review

Oh So Quiet

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Dia:Beacon Two installations commemorating artists now gone: Tacita Dean’s is six films with Merce Cunningham, honoring John Cage’s “4’33””.

Published: August 21, 2008

BEACON, N.Y. — Favorite sounds: Mafalda Favero singing “The Last Rose of Summer,” New York City at night, geese overhead, Joe’s voice, the cat’s purr, silence. Silence is the tough one, all but impossible to find. John Cage said it didn’t exist, not in this world, and illustrated the point in his famous composition “4’33,” ” first performed in 1952.

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Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Imi Knoebel’s paintings in homage to Blinky Palermo.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Blinky Palermo’s “To the People of the City of New York,” top, painted after a stint living in the United States.

A musician with a stopwatch comes on stage, sits at a piano, more or less motionless, for 4 minutes 33 seconds, raising and lowering the keyboard cover to signal the beginning and end of movements.

Instead of music, or not-of-this-world silence, the audience hears itself: coughing, jangling, whispering, tittering and eventually, depending on the general mood, erupting into boos or applause. As scored by Cage, silence is the sound of life as we live it in real time. We just never stopped to listen before.

A filmed variation on Cage’s score is playing this summer at Dia:Beacon; it’s well worth spending time with. It’s one of two Dia installations that, in very different ways, quietly commemorate artists now gone whose names have a magic ring to contemporary ears.

The Cage piece is by the British artist Tacita Dean, and is loquaciously titled “Merce Cunningham performs Stillness (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six Performances; six films).”

The six projected films run simultaneously in Dia’s wide, cryptlike basement gallery, and Mr. Cunningham, now almost 90, appears in all of them. A radical sovereign of American dance, he was Cage’s lover and creative collaborator for nearly half a century, until the composer’s death in 1992. Their collaboration continues here.

In all six films Mr. Cunningham, wearing sneakers and a lavender shirt, sits in a chair in a rehearsal studio against a smudgy wall-length mirror. He is shot from a different angle and distance in each: face front and close up, full length from the left side, and so on.

He is partnered by another performer, Trevor Carlson, who stands, sometimes in camera range, sometimes not, with a stopwatch. Periodically, he holds up a hand to mark the movements in the score. At each signal Mr. Cunningham changes position. He turns slightly, adjusts his weight, rests his head on a hand, resettles himself. The films are silent except for the recorded ambient noise picked up during the filming — Manhattan traffic, the squeak of the chair, maybe a sigh — and the whirr of projectors and whatever contributions viewers at Dia may add. But in this performance of “4’33” ” the emphasis is as much on the movement packed into stasis as on the sound in silence.

Along with Mr. Cunningham’s timed shifts of position there are countless chance actions: the twitch of his eyelid, the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes, now a little faster, now more slowly, the flickering shadow cast by the ghostly Mr. Carlson. We are pulled into the performance because our perceptions stay unstable. Are we looking at one performance filmed from six angles, or six separate performances, adding up to one long one? (It’s six adding up to one.) Which movement of Mr. Cunningham’s version of Cage are we seeing at any given time? Where and when does Ms. Dean’s piece, with its staggered comings and goings of images, begin or end?

It ends, of course, when you shut off the projectors and turn on the lights. But even then at least one part of it, sound — random and ambient — continues, after we leave the gallery and after Dia locks up for the night. (The work previously installed in the same basement gallery was Bruce Nauman’s surveillance video of “after hours” activity of cats and mice in his studio.)

Mr. Cunningham’s choreography has always had an existential dimension. “Stillness” is about duration and change, which are the same thing and are also the substance of life and history. Ms. Dean’s film of Mr. Cunningham’s performance is about the sound and motion of history in action: the personal history of one man’s fidelity to the memory of another; the cultural history of a living artist transmitting and rejuvenating the creative essence of one who has died; the contemporary history of a younger artist preserving and honoring all this, and the two men (the piece is above all a portrait of Mr. Cunningham) in her art.

The second homage on view at Dia:Beacon takes the form of an installation of two dozen large abstract paintings titled “24 Farben — für Blinky” (“24 Colors — for Blinky”), 1977, by the German artist Imi Knoebel.

Mr. Knoebel and the artist known as Blinky Palermo studied with Joseph Beuys in the late 1960s in Düsseldorf. Both were interested in abstract art, and they became close friends. Palermo — his original name was Peter Schwarze — lived in the United States from 1973 to 1976, and once back in Europe he produced a group of 40 paintings that he titled “To the People of New York City.”

Roughly the size of album covers, done in bands of red, yellow and black, the colors of the German flag, they suggest a cut-up version of Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” The series is Palermo’s best-known work and his last. (Dia owns it, and it is on permanent view here.) Palermo died at 33, in 1977, and almost immediately Mr. Knoebel began work on his tribute.

Like Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Dean’s adaptation of Cage, it constituted a transfer of energy and influence. Before 1977 Mr. Knoebel had worked primarily in painted sculpture using a palette of white and black. In his Palermo piece he turned to painting and to color.

Not that their work is at all alike. In contrast to Palermo’s small foursquare panels of bars and stripes, Mr. Knoebel made large monochrome cutouts in bizarre shapes, some hinting at recognizable forms, like curled-up animals or distraught figures, but no two the same. Although he conceived “24 Colors” as a single work, its parts are not in sync. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle with pieces that can’t interlock.

In place of Palermo’s bright colors Mr. Knoebel chose bland, indeterminate hues: milky pinks, detergent blues, dull greens, very dusty roses. His goal, he said, was to create shapes and colors so vague in their oddness that they would neither hold the eye nor lodge in the memory. The Beacon installation reinforces the air of irresolution.

Paintings tumbling across a wall are interrupted by blank-looking stretches of empty space. Paintings that might have filled the spaces lean, unhung, against a gallery wall, in a stacked format Mr. Knoebel has used in sculptural pieces. The result is a sense of work in progress, or of a show being disassembled and destined for the warehouse.

In fact “24 Colors” was in storage for some 30 years, and when it was finally retrieved, Mr. Knoebel decided that it was in such bad shape that it was beyond salvaging. So he made a new version from scratch, which is what we see at Dia. This means, of course, that the thin line between restoration and re-creation has been breached, and you can almost hear the sound of voices raised in protest. Shouldn’t the original piece have been shown, whatever its condition? Isn’t a re-creation, even by the artist, historically inauthentic, an expensive fake?

I have no problem with the remake. The original was always meant as a conceptual gesture, a complicated act of self-assertion and self-abnegation, an exercise in loudness and dumbness, volubility and silence-seeking. The new version seems faithful to that. It will look old and “authentic” soon enough, and may then acquire a kind of authoritative voice it was never really meant to have.

Meanwhile it serves, as it was meant to, as an amplifying backdrop for Palermo’s voice, which is intense and distinctive. What is it like? Somewhat manic, tender and brash, evident in paintings that look as though they were alternately scuffed up as castoffs and coddled like pets. “To the People of New York City” is the visual equivalent of a heartfelt cheer, but also a passive-aggressive chuckle, with all those German flags.

In any case the sound of that voice is muted now. The paintings have become relics, and New York is no longer the city Palermo knew, though it still is a little. Friends still gather, lovers murmur together, cats purr in their sleep, birds fly over calling on their way to somewhere. All that’s there in Palermo’s kitchen table-size pictures, with their stripes like streets and their colors like the song of sirens on late summer nights.

Tacita Dean’s “Merce Cunningham performs ‘Stillness (in three movements)’ to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six Performances; six films)” remains at Dia:Beacon, 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, N.Y., through Sept. 1. Imi Knoebel’s “24 Farben — für Blinky” (“24 Colors — for Blinky”) is on long-term view.

anechoic room 無響室;無回音室 tower of silence

這種西方運用chance operations 方式,至少已有60-70年歷史,譬如說John Cage的音樂和講稿【手頭有本他過世前在哈佛大學的專題演講集,書名 I-IV...

Norton Lectures 2007/05/20 09:17...the Sacred Truths: Poetry and Belief from the Bible to the Present" 1988-1989 John Cage "I-VI"* 1989-1990 John Ashbery "Other Traditions" 1992-1993...詳全文

John Cage I-VI 一書中說,他年輕時,在哈佛大學帶到一無響室,但聞自己的心跳脈動聲…..恍然大悟後半輩該追求的音樂生機。


The Dream of Absolute Quiet

Published: May 17, 2007
近一周之後才讀到 可見注意力之有涯

JONATHAN PRAGER is a 40-something Manhattan comedian and singer whose life experience and worldview, like those of many other comedians, are semitragic. Certainly, his quest to find a quiet home has been laced with pathos.

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Photo Illustration by Josef Astor
Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

Steve Haas, an acoustician, is using technology to create a sonic retreat in this Fifth Avenue apartment.

Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Mr. Prager eschewed Mason Wyatt’s remedy, acoustical wall panels called Silent Pictures, right, and has decided to try to live with the noise in his new apartment.

His last apartment, he said, was a living hell. He could hear the squeak of his neighbors’ faucets, the ring of their phone and the clatter of the plastic marbles their child would drop on the floor.

But Mr. Prager is made raw by all manner of city noises, from the squeal of a bus’s brakes to the bell the subway door makes when it closes (let’s not even talk about its brakes), from a jackhammer’s drill to the gum-chewing of the couple behind him at “The Drowsy Chaperone” the other night.

(He has a house in Connecticut, but he said he found no peace there, either. There are lawn mowers and leaf blowers and a neighbor’s pool with a noisy filter.)

“I’m sensitive to noise, emotions, electromagnetic vibrations,” he said. “You name it, I’m sensitive to it.”

In searching for a new apartment, he confounded brokers, he said, by rejecting sweeping city views or abundant light because he could discern the sound of the place’s elevator or the whir of rooftop equipment. He vetted his new home in a new building on the Lower East Side by wheedling his way past the super on successive visits to “just lie on the floor and feel and hear what it’s really like there.”

Broker-attended visits are easier, but brokers are always on their cellphones, he explained. This apartment is free of upstairs neighbors, by virtue of being on the top floor. Yet despite his due diligence, some issues have arisen since he moved in a few weeks ago.

“There are vents in the hallways through which air is sucked,” he said, “and that sucking noise is pretty loud.” And the construction work down the block is louder than he had imagined.

He has worked his way in and out of solutions: CitiQuiet, a New York sound-insulating window company, gave him an estimate for his floor-to-ceiling windows that came in at $10,000, rather steep for a rental. Then he consulted Mason Wyatt, a deep-voiced Southerner with a noise treatment practice called City Soundproofing, who cautioned against a full-on sound isolation package, again, because the place is a rental. Instead, he suggested his Silent Pictures, acoustical panels that can be hung on a wall like art, which start at $20 a square foot.

“But my girlfriend was like, ‘We don’t want pieces of fabric-covered wallboard on the wall,’ ” said Mr. Prager, who paid Mr. Wyatt $300 for a consultation.

Like many before him, Mr. Prager was learning that domestic sonic bliss might be attainable, but at a price. Quiet has always been a luxury in cities. In New York, “neighbor noise” competes with outside noise to make noise complaints the No. 1 reason people call the city’s environmental complaint line.

Today quiet is even more elusive. With dozens of new buildings still on the drawing board in Manhattan and around the country, owners of new glass condos are recoiling in horror from the sonic fallout of the next glass tower being built down the block, or the roar of traffic heard through those beautiful glass walls. (Watch for New York City’s revised noise code, in place by July 1, which will put the onus on developers “to develop a noise mitigation plan prior to commencing work,” said Natalie Millner, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.)

This is why sales of sound-insulating windows at CitiQuiet are up 50 percent from two years ago, to over 10,000 windows in the last year, said David Skudin, the company’s president, who added that he has been outfitting glass towers like the Urban Glass House and the Bloomberg Building for wigged-out new residents.

And quiet is now the consummate domestic prize in the ever-expanding exurbs, where family members rattling around in cavernous great rooms and pursuing separate amusements — their TiVo’d movies, their pinging Xboxes, their YouTube-blaring computers — are driving one another crazy.

Ethnographers at Owens Corning have noted that families in new homes are “having more stress and changing their lifestyles as a result of all the interior noise,” said Harry Alter, a senior engineer at the Owens Corning science and technology center, explaining why his company cannily created and began marketing insulation products last year under the name Quietzone Noise Control Solutions. (Their trademarked slogan: “Volume control for the home.”)

“You had moms that would go into a bedroom closet to read a book,” said Portia Ash, the business manager for residential noise control at Owens Corning. “People with home theaters who couldn’t use them after certain hours because the kids were asleep. People who were working at home who were relegating their kids to the basement so their noise wouldn’t interfere with their ability to conduct business.”

These days new houses are noisier than ever, she concluded, because of their open floor plans, the abundance of hardwood floors and minimal carpeting.

The larger and more elaborate they are, the louder they get. Not only are there more activity rooms packed into them, from home theaters to bowling alleys to kickboxing studios (and who among us wants to hear the thwack of a foot against a punching bag at 6 a.m.?), they also run on the sort of powerful — and noisy — commercial systems that municipal buildings do.

Naturally, owners of houses like these can afford to avail themselves of the very latest in sonic technology.

Let’s examine one very, very large shingle-and-granite-faced house nearing completion on the North Shore of Long Island. It has all the usual flourishes: a sweetheart staircase with a 1,550-gallon fish tank behind it, a Ping-Pong room with a coffered ceiling, a model train room, a shooting gallery, a fencing room, a gym, a theater and a grotto. And, except for that grotto, each of its 30-odd rooms has been engineered for acoustical privacy, a fancy phrase that means quiet.

Last week Jim Gerold, the house’s contractor, and Steve Haas, its acoustician, described Mr. Haas’s “treatments”: the sound-absorbing plaster systems; the lead-lined Sheetrock and plywood (and the rubber clips and braces that “float” them); the fiberglass-lined ducts; and the range of resilient ceiling materials. Not that you could see any of these things.

“When I do my job well, nobody notices,” said Mr. Haas, who speaks quite softly and whose initials spell “SH.” He was wearing a dark gray shirt, dark gray pants and a dark gray silk tie with an airbrushed image of a saxophone on it. Mr. Haas’s background is as a designer of museum and performance space acoustics. For the past four years, however, his company, SH Acoustics, based in Milford, Conn., has focused on high-end houses like the one in Long Island, tweaking their many rooms to tame — this is a favorite word of his — the sound within them so that their owners no longer have to hear water rushing through pipes, toilets flushing, children running, televisions droning or anything else they would rather not.

Mr. Haas said his company is growing by about 30 percent a year and is now working on about 100 residences, including a 55,000-square-foot house in Australia. His costs, he said, could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars (to soundproof a wall) to six figures, as is the case for the Long Island house.

“For those who want all aspects of their new home conditioned for sound, plan on a 3 to 5 percent upgrade in the total cost of your home,” he said. “It helps if people can prioritize, like, ‘I want my bedroom to be a haven’ or ‘I want this home from start to finish to be quiet.’ ”

While a decorator creates an aesthetic ambiance, Mr. Haas and others like him work on a house’s sonic ambiance, making sure that conversation in a living room, for instance, is not too bouncy or “live” — too much like a noisy restaurant, for example. “Restaurant quality,” he said, making air quotes. “We don’t want that.”

Nature can be noisy, too. Years ago Jeffrey Collé, another contractor who works on Long Island, was asked if he could eliminate the sound of the ocean in the house he was renovating in East Hampton. He had been working with Billy Joel on his sound studio on Shelter Island and had learned a few things about acoustics.

“I applied the knowledge I’d had from Billy’s studio,” said Mr. Collé, who staggered studs, deployed a lot of lead-filled drywall and made windows using double-plated glass framed with Honduras mahogany. “But I wasn’t sure what the result was going to be until the end. And the bottom line was, you couldn’t hear the ocean.

“My favorite thing to do was to bring people to the house — it was all glass and the ocean was right there — and they would get this look on their face because you couldn’t hear anything. They knew something was different but couldn’t figure it out until I opened the doors to the roar of the surf. Then they got it.”

Anthony Grimani is the president of Performance Media Industries, in Fairfax, Calif., an acoustical engineering company. “I do think people have the right to live in places that have good sound privacy,” he said. “Especially high-end residences.”

He added, “When we’re working on the home theater I always ask: What about the rest of your residence? Does it have a comfortable feel sonically? I think people are more aware than they were 10 years ago,” but they don’t realize that without acoustic enhancements, “things aren’t going to be quiet, no matter how classy the place is.”

The cost of sound treatment adds $3,000 to $4,000 a room, Mr. Grimani said. “But that’s in a new house, while you’re building. It costs an arm or a leg if you fix it later.”

Acoustical privacy is an investment in mental health, he suggested, offering an evolutionary rationale. “You hear something, and flight or fight kicks in,” he said, “and you wonder what or who is creeping up behind you. You think, ‘Is it going to eat me, should I run?’ Sound is putting you in an evaluating condition all the time, and I would say that’s no way to live.”

It may also be that quiet is a moving target, and that what’s annoying and what’s pleasurable comes down to what’s in or out of your control.

Mr. Prager, the comedian, tells jokes about how the sound of hard candy being unwrapped makes him crazy and why a white-noise machine could never be a tolerable remedy for what ails him.

“I have jokes about that,” he said, “because you know how they use those in therapists’ offices? I have to ask the therapist to turn them off, along with their computers — there’s a little fan inside most computers that goes on and that’s annoying — and their air-conditioners. And then I can’t concentrate because there is always construction noise.”

Construction, he said, follows him around.

Mr. Prager has suffered deeply because of his sonic aversions. Relationships are complicated, he said (though it must be noted that his current relationship is a year old), and he ticked off some reasons: “Music playing in the house or a car makes me agitated,” he said. “I have to leave the house if my girlfriend blow-dries her hair. And it’s hard for me to go to restaurants because if I’m next to people who are screaming or laughing I can’t tune it out, and have to move tables, and that can be very annoying to the person I’m with.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Prager has just decided, in defiance of his own inclinations as well as a national trend toward obsessive quiet mongering, to learn to live with the noise.

“My girlfriend said, ‘If you can learn to adapt it will make your life better,’ ” he said. “She said, ‘This is not a silent world and you’ve got to learn to function with noise around.’ ”

And he really likes his new apartment.