Via dell'Orso, kitchen
When I performed the first version of ELECTRIC RAGS at the WDR in Cologne in 1985, my program notes emphasized my interest in creating spontaneous music through a conscious loss of memory. I sought, in effect, to sever what I then considered to be conditioned relations between my mind and my hands. And as much as I successfully approached states of mindlessness and liberation, something always bounced back in my face, and it was always recognizably my own music. Now, five years later, I fully accept the near impossibility of stepping out of my own skin for any lengthy period of time and resign myself to playing mostly what I know, but hardly desist from playing what I don’t know. Though you nor I are able to know the exact outcome of the music or its precise course at any moment, glimpses of the past, present, and even future will at times be clearly perceptible (recognizably music) and at others perceived as one massive tonal blur (without shape, form, or direction). While the music itself attempts to emulate no one, I personally wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to: Spike Jones, Thelonious Monk, John Cage, Souza, Satie, Scelsi, Josquin des Pres, Fats Waller, Elliott Carter, the Pygmies, Mozart and the MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA group for having shown me harmonious ways of getting and staying out of step as well as out of time.
ELECTRIC RAGS 1 was originally created for the first Midi Grand Piano in Europe (with a Forte Midi adapter) and here will be performed on a Yamaha Midi Grand. Both of the instruments allow a performer to pilot any number of Midi synthesizers directly from the keyboard which in the most simple cases “orchestrates” one’s own playing. I have placed a computer between the keyboard and the synthesizers (TX 816, TX7, a Proteus and an Akai S 1000) which will translate my playing into a myriad of highly unpredictable responses in the synthesizers, to which I, in turn, can react or not. The electronics, in short, are a strange musical partner – a kind of ventriloquist’s dummy that “answers” everything I “say” at the keyboard; but rather than entering into a coherent dialogue with me, the electronics, having no mind, simply behave in the most unpredictable and primitive ways – all of which keeps me frantically searching for new answers and new questions.
Technical and musical assistance as well as the software (written in MAX) are by Chris Dobrian.
program notes for concert at the Kitchen, New York
Alvin Curran, February 1990