When João Renato Orecchia Zúñiga was invited to collaborate in Season 1 he immediately began to talk about a mad orchestra. As the collaborative process of making began in meetings and workshops the Blind Mass Orchestra took shape.
This is an extract of the 40 minute piece performed as part of the In The Centre programme.
The full version can be seen on our Vimeo channel https://vimeo.com/lessgoodidea
BLIND MASS ORCHESTRA
composer | João Renato Orecchia Zúñiga (Chole Kulcha Harp, analogue synthesizer, electronics)
musicians | Thandi Ntuli (piano),Tlale Makhene (percussion, voice),
Ann Masina (voice),Tsepo Pooe (cello),Waldo Alexander (electric violin), Mpumelelo Mcata (electric guitar),Tshepang Ramoba (electronic drums), Dan Selsick (trombone, EWI electronic wind instrument),
Janus Fouché (theremin, artificial intelligence programming)
artist | William Kentridge (drawings and instructions to the orchestra)
In João's words:
'What you will hear is the result of a process.This follows a long tradition of process scores by composers such as John Cage, Steve Reich, Alvin Lucier and many others.
Process scores range from thoroughly abstract to exactingly concrete. What they have in common is that they result from the setting up of experiments with a set of guidelines or rules, then making decisions and alterations in order to guide the outcome in a certain direction.
The scores presented here sit at different points on the scale from abstract to concrete, and as pleased as I am with the results, it's the process that I find most exciting and interesting.The scores do not change but the resulting music changes with each performance, as an unfolding movement, a collaboration of many parts that make up one mass.This mass is only given and can only see a part of the path that is laid out in front of it, while a part remains hidden in order to discover what could be.
1. INEXPLICABLE REPETITION OF CHANCE
Consulting a website that offers free readings in the ancient Chinese divination text, the I Ching, I asked the following three questions: “What music should we play?”, “What should we play next?” and finally “What should we play after that?” The site offers a series of virtual coin tosses which result in a reading in the form of a number with a corresponding symbol carrying a host of meanings. Each symbol, consisting of a series of short lines and longer lines was adapted into a rhythmic pattern, which is then performed by the Orchestra.
2. INSTRUCTIONS FOR MUSICIANS AND AUDIENCE
A set of abstract instructions written by João Renato Orecchia Zúñiga and William Kentridge are presented to the Orchestra and interpreted to varying degrees of specificity.
3. STILL AND MOVING LINES
A drawing of straight and curved lines crosses a “playhead” from right to left indicating which part of the drawing is currently being played. Line colour, length, angle and position of the lines indicate which musicians are playing, the duration of notes and phrases, and relative pitch and intensity.
4. THE BOOK OF MARTHA
An interpretation of a few lines of a short story by the late American science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler.The story depicts a woman’s meeting with god. Members of the Orchestra take on the characters of the story: Martha, god, and the space in which they find themselves.
5. SWING SWANG SWUNG
Three pendulums are sonified by the Orchestra according to a set of rules governing when, how many and what kind of notes each musician is required to play.
6. FEEDBACK LOOP FOR MUSICIANS AND PAINTER
Each member of the Orchestra was asked to perform a one minute solo improvisation.The solos were recorded and played to William Kentridge, who interpreted the resulting music into a series of responsive ink drawings.These drawings were then composed visually and shown to the musicians to respond back, forming a processual feedback loop of inter- pretation.The drawings here are presented as a revolving series of duets.
7. INEXPLICABLE REPETITION OF CHANCE
Each rune symbol of the I Ching has an alternate reading, corresponding to a different number and thus a different pattern of shorter and longer lines.This is the alternate reading of the questions asked at the beginning: “What music should we play?”,“What should we play next?” and finally “What should we play after that?”'