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May 18, 2012

Perfect Lives vs. Empty Words comparison #1:

Perfect Lives has seven archetypical locations, specified right in the title of each episode.  It was assumed, writing in the 70s (about the late 40s in some sense), that these locations could be found in any town, and that’s what makes them resonate – banks, backyards, bars are things in which one can easily situate oneself.  Backyards are a little hard to come by in a city, but otherwise, locations were pretty easy for us to find.  It was mostly a question of which neighborhood we wanted to base ourselves in and the rest was not too difficult (with a big thanks to Lillie the second time around for sealing deals).

Empty Words is more about feel.  Cage gives general, rather poetic descriptions for what’s happening in each episode, but he’s by no means concerned with such archetypical locations.  Cage gives some details for how he images the piece playing out in space, like this description about Episode IV: “At first face to face; finally sitting with one’s back to the audience (sitting with the audience), everyone facing the same vision.  Sideways, sideways.” (Empty Words, pg. 65)  There are recordings of him performing the piece in concert hall settings, but as is our want here in Varispeed, we’re much more interested in playing with setting.  So setting up the August 3rd/4th performance requires a lot of forethought about location, locations being one of the few details you really need several months out.  Following Cage’s trajectory of language, we’re planning a general transition from the more grandly staged, more traditional concert venue setting to something much more even, something less hierarchical.  It would be pretty easy to do that in two steps, but to do it in four is a little trickier when you add in the constraints that we’ll only have 30 minutes to get from location to location and we’ll want to have some things pre-set.  We know we’ll be starting at Roulette and as the map below indicates, we’re finishing on or near the Brooklyn Bridge.  The middle stages are in the works, but it’s much trickier to pick a place for its feel in this way than it was for Perfect Lives, in which we had definite opinions but at the end of the day just weren’t that picky about (is it a church?  can we perform there?  great!).  In any event, we’ll have details for you soon!


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