took place Saturday night at the City Hall Art Gallery as part of Max Middle’s A B Series. the room was packed despite the bus strike, despite the cold, despite the $15 cost, despite the fact that it was a Saturday night. the audience was receptive and rapt during the performance of this latest edition of Messagio Galore. jwcurry was the creator , compiler and choreographer of the event and of the Messagio Galore series of performances that have included Rob Read, Nicholas Power, Maria Erskine, Laurie Fuhr, Ross Priddle, Max Middle and more. Messagio Galore comes from Frank Zappa’s Massagio Galore, “a swirling musique concrete melody set to a propulsive synthetic vamp. it is arguably his earliest & dense work involving programmed nonsyntactical sound produced by mouth, its musical component pretty much a support structure. There have been many composers working with the notion of the sprechgesang but fewer writers have approached the question of what happens to "words in freedom" except in isolated clutches (DaDa in Zurich, Italian & Russian Futurism, the later French Lettristes." – jwcurry. there’s a great write up of a previous MG here.
performing on saturday night were jwcurry, John Lavery, who has been involved in MG and in the Max Middle Sound Poet previously, Roland Prevost, a first timer with MG, Carmel Purkis, another person whose been involved with MG performances of the past, Sandra Ridely and Grant Wilkins, both first timers.
as Rod Pederson said in his summary of the event, the time flew by. it was like listening to a virtuoso performance by an orchestra, complete with conductor/maestro jwcurry and various groupings of solos, duos, trios and full sextet. sound poetry compositions that i have heard (and i admit to having only experienced a handful of performances--the Four Horsemen, the Max Middle Sound Project, Jaap Blonk and Messagio Galore) are much like musical compositions with concentration on timing, sounds coming together and separating with crescendos and diminuendos in the performance, moments of silence and moments of cacophony. some works were done as tightly controlled pieces requiring much rehearsal while others were improvisational. attention was paid to discreet units of sound and to repetition, to word play. timing was sometimes comic, fortuitous accidents such as missing a page from the script (during bpNichol's "hour three" (thanks, Carmel for the correction!) were handled with ease and playfulness and all was mesmerizing.
according to the programme, not all of the pieces were intended as sound compositions but were chosen for properties that made them potentially viable as sound pieces.
i very much enjoyed the whole evening. everything was a highlight for me but i’ll mention a few that particularly stood out:
John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing (USA, 1949), performed by the entire group throughout the evening, serving as a structural frame to separate the segments of the evening. it set the tone for the evening, the joy of sound and its silences, the pleasure of nothing. “i have nothing to say and i’m saying it.”
How the Pigs’ Music Works, Frank Zappa (USA, 1994), performed as a trio by John Lavery, Roland Prevost and Carmel Purkis. turns the song into a kind of play. i haven’t heard the song but makes me go back to take a listen. it felt like a poke at the manufacturers of jargon and the double speak we have to listen to day in and day out.
sounds’ favorite words, Paul Hines (1986) , performed by jwcurry. i agreed with all of the words. damn my retention that i can’t remember a one of ‘em. Carmel gave me a few just now though: "blue pencilled, baby microscope, mutt .... and of course, their all time favorite, inkling"
The Man on the Flying Trapeze, Spike Jones/Doodles Weaver (USA, 1947), performed by jwcurry. a reinterpretation of each line, with the words changed, based perhaps on the idea of mishearing words.
She Was A Visitor by Robert Ashley (1967-thanks Carmel for the title!) toward the end, Maria Erskine, who has been a part of MG before and was in town from Toronto for the evening’s performance, came up to perform with the group. it was an eerie and ethereal part of the night. the piece being about a woman who committed suicide. Carmel tells me "It wasn't in the program, because it was a sort of add on to the night, somewhat outside of the cage of the Cage. A surprise gift to the audience - and us :)"
getting there rapid, jwcurry/Qaani Lore (Canada, 1989?) performed by Carmel Purkis and Sandra Ridley, in lament of the current bus strike.
The Tibetan Memory Trick, traditional arranged by the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie (Howard Kaylan/Mark volman; USA, 1975) and performed by the sextet. i love this. i’ve heard Carmel and jwcurry practising this over and over in pubs, on street corners. it’s also referred to as the announcers’ test and has been performed by people such as Danny Kaye.
other pieces included compositions by bpNichol, by F.T Marinetti and more. it was an incredible night. the success of such a performance depends on not only the performers but also the engagement of the listeners and this was a very engaged and attentive audience. afterward Max drew wonderful door prizes for books by bpNichol, Coach House Books packages, gift certificates to Irene’s Pub and more. there were munchies, drinks, good company and great performances. yes, that’s what the A B Series is becoming known for. it’s one of the most nurturing series and the most creatively inspiring in this town right now. hats off to Max Middle, the instigator.
the performers were exhausted but had the look of wild eyed angels after having accomplished impossible feats. i hope they are still celebrating. magnums of champagne to them and especially to jwcurry.
if you have the chance to go to the next Messagio Galore, and i do hope there is a next one, you have to drop everything and go. it will make you engage with words and with sound on a very different level to what you are used to, and for those of us trying to write anything at all, isn’t that what we’re trying to do?
next in the A B Series and co-presented by Kevin Matthews is Hear from Melbourne, four of Australia’s hottest performance poets: Emilie Zoey Baker, Sesan M. Whelan, Alicia Sometimes and Justin Ashworth with the Young Griot Collective and Max Middle, February 6, 2009, 7:30 pm, NAC Fourth Stage; tickets $18 available from Max via http://www.abseries.org/ or the NAC box office.