Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Some Thoughts on the Max Middle Sound Project in the Test Reading Series 25 October 2007

some of the apple varieties read as part of the performance piece 'Apples'

Two weeks ago now, we performed in Toronto's Test Reading Series, a series graciously curated and hosted by the able Mark Truscott. This is the note that appears for the Max Middle Sound Project on Test's web site save for a one word revision:

the Max Middle Sound Project presents a dryer, drummer, bubble wrap beats, an electric razor, a compact vacuum cleaner, polished halos. all donated anonymously. a composting demonstration. perfected composition lessons. questions aerated. form without detectable odour. absence of live materials. worms employed after. confessions. on tape. machinery without noise. listening to listen. with music, noise, oysters. body percussion. live frying. l'oignon fait la force. chanting between breaths. several varieties of potato & apple. with the lights on 'Peter Piper & the Fiery Fireflies', The Progress Egarag Hguanavak begins.

It wasn't quite like that though the acoustic environment was close to ideal for the performance, no microphones required! The floor space worked well with one half of the gallery taken up with a car chassis converted into a quadracycle: four seats, freewheels & chains; the other half of the room housed the audience. Apparently, they'd opened the exhibition of the quadracycle work by biking it down Queen Street that afternoon & they were ticketed. Seems the authorities didn't have sufficient humour to let it pass. The artwork the car chassis represents is titled Shared Propulsion Car & the artist is Michel de Broin.

We were able to move about the room easily as we read. This performance was the result of working on our repertoire & investigating new reading strategies & that has led to some successful developments in the performance practice. The group has been through several recent transformations. Anne Davison made a huge contribution to the ensemble but now she has left Ottawa to set up home in rural Nova Scotia, our great loss. In our current incarnation, it appears that John & me performing as a duo works extremely well. Lavery is a very adept reader & musician; I've learnt a lot from him & he's added incalculably to the project's performance practice. It's been a lot fun working with him; you know, like, usually we laugh at the same jokes... He's not only a very smart cookie but he is the clean feller.

Trevor Joyce arrived in time to see us perform fresh off an airplane. He read in the 2nd half of the evening's program after a short break. By the time the q&a rolled around after Trevor's reading, I was beginning to atrophy. It had been a long day of travel & preparation for the performance. Think I said somethings that were funny during the q&a; seem to recall people laughing. Believe I said something about collaboration being good for you & something about apples. There was commentary about "sensuality" (which turned into) "embodiment" & mention of an Abram quote from Trevor's Test note: "Genuine art, we might say, is simply human creation that does not stifle the nonhuman element but, rather, allows whatever is Other in the materials to continue to live and breathe." The commenter referred to the sound project performance as an embodied one.

I was delighted to meet in the person for the first time Jordan Scott, Kate Sutherland, Jenny Sampirisi & Aaron Tucker. It was great to see Shannon Maguire who I first met at & haven't seen since the Shift & Switch launch in Montreal on 14 January 2006. Also was pleased to see Paul Dutton again; before the performance, Paul told Lavery & me an anecdote involving him, John Newlove & David McFadden. Saw John Barlow far too briefly; met John for the first time in person at last summer's Scream main stage event in High Park. I know John's email persona from the Riverspine & Mailsnail email lists. It was great to see Daniel Tysdal who was in Ottawa the Sunday before reading from The Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method as part of the ReLit 2007 awards ceremony held as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. It was great to see Rob Read again. It was excellent meeting Camille Martin who is guest hosting CKLN's 'In Other Words'. Also excellent to meet & be hosted by Dave Dyment of Mercer Union, the artist run centre where Test takes place. I talked to Sam Kaufman who joked that our 'Moon Potatoes' piece sounded like a minimalist version of Moby Dick as a result of the book being fed through a computer program to extract the words ending in -ip, -it, -ish. A very pleasant Rebecca was in attendance & had lots to say about ours & Trevor's readings.

Mark Truscott & Lisa Heggum's four month old son Sam was in attendance for his second Test reading. He was quiet for the whole event save for one brief & very tasteful outblurt.