Ryu Hankil – Description for Other things
I blogged recently about Ryu Hankil and his beautiful series of four, but to this date three complete, Typewriter music discs. At the time, I had only heard sections of Hankil’s work. I have, since then been fortunate enough to hear the rest of the cd’s, and if that is not enough of its own miracle, I have been able to correspond with Hankil himself.
(Lets give this ‘Lisa’ context. In my world that is a little like Paul McCartney contacting me saying he really liked my blog post about the Beatles. I had a little girly grin that day, I can tell you.)
To continue a theme I started in that earlier blog post, I want to refer to a recent seminar I attended and some of the notes that I took that day and expand on the ideas that have come out of this remarkable music and that wonderful seminar. For an always brilliant diagnosis of this amazing disc, go and check Richard Pinnell’s blog about this. Please excuse the back and forth of cross-reference between Richard and I on this topic – what can I say! It’s exciting for us!
Description for Other things is a piece of music that explores form and function of the typewriter. By lifting the instrument out of its role as an appliance of sorts, it is moved into another dimension where the instrument literally becomes instrument – that is the role is expanded to move deliberately beyond function, although function is included and transformed as part of this metamorphosis. Included with the disc, is a small booklet. In this booklet, the following has been typed over and over – this is the music that Hankil is playing:
Pull the paper release lever and insert a sheet of paper into the carriage. Push the paper release lever and the paper will be fastened by the platen. Dial the platen knobs and the fastened paper will be rolled up towards the type bar guide. Dial further the knobs until the paper will be locked up inside the paper bail scale. Pull the margin stops by the both ends to adjust the margin. push the carriage up to the right end. When a key is pushed, the type bar attached to the segment and the key will move, the ribbon carrier will move up, and the letter will be typed on the paper. At the same time, the carriage will move from right to left and the key will return to its original position as soon s the key stops being pushed. Push the shift key, and the type bar and the segment will move downwards and be locked up.
These words are accompanied by lettering at the base of each page A – K and timing notices, so one can follow the reading material and literally read the music in words. This gives the letters (the writing / typing) a dual nature. It can be viewed either as a series of typographical operations changing one pattern of symbols into another, or as a series of arithmetical operations changing one magnitude into another. Given Arithmetical can be defined as any mathematical theory or study or practice, or as the computing on the fingers, this take on a new dimension when considering the musician here, typing words in musical sequence while literally counting on his fingers.
This theory has unexplored potential – something I alluded to in the last post – in regards to reading the material and in this case, hear/reading the material. I’d suggested in the previous post there was an opportunity to read Beckett differently in this, and it turns out, this disc does approach that very idea by encouraging us to read the music along with the piece. I gave this a go, but think I may have failed rather. At first I read too slow, missing my time quest at the base of the page. The typing is faster than my reading. When I sped up and following the time prompts, I found I was beyond my speed reading and actually missing some of the words.
The other exciting concept that came alive for me in the reading experience was the close of the gap between the work and the sound of the work being made. Even though the work was recorded before, I could hear it being typed as I read. For me, this brought the reader and the writer together – as if our collaboration called forth something new, rather than the purely interpretative role I as the reader usually play. I felt as though I were part of the performance, not just in how I read and give life to the text, but in the immediacy I was at the formation point – reading over the shoulder of my writer if you like. It’s still my version of the piece, but we are creating the text at precisely the same time. Sound and reading and typing and writing all became the same thing, as if we were musicians working on a kind of improv rather than my engagement being after the fact and in the isolation of my personal interpretation.
The world we are inhabiting seems to be created by the words of the novel and therefore to be the writers invention. After we enter it, however, this virtual reality seems to refer or correspond at a distance to a realm that has always been there already, waiting to be revealed, dis-covered, uncovered, by the writer’s words. Within that virtual reality, the reader, after the first sentence, can now dwell through all the time it takes to the end of the novels last page and last sentence, Kate Croy’s “we shall never be the same again.” In other words, these patterns are already in the work – these interpretive qualities in us are underdeveloped. Because art can tap these systems without interpretation, they exist already, available to be uncovered as we become more sophisticated in the length of our reach.
I really can’t leave this blog post without attempting to recreate part of Hankil’s notes here:
Ryu Hankil Description for Other Things
00:00 A A typewriter proficient at ‘hostile writing’ was handed to a person who wants to write something.
02.06 B This dead yet living monster proves itself its unique tenaciousness.
04:12 C Even the sound that the monster makes is itself a history.
05:36 D Everybody knows the monster’s name and the monster’s history.
07:21 E However the records of the monster’s motion were nowhere to be found.
08:45 F A person who wants to write something is fascinated by the monster’s hostile proficiency.
10:30 G A catastrophe brought about by the persons choice is being gradually visible.
11:54 H It is his or her own choice, but the person starts to think about how the consequences are avoidable at the same time.
13:18 I To record a record that does not exist.
14:21 J Only thing can be recorded is a certain tone.
15:24 K A tone that functions as a trigger that differently operates.