Hearing Metal 1 – Michael Pisaro connects with the Source

In the notes that accompany the first of the Hearing Metal series by Michael Pisaro, the claim is made that the work is one of intense collaboration between composer and performer. Pisaro writes:

The piece evolved as Greg made test recordings based on my suggestions and then sent them to me. AS it happened we feel we fell into its world, in order to move it slightly towards our own.

There is no inhabiting of a world without changing it. There is a kind of meaning behind every form of structuralism and it is this meaning that is concealed in the very act of trying to uncover it.  What is a work of art if not an attempt to give voice to structuralism – or rather meaning. In hearing metal we have four forces come together, that of Michael Pisaro, Greg Stuart (percussionist), the tam-tam and the great sculpture Brâncuși after whose work the three pieces are named. Stuart performs the work on a 60 inch Tam-tam which is an instrument that looks a little like a gong. Brâncuși works in many cases with metals. His abstract style emphasizes clean geometrical lines that balance forms inherent in his materials with the symbolic allusions of representational art. He is considered one of the pioneers of modernism, and in his own words wanted to reveal “not the outer form but the idea, the essence of things.”

Pisaro chose the tam-tam for its responsive and resonant qualities as well as the restrictions and freedoms of its implicit contours. In very Brâncuși style, he wanted to impose a certain structure or form and cut across it with pure tones.  Given the inflexible structure of the instrument and the artist, composer and performer chose to take th elements within themselves and (as I have stated above) explore the Derridean concepts of concealing meaning through the very act of uncovering it. As Derrida writes, To comprehend the structure of a becoming, the form of a force, is to lose meaning by finding it. In other words the very overarching structures of each of the elements that come together here are uncovered and also hidden by the gentle and pervasive force of composer and percussionist falling into the world in order to make it their own.

To say force is the origin of the phenomenon is to say nothing. By it’s very articulation force becomes a phenomenon. But like language, music has an inability to emerge from itself in order to articulate its origin and therefore to understand this complicated subject we refer to this inability rather than referring to the thought of force. Force is the other of music without which music (sound) would not be what it is. This concept of force being the phenomenon behind the concealment of the structure in the very attempt to give the structure a voice, takes us back to the age-old metaphor of the self revealed and the self hidden.  Metaphor in general is the passage from one signified meaning to another authorised by the initial submission of being. The self sublimated in order to explain the self revealed.

When Pisaro confesses to fall into a world in order to move it slightly toward his own, it is this phenomenon he uses.  Force applied to structure in order to reveal a deeper part of self, conceals the original, even as it reveals via metaphor.  This is why music and sound such as this feel so deeply beautiful and resonant. We use our own listening force to conceal and reveal when we hear.

You can purchase a copy of Hearing Metal 1 here. 

All the Derrida quotes are taken from Writing and Difference, chapter One Force and Signification