8/29/10

Mark So Appreciations IV

Performing Marmarth (2010) from Rick Bahto on Vimeo.


Infinite flexibility would be a liability in an indeterminate score. For, as Robert Smithson once said, "all legitimate art deals with limits. Fraudulent art feels that it has no limits. The trick is to locate those illusive limits." The score is a dialectic: it is freedom created by the imposition of limits; infinity must be delimited to be infinite. And just as there are different orders of infinity for numbers, so it is with freedom itself. Mark So's scores represent a very special kind of freedom.

Openness in the score is visible/sensible as openness in the performance. This is not formlessness, but rather permeability as a form. Porousness is the word that most often comes to mind when thinking of So's music. So writes the holes that make the music. Carl Andre once said, "a thing is a hole in a thing that it is not." And this is true; Smithson's non-sites prove it. But this is dialectical: a is not non-a. So writes holes within holes: N-dimensional porousness. a is non-a is not a is not.

So's score marmarth is a good example. Most of the instructions are parenthetical, the only seemingly "solid" one being: "the Little Missouri River." And, both as an object and an instruction, it is itself fluid, unstable, mercurial while at the same time modest and specific--it is both "little" and located. The music, then, tends towards landscape, but the personalized landscape of a Polaroid, not a panorama.

So writes this muted, modest mutability so deeply and with such economy that the performance itself need not even be "musical" in the traditional sense for us to sense the openness in the form. The score imposes limits--the Little Missouri, not the Mississippi--but there is an order of infinitude within those limits. One can now have a musical experience that does not necessarily come out as music, that is, not necessarily as sound. Rick Bahto has made an extraordinary performance of marmarth on super-8 film. The holes are there; the score is in tact. The music is open and beautiful and subtle as wind in the cottonwoods.

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