Monday, May 9, 2011

musique povera scores on wood

These new scores of Dylan Martorell’s— in which the inflorescences of various angiosperms are used as the basis of geometric designs, then to be translated into music—connect with ideas developed by John Cage on the possibilities of the natural world providing formal bases for art and music. In his own work, Cage gave us ‘nature’ as anarchy, defiant in its denial of humanity; Martorell’s ‘nature’, on the other hand, is scientific, a nature that, in a certain sense, cannot exist as purely natural. Here the formal principles of natural growth are overlayed on the grid, the space of exactitude and definition: ‘nature’ is constructed through its analysis and recording and, despite its oft-stated sublimity, is conceptual, rather than bluntly factual. Although science is at least partially the building block for our understanding of the natural as always-already interpreted, positivistic scientism works hard to objectify its body of knowledge and distance it from the human. Martorell refuses a bifurcation of knowledge into the scientific and the artistic: he makes music from botany, perhaps teaching us something about plant life in the process. 
In his diverse practise, which has involved drawing, print-making, assemblage, music and performance, Martorell consistently engages with non-western cultures and cosmologies. 
He has drawn mandalas with Nathan Grey, collaborated with an earnestly practising shaman in the Hi God People (a group whose performances often involve an unsettling cohabitation of the ironic and absurd with the authentically cultic and mystical)—these scores link to his previous work in proposing homologies between the forms of nature and music, a holistic approach rather than one in which humanity and nature, or science and art, are posed against one another. ‘Remain faithful to the earth’, Nietzsche wrote: in this show, we see Dylan Martorell experimenting with techniques for doing just this. With this in mind, we might question what we wrote above: it is not that nature cannot exist outside of ‘culture’, but rather that boundaries between the two have been ingeniously collapsed: from the point of Martorell’s formal homologies, the music these scores inspire is as ‘natural’ as the diagrams that inspired them were ‘cultural’. To quote La Monte Young, ‘these sounds are ancestors of the wild sounds – natural sounds, abstract sounds…’ Francis Plaigne

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