Happenings and Other Acts (Worlds of Performance) by Mariellen Sandford

By Mariellen Sandford

First released in 2004. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.

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Sample text

Rituals of tuning up, the appearance of the conductor, and the attitudes, behavior, and dress of the musicians are important parts of the experience. Although we enjoy watching performances on traditional instruments (at a piano recital, for example, seats on the keyboard side are preferred), the visual aspects are relatively easy to take for granted (and those who cannot see the keyboard do not feel cheated). A new instrument, such as a water gong, or a new way of playing, such as reaching inside the piano to pluck the strings, calls attention to itself: how the sound is produced becomes as significant a part of the experience as the quality of the sound itself.

But the symbols are of a private, nonrational, polyvalent character rather than intellectual. [… They] do not have any one rational public meaning as symbols. Although they may, like everything else, be interpreted, they are intended to stir the observer on an unconscious, alogical level. These unconscious symbols compare with rational symbols only in their aura of “importance”: we are aware of a significance and a “meaning,” but our minds cannot discover it through the usual channels. Logical associations and unambiguous details that would help to establish a rational context are not available.

Kaprow and Whitman both saw this performance, and Kaprow has stated that Taylor, as well as Cage, influenced his work on 18 Happenings in 6 Parts. James Waring and Ann Halprin, who found stimulation in many of Cage’s concepts, also influenced the style of Happenings. Although Happenings as complete works cannot be confused with dances, many of them contain compartments that are basically dances or indeterminate systems of movement. In spite of their formal indebtedness, Happenings on the whole cannot be considered to be Dadaist works.

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