RE enact/DIS enchant

Opus #1, Wangatta Exhibitions Gallery, Victoria
Opus #2, Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria
Opus #3, Storey Hall, RMIT, Melbourne, Victoria

Gender Rituals
by Mark Finsterer

The music for this exhibition refers to sacred rituals and music of the past via the sampled bass voice. This is the 'basis' upon which the choir of voices is built: the solemn chanting of monks in cloisters, removed from life in the outside world and striving to attain ideals of purity, clarity and simplicity. They were an example to the rest of society. Religious obedience (and fear of super-natural reprisals for non-compliance) formed the basis of the means of maintaining social order and control. A time when secular power was wielded by religious authorities.

It refers also to the present, to the pluralistic nature of society in the twentieth century, via the electronic (synthetic) manipulation of sound. The material the synthesizer transforms was once pure and uncomplicated, but it becomes wild and uncontrollable. Technology, a tool for making some things easier and other things possible, here serves only to encourage a sense of confusion which infects the 'monks’ material' giving rise to a cacophony of ideas, squabbling just to be heard let alone for prominence.

There is also the super-imposition of live instruments (acoustic and electric guitars and percussion) which, although caught way, up 'in their own time', do also refer in their own way, to the 'sacredness' and ritualistic nature of music long passed. In doing so however, they are reminded that things have moved on and the music of earlier epochs then becomes unavoidably influential in their search for an identity in the music.

In its attempt to make sense of things, the music builds and decays. What is composed for the ‘monks to sing’ is seemingly decomposed by the inter-action of the synthesizer. What was offered as a form of worship has become mere fodder for manipulation, a commodity of no real value -symbolic or otherwise. This signifies, I would like to think, the changing modus operandi of music as a conveyor of 'message' rather than its de-valuing. It forces us to look below the surface, 'under the skin and beyond the flesh' for meaning; as well as to the information overload that has accompanied the development of technology.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, economic mechanisms break their silence, production becomes noisy; the world of exchange monopolizes noise and the musician is inscribed in the world of money.

Noise is a weapon and music, primordially, is the formation, domestication and ritualization of that weapon as a simulacrum of ritual murder.

Before exchange, music fulfils a very precise function in social organization, according to a code I shall call sacrificial. Codification of this kind gives music a meaning, an operationality beyond its own syntax, because it inscribes music within the very power that produces society.1.

These continual processes of building and whittling away, and of the transformation of information provide the mechanism for the music to proceed: and it is the struggle between these forces for predominance and relevance, a struggle which is on-going and unwinable, which defines the form of the piece. The music is born of the conjunction of these estranged and incompatible, yet oddly symbiotic, elements.

Mark Finsterer, © 1994

1. Jacques Attain Noise - The Political Economy of Music