These scores expand the parameters of the format to incorporate visual elements, lengthy texts, and the paper containing the instructions itself, resulting in scores of great sensitivity and imagination.
Edited by Andrew Fenchel and Andrew Lampert
The event score, a format that arose out of the Fluxus group in the 1960s, is typically a “one or two-line recipe for action,” as described by artist Alison Knowles. The ten contributors to Lampo Folio, published by the Chicago-based experimental arts nonprofit of the same name, expand these parameters to incorporate visual elements, lengthy texts, and the paper containing the instructions itself, resulting in scores of great sensitivity and imagination. Edited by Lampo director Andrew Fenchel and the artist, critic, and archivist Andrew Lampert, Folio is housed in a slim container in the palest shade of mint green. It consists of an introduction and ten scores, each relayed on a large, loose leaf of paper that has been folded in half. Commissioned during the pandemic, these scores “[create] new stages within domestic spaces, and [are] a means for thinking about the social conditions of performance, particularly at a time when home life and shared experiences have been upended,” as Fenchel and Lampert write.
The event score operates according to the logic of both musical notation and text; even if the viewer does not literally enact its instructions, simply reading the notation allows a series of visualizations to unfurl. It has a coiled potential, morphing as it is iterated across time and space. Fenchel and Lampert cite Knowles, George Brecht, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young, and others in the Fluxus group as pioneers of the form, but they note that contributors to Folio were encouraged to push the event score beyond the “short texts and simple gestures” that characterize its most famous examples.
One method of complicating the event score was to imagine enactors of the scores performing simultaneously, though they would be invisible to one another in their isolated spaces. Accordingly, each contributor was asked to pick a time of day that their piece should be performed. This request resulted in the choice of some wittily subjective times, such as “after dinner (but before dessert)” and “when the shadows are quite long, lending at least twenty percent added length to all objects.” The promise of concurrent experiences, however imaginary or personalized, imbues the scores with an optimistic sense of collectivity.
The materiality of the folded paper also plays a key role in the complexity of Folio, in direct opposition to the inactive viewing dynamic created by streamed performances, a common (and necessary) form during the pandemic. Released from the passive position of spectator, the reader/performer is invited to fold, flip, and—in some cases—alter the scores themselves. Nikita Gale’s Producer instructs performers to manipulate shapes by rotating, halving, and joining sections of the sheet in a puzzle-like challenge. Jessie Marino’s whorl requires enactors to trace forms with a pointed instrument, forming raised patterns that are then “played” with the enactor’s fingers. While they don’t ask performers to transform the sheet, Sergei Tcherepnin’s Release the Beluga Night and Sarah Hennies’s Work for Heat provide carefully sequenced instructions for making sounds with homemade instruments, while Nour Mobarak’s Private Plug uses silence as a key compositional element, inviting enactors to recite a hallucinatory poem while wearing earplugs. As the performer turns the pages, new and complicated layers of these scores are revealed.
In other works, notations were produced based upon chance and the results of external systems. Lampert’s Intraday shows ninety-two graphs documenting the fluctuation of Spotify’s stock price between noon and 1 pm on May 13, 2021. Performers are supposed to play their chosen instruments using the graphs, price, or percentage changes as indications to rise or fall in pitch; the artist warns them that “like the stock market, this music is unpredictable and may be volatile.” Inspired by her past as a “broke college student” reading reviews of records she couldn’t afford to buy, Jennifer Walshe’s A SEETHING MAELSTROM OF WOODY REVERBERATION used an AI trained on album reviews to generate textual scores that unfold like garbled, witchy poems. Piling up similes (“like the soundtrack to a film about death,” “like a field of crop-circles heaving with pent-up emotion”) alongside repetitive invocations of “dark” and “droning” bass tones, the collaged phrases achieve their own uncanny rhythms.
I found the scores that revolved around imaginings and absences to be the most powerful, invoking situations and temporalities just out of reach. To enact Bonnie Jones’s Tetraphobia: a ritual for now, performers should conjure a sound from childhood, contemplating it and then attempting to perform it for an audience. Inside the fold of the sheet is a photocopy of what is presumably Jones’s adoption paperwork from South Korea, in a gesture of sharing from her own past. Elliot Reed’s UNITED SUPER DETERGE PER HOUSTON 91-01-27 instructs the performer to sit in the bathroom, with the shower on and a candle lit, listening to Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The enactor should picture the United States cleaning itself as the song plays. The instructions regard this act of sonic and psychic purification with muted hope: “After Whitney’s final note, the USA will most likely be clean.” The performer of Gala Porras-Kim’s similarly droll A Score for Exercises in Chronesthesia, visualized in the form of graph paper with a circle “sinking” below the horizon as the pages are turned, should begin their work at sunset, thinking intently of someone else who may also be following the score. The piece is realized “when a connection is made through thought,” an event so intense that “blindness may occur.” This warning, however tongue-in-cheek, emblematizes the mix of deadpan and possibility that characterizes the event score at its best. What worlds could the performer unlock, if they really tried?