Special Projects > Love and Reproduction

Object #2: Drip Music

Stop! This will make a lot more sense if you have received your Drip Music postcard and watched the video.

Fluxus Event Scores and Performance as Reproduction: Until recently, I had not thought about the fact that musical scores are a form of reproduction. I was in choir for most of my teen years and took guitar lessons, and I know how to read music. I’ve performed music from a written score ONE BILLION TIMES (okay, several hundred), and not once have I have sat down and thought seriously about them. A score is a set of instructions to create a performance of the music written on the page. Some composers include detailed notations to control most aspects of the performance, while others take a more loosey-goosey approach, encouraging the musician to add their own flourishes. (Plays operate on a similar principle.) No performance is going to be an exact copy, but no copy is ever truly identical. Something is always lost or changed in the translation, even if it is minor. Every instance of Drip Music I have seen on the internet has been different, but the core action remains the same.

What started me thinking about this? Fluxus Forms: Scores, Multiples, and the Eternal Network by Natilee Harren. I was looking for books about reproduction and/or multiples and this seemed related, so I bought it. I knew a bit about Fluxus but had never really spent time going down that particular rabbit hole. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. Turns out Fluxus is totally my thing. The book starts out describing event scores, and this fired up my brain. (I mean that literally. Sometimes when I read stuff and it really resonates, I feel like my brain is eating pop rocks. Lots of fizzy neurons.) What is an event score? According to Harren: “Typically a brief performance instruction written in colloquial language composed to be performable by anyone…” George Brecht was the originator of the event score and had studied with John Cage, who had been using symbols to create musical scores instead of traditional notation. (I have no real desire to write an informative essay about John Cage or Fluxus, but I have provided hyperlinks for those who would like to explore the subject.) In the case of Drip Music, Brecht basically just sent mimeographs to his friends instructing them to pour water from one vessel into another. He created a lot of event scores, and another of my favorites is:

No Smoking Event
Arrange to observe a NO SMOKING SIGN
No smoking

I think the event scores are funny (and sometimes dumb and sometimes pretentious) but that’s not what got my brain going. I love the idea of receiving instructions from the past to create a thing now. Event scores are so vague that the performer must bring their own sensibilities to the presentation, but the seed still originates in the text. I don’t think Brecht envisioned a performance of Drip Music utilizing a wall hanging with dogs playing pool, but I think he would be down with someone creating a performance out of stuff they just had around the house. Thinking about scores led me to ponder instruction manuals (another form of replication: of either skills, actions, or objects ) and that led to a whole other project for me called Instruction Manual for a New Era. 5 artists are sending me a set of instructions and I am creating a book comprised of their directives and prints based on those directions. In each instance, I have to interpret what was written to me and translate it into print form. SOME ARE HARDER THAN OTHERS, but they are all fun. I think I am more interested in following scores than creating them, and I am widening my view of what constitutes an instruction manual or a score. When making art inspired by other art (which is where I am at right now), I feel like I am piecing together vague directives from the past to create something new.

Object Info: The Drip Music postcard is an inkjet print on Stonehenge paper. It’s a pretty fair copy of the version of Brecht’s original I found on the internet. I wasn’t sure about the font, but Gill Sans seemed close, and I really liked how the ‘y’ looked. My inkjet printer is not as economical as my toner printer, but it handles unusual paper sizes and types better. (I have both kinds of printers because they each have different functions for printmaking. Inkjet is better for doing fancy printing and screenprint positives. Toner printing is better for basic text work and things like paper litho and toner transfers.) The size is a function of what the USPS considers a postcard. Postcards are subject to a lot of abuse in the mail process (stamped, barcoded, etc) so each one arrives at its destination transformed.

Video Info: My version of Drip Music was shot on an iPhone 13. It then took me an hour or two to figure out how to use iMovie to edit the footage into a masterpiece. (My kid and I used to have a YouTube show, but we recorded it with Google Hangouts so I never had to use any editing software.) I own the wall hanging of the dogs playing pool and the giant beer stein. The idea to use them came to me in a dream; it still seemed like a good idea when I woke up, so I did it. The beer is actually water and food coloring mixed to match one of the dogs in the background. (I had a hard time mixing anything that actually looked like beer, so I went for a harmonious color palette.)

The link I provide actually sends you to a playlist of two videos, the second of which is labeled “Drip Music - George Brecht (Fluxus).” (The details read “Concierto ensemble saxofones” which it decidedly is not.) I assume this is really George Brecht performing the event. It’s hard to tell, but the man in the video kinda looks like the picture I have found on Google. The video was definitely not taken in the 60s because its made with handheld technology, which at the time would have been a super 8 camera, and they did not record sound until 1973. So maybe a super 8 or video camera. (I am not sure if super 8s make operational noise. If so, you can’t hear it here.) Brecht lived until 2008, so it is entirely possible his performances were captured on video. I’m not really going anywhere with this, other than to state I can neither confirm nor deny who is in this film, but it’s my favorite of the Drip Music videos, and I really hope it is Brecht. (Although it would be funny if it was attributed to him but really it is some other dude who is eternally mad he isn’t getting credit for his awesome performance.)

Also, most Drip Music performances involve pouring rather than dripping, although I guess pouring could be considered dripping if you get technical about it. Lots of dripping all at once. I tried to include both.

Research Notes:

This month’s object was heavily inspired by what I learned in Fluxus Forms: Scores, Multiples, and the Eternal Network by Natilee Harren. I found this book on accident when the publisher sent me a sale notification for pdfs. It had the word "multiple" in it, and the price was right, so I bought it. VERY GOOD BOOK and contains a lot of ideas that made my brain happy.

Object 2: Drip Music Blog Entry

Blog entry explaining how and why I made the Drip Music postcard and video.