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A Table! au Brass (sketches)
Petit tour de table, grande bouffe ... [ii]

june 18, 2009.

[ podcast :: sbpc 32 ... s ]

At the beginning of our Table Triptych at Le Brass, audience, arriving downstairs, passed through the center's catacombs, where they were welcomed by the sounds from a hidden cassette player, on which were playing back the recordings of the telephone calls that Jean-Jacques had made the evening before, going through his mobile's contacts one by one, calling his friends and connections, explaining to them what we had been doing au Brass, and why they should absolutely come over and see the performance.

With a few simple spotlights the old walls, stones, corners and holes made for an intriguing play of light and dark. People would pass and hear Jean-Jacques rattle on in french on the telephone. Maybe, looking somewhat closer, they would discern the small flower painting that we had picked up somewhere from the streets in Brussels earlier that week.

brass catacombe brass catacombe

From there one was led on, up a metal staircase, to the back of the Brass' machine hall. There was the first of the three tables at which we would perform. From table to table we were to increase our playing's density, its amplification and volume. There was almost no amplification at the first table, amplification via two microphones at the second one, and full 'quadraphonic' amplification for the final.

At the first table we did a version of "Pour tes beaux yeux". As some of you might remember from previous occasions, this piece consists basically in the solitary playback of the somewhat over 10 minutes long recording on a found microcassette, in which Marie-Laure, a Parisian woman, fights on the telephone over the kids with Christophe, her ex-husband, and engages in guilt-ridden monologues on her soon to be finalized divorce.

During this first scene, I was standing at a slightly inclined metal table posed in the middle of the old rusty installation, and began by letting a wooden pole slowly roll along the tabletop, again and again and again ...

scene 1


At the back of the Brass building run the railway tracks, along which at regular intervals pass trains to and from the Gare de Midi. The scenario for the performance that we had developed over the days preceding the performance on the evening of march 27th, indicated that after having started it, I was to persist in the rolling pole ritual until a first train would come rumbling by. The sound of the passing train would provide the transition to the playback of the microcassette, amplified by the little green Honey Tone.

With the dramatic story of Marie-Laure and Christophe unfolding, from somewhere far down below, unseen to the public, playing his sopranino like a pied piper trying to lure their two little girls away from the quarreling couple, Jean-Jacques was to arrive in the catacomb below the first table, where he would continue to improvise along with the sounds of the microcassette, the sax sounds whirling and drifting up the holes in the floor through which run the big pipes of the old machine installation.

I had given Jean-Jaqcues a sign that I was going upstairs to take my place at the first table, and start the performance as soon as the audience would begin entering the machine room. Jean-Jacques then hid himself somewhere downstairs, in order to arrive in the play really 'unseen'. Before going up, I started the telephone conversations tape, which would play for some 45 minutes. Up in the machine room that tape was barely audible, so it could just continue to play, also when the performance up there had started.

On the other hand, its sounding made it difficult to hear downstairs the (not so loud) noises that I began with upstairs. This was a flaw in our otherwise immaculate plan, and the reason that Jean-Jacques remained folded up in his hiding place below for the full time that the telephone tape downstairs ran ... When the audience had arrived upstairs in the machine hall, unheard by Jean-Jacques, I started rolling the pole along the tabletop. And then there was the first train passing, and I pushed the button for Pour tes beaux yeux's playback.
After some time I started to wonder what was keeping Jean-Jacques, but Marie-Laure's drama continued to unfold. Without the pied piper ...

Towards the end of the tape story, I walked over to the second table. And there switched to the second scene - set up before the majestic De La Vergne machine (there are some more pictures in the previous Brass entry) - with a sudden change of lighting, that invited the audience to come walking over and join me there.

But still there was neither sound nor sight of Jean-Jacques ...

scene 2

It was therefore that willy-nilly I also started playing the second table all on my own. Mind you that at the time I was not sure that there indeed was a misunderstanding. Even though we beforehand had agreed upon a certain order and the sort and nature of events, when the chips are down, there are no rules. It is not even a rule that there are no rules ... So, as far as I knew, Jean-Jacques had decided on a different way of proceeding, and for some reason that would become crystal clear to me later, he had skipped his pied piping the first scene.

Then, after just a few minutes into the second act, he indeed made a thunderous entrance. He looked à la fois severe and clownish, swaying his sopranino and wearing the orange apron that for the occasion we had bought in a Brussels thrift store, buttoned higgledy-piggledy The ensuing dialogue between us on what had happened - one of the 'absurd' dialogues in which we do tend to engage during performance and that because of our different characters and physiques often (sometimes more, sometimes less interestingly) border on slapstick - was not all play. And when Jean-Jacques at the end of the short second scene smashed the plates and cups that we had collected those past days in the streets and on the flea market, there was a substantial amount of real anger in his gestures.

I am sorry that nobody filmed these parts, including our grand finale ( * ), fully amplified, at the big round table in the Brass entrance hall. Down there we were seated in pretty comfortable but not so performance-proof chairs and in the fire of play, somewhere in the final quarter of this third scene, Jean-Jacques must have raised his sopranino too high too quickly and then blew it too forcefully, for all of a sudden he lost balance and with chair and all he tumbled over backwards ...

...

found table found table found table
found table found table found table

...

There is no little meaning to the fact that we dedicate our "A Table!" performances to Daniel Spoerri, as we aim at making each of our 'A Tables' into a sonic topography, guided by a table with things and objects that, led purely by chance, we pick up before the performance, on our way to and at the spot where the concert is to take place.

The week of our short residency at Le Brass, Brussels was gray and wet. We nevertheless spent a lot of time outside, to see what we might stumble upon. The first thing I picked up, at the Place du Jeu de Balle, were six badly damaged large format black and white photo negatives, the prints of which you see above (click to see them bigger). They are photographs of a festive (family) dinner, where the guests are sitting at a large table, and are being served in what appears to be a richly decorated room. I imagined this to be a dinner at the brewer's house, in the days that business was blooming. And the degradation of the old black and white photos became a reflection of that of the proud old machines amid which we were to perform. Along with the gray of the weather, for me these pictures provided (and now re-present) much of the mind set for the week.

...

Here is something else Jean-Jacques and me picked up at the Place du Jeu de Balle, a good-as-new Akai CR-81 8 Track Stereo player/recorder, and a box with 23 tape cartridges, most of them pre-recorded with pop and easy listening music ("Autofahrer's Hitparade" - Music to drive by - is the title of a series that makes up about half of the collection). .

The merchant charged us next to nothing, and probably was glad to have found someone other than himself to carry that (quite weighty) obsolete audio-lot off the market.

eighttrack

The last time I stuck such a tape cartridge into the slot of a machine was ages ago ( ** ), so it was something of a re-first time, when I took it out of its box, powered it up, picked a Autofahrer's Hitparade, and shoved it right in ...

The Akai CR-81 became one of the tools/objects on our third table. You will hear it in the extract that Jean-Jacques made from the recording of that part of our performance in Le Brass, and which follows here, for your download and listening pleasure, as this SB edition's podcast ...

next: Cover thyself

[ previous A Table!-entry: Petit tour de table, grande bouffe [i] ]

notes __ ::
(*) The performance at the, third, round table was projected onto a large screen behind us, but there was no tape in the camera that was used for the projection... [ ^ ]
(**) For many years (surely in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but maybe also later, I can not remember) I had a small black echo box that used these cartridges to echo-o-o - o - o - o... I have forgotten what became of the little machine. [ ^ ]

tags: Brussels, A Table!, stereo 8

# .315.

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