Essay by Pat Noecker

Text: Pat Noecker / Video: Sofy Yuditskaya

A few months ago, I asked Pat Noecker, aka RAFT, if he would contribute to Periscope. He elaborated on how over the last 5 years or so, live visual elements at music and sound shows and live music and sound at art shows have become commonplace.  He explored the notion that perhaps they at times cancel each other out and discussed how leaving music and sound invisible may evoke a deeper, more transformative experience. After that night, I started to close my eyes at shows and realized darkness transformed me into more of an active listener. It almost felt like my heart beat became a part of the vibrations. Pat and I debated about the kind of visuals we could provide to go with his essay since Periscope is a visual oriented magazine and his essay is about invisible matters.  Video artist Sofy Yuditskaya kindly agreed to modify the video she composed for a piano piece Pat did at Spectrum in Manhattan where he combined the grand piano with his John Cage Prepared Piano app.  The essay written by Pat is not a manifesto.  It is, however, a revelation of one person's desire to reduce environments, thus illuminating something larger, like the necessity of separating music and art for the sake of active listening.  Finally, these thoughts lay bare the impetus behind an inward migration by the mass to once again recalibrate the city, the city here being our ever expanding consciousness and intellect.   (Yumiko Sakuma)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the place of visual art in the context of music and sound-art shows.  Their recent growing interdependency, notably in Brooklyn, has marked an evolution of each form that says: one must have the other.  In other words, if you’re going to have “music,” you must have “art,” and if you’re going to have “art,” you must have “music.”
Hyper-stimulative show environments have become common place and seemingly necessary to transform an audience.  As a result of seeing and hearing so much of it and immersing projections into my own collaborative ASSEMBLE shows, I’ve been asking myself if this immersion is necessary or what it means.
In some senses, I feel like a dependency has developed between music, art and sound, exposing something about our current condition, or at the very least, my own–a reluctance for minimized environments, spectacle-addiction and an overall need to be hyper-stimulated.  As I recalibrate my own aesthetic trajectory, I feel like I’m moving toward an inner space where I’m less dependent on the external.  Perhaps this state reflects a more general condition of the mass, one predicated and illuminated by internet-based activity and especially, invisible connections.  And based on a couple decades of touring, I’m also inclined to consider the notion of movement toward the inner city and away from the suburbs.  Society is seemingly resculpting its internal matter and direction, revealing a literal coming together in order to reconsider and recalibrate last century’s model of suburban dwelling and outer migrations.  Therein is a creative revolution, one I wonder if others share or if it’s just reflective of my state.  I’m going deeper into darkness and realizing that when there’s nothing to look at, all I have left is the simple act of listening.  I am inclined then to let rest the act of attempting to make everything “visible.” 
To let the invisible be.  To let darkness inform without exposing.
Let me explain how I got here and why I’m asking myself if the dependency that’s developed between music and art is fading.  If the two are cancelling each other out, thus laying-bare something about our general condition.
I first became interested in the process of visualizing music after I read Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art, which leads the reader down a road of dissecting the “other side,” the visual side of music.  I explored Der Blaue Reiter, the early 1900’s Munich-based movement dedicated to the relationship between visual art and music, which featured such abstract expressionists as Kandinsky, Klee and Russian Realist Marianne Von Werfskin.  I was drawn to the process of imagining and creating the look of sound, like Kandinsky did in his color-tone theatre piece, “The Yellow Sound”.  Through this exploration, I learned that no representation is the “right one”.  No interpretation is wrong.  It’s specific to the listener/viewer.  I think the make-visual process exposed a personal need to usher light toward darkness versus where I am now with ushering darkness toward light.  Present was a drive to focus on the appearance of music, or, at the very least, to give it a face.  Moreover, at this time, there were political factors floating around.  We were nearing the end of eight stupid Bush-years, living under a military-minded colonizing president who left us all feeling a little embarrassed to be American.  This reality inspired artists to be uber-expressive and incorporate music as a vehicle to reveal an experience that helped shape a new, light-driven reality.  In essence, I felt like a distinct effort was afoot among musicians and artists to make the “show” experience hyper-stimulative, to make it very visible.
In 2007, for instance, These Are Powers threw a record release party to celebrate the release of our second LP, All Aboard Future.  We gave 50 various artists the title of the album and asked them to create something visual based on the songs and those three words.  We wanted visual art to reveal another side of the music,  the invisible side.  (But once done, the invisible side, in a sense, disappeared.)  This exploration remained constant throughout our tenure and it was never uninteresting to see what artists would bare from the wells of their creative selves.
Now, looking back at that time, it’s clear to me that artists’ attempts to reveal another dimension through projections, installations and various media were based on a need to, again, make visible the invisible.  And comparing, say, 2007 up to now, and the period of 1999-2002 when I was playing in LIARS, there was little presence of installations and art at shows–unless you consider those done by Twisted Ones, notably Eric of Secret Project Robot,  who was always running several reel to reel projectors, perhaps foreshadowing that to come.  Having lived and been active through both periods, I must say, whether it was rooted in a 9-11 reaction or because the environments were minimal, the energy was much greater and definitely at times…vicious.  It was all about the music, not about music and “art”. 
Now I’ve changed.  Times have changed.  My medium is different. 
I’ve taken to doing interactive shows on my cell phone.  So much to the extent that I’m calling myself a Cell Phonist, a term I invented inspired by Turntablism’s repurposing of the record player.  As I’m playing on my cell phone and interacting with the audience, I realize it is the invisible space that I’m traveling through as I connect, as the audience steps through my being into a communal portal.  People often sugguest that I should have a projector so the audience can see what’s happening on my cell phone.  I tend to think that mystery, the absence of the visual, is what makes it intriguing.  Sabisha Friedberg’s semi-recent piece at Issue Project Room “Hinterkante, Resonanz (Hoffe Axiom)” comes to mind, where “the room becomes a cavity of a sparse but immersive spacialized and low frequencies.  The performers deliver pure tones that resonate within an interstitial aural space above and within the subsonic, and then exist infinitely in the infrasonic.”  I sat for two hours at Sabisha’s show.  It felt like a meditation and it was effective because of how reduced the visual environment was and therefor, transformative.  Any presence of visual matter I felt would have impeded the activity of the invisible.  And everything felt invisible.  Powerful.
After my show I did at Helper Gallery over the summer, I experienced visions of wires projecting from me and out of the audience back to me.  My current state says that revealing this in a literal fashion would be less interesting, that I should let the invisible generate visuals internally instead of externally.   And when I rev up the cell phone, I feel like I become invisible and that a pathway, a dark pathway emerges, but one eventually leading to light.  I think this process must be boring to watch, but better to listen to.  And in the sound there’s a deep, deep space, where the invisible lives and remains.


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