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For a more enhanced experience, PS122 has committed to commissioning program notes for each major production. We’re hoping that through these writings we can provide a deeper connection to the ideas that are prevalent throughout the work or the artist’s body of work and how these ideas relate to contemporary issues permeating throughout society. Our goal is to foster dialogue so if you feel compelled to share your thoughts, leave a comment.

Program Notes for COIL 2016: Song by Ranters Theatre
Q&A with composer and performer James Tyson from an interview in Turkey’s Radikal news outlet

Can you explain in your own words what the Song project is, what it aims to achieve?

With Song, we were interested in placing the form of a “song” at the center of a piece, perhaps something like what Sibelius pioneered as a “tone poem”, yet also drawing on what are often quite familiar forms, such as a band playing a gig which similarly places sung music at the center of a performance. Here we were attempting to look at the place in which we, as an audience, or a group of artists, can listen to songs. So the question of environment, and the positioning of the musicians and performers, became very important.

Song is a project which furthers an ordinary audio/visual installation. What is Song’s contemporary artistic practice in the arts world?

I think through the history of art, people have attempted to bring together how we sense and receive art, whether it is listening to a story, or observing cave paintings, or hearing a piece of music. We do not listen or see it in abstraction, but it is an experience that is sensed through a whole body.

How do the visual arts affect one’s mood and inspiration? What are the triggers for Song?

Every artwork is a rethinking of another. The poet John Keats wrote “Ode to a Nightingale” not sitting in the garden listening to a bird, but after seeing a painting in a gallery. Song was first made and presented in Melbourne, Australia, which for me coming from the UK, is on the other side of the world. It has its own deep culture, complexities, and not least, the ever-present relation to the natural environment of animals, birds, and insects.

How do you posit Song within the contemporary art world globally, and can you see any particular trends arising in this still quite new area of this kind of performing arts practice?

I think perhaps in the contemporary art world, there is a recurring fascination with a sense of “living”, that is to say, the thing that cannot be valued, or objectified, or put in a frame. Yet perhaps the art world also completely relies on this “frame” for its functioning. This paradox is a peculiar dance that different artists or institutions find different practices for how to negotiate. Aside from what I have said above, about the hearing (in the sense of the German word “hören” relating to the sense of “hearing” as a sense of “belonging” as Gadamer has talked about) of meaning and how we communicate and observe what is around us, maybe Song is reflective of this kind of situation in the art world.

© Photo by Arion Doerr

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