Tuesday, December 02, 2008

perform the name of the dead

"A Vocabulary for Peter Innisfree Moore" was created by Jackson MacLow in memory of his friend Peter Moore, who in photographs documented the doings and performances of NYC Fluxus and other artists in the 1960s and early 70s. The text or, more properly, the score is filled entirely with words (960 of them) drawn from the letters in the name of "Peter Innisfree Moore"; words like smite, opinion, freer, re-import, Semite, fen, minister, and smote circle around one another in various hand-drawn shapes and sizes.

Richard Kostelanetz writes, "This visual-verbal text can then become a score for a live performance in which any number of readers are encouraged to read aloud whichever words they wish, at whatever tempo they wish, for indefinite durations; and Mac Low's instructions for this particular piece suggest that the individual letters can be translated into certain musical notes (and, thus, that the same text can be interpreted as a musical score)."

One performance in the summer of 1975 was managed by MacLow. Here is a 6-minute excerpt from the audio recording of that event.

Earlier today my students and I discussed this work. Some didn't find it beautiful; some had doubts about its effectiveness as an alternative mode of elegy or memorialization. Most found it beautiful, worthy and a great alternative to the usual methods we use to describe or narrate the life of a dead friend or colleague. You can hear a recording of the entire class session (1 hr 20 minutes).

Other links:

[] an article about Peter Moore
[] elaborate performance instructions issued by MacLow for this piece
[] a profile of MacLow written by Charles Bernstein not long after MacLow's death