Slave Pianos, Dissident Consonances, Programme Text

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Slave Pianos, Dissident Consonances, Programme Text

ASTRA
2007

5pm Saturday 26 May 2007
5pm Sunday 27 May 2007
Lithuanian House
44 Errol Street, North Melbourne

DISSIDENT CONSONANCES or:

THE IRON CURTAIN, THE FLUX-LABYRINTH & LITHUANIAN HOUSE or:

Chairman George Maciunas & President Vytautas Landsbergis

Based on the correspondence of Fluxus founder George Maciunas and Lithuania’s first post-Soviet Head of State, Vytautas Landsbergis.

music, art, non-art, theatre, architecture, diaries, letters, poetry, testimonies, political writings, manifestos, film, dance, food, drink and other objects by SLAVE PIANOS, George Maciunas, Vytautas Landsbergis, Jonas Mekas, Leokadija Maciunas, Claudio Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, Jean de Macque, M.K.Ciurlionis, Anonymous (14th Century), Ottavio Rinuccini, Keith Humble, George Brecht, Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys, Larry Miller & Joe Jones


SLAVE PIANOS:
Danius Kesminas, Neil Kelly, Rohan Drape & Michael Stevenson

solo performers:
Richard Piper actor
Alena Karazijiene (Vytautas Landsbergis’ sister) narration
Nicholas Tolhurst baritone, sick man
Catrina Seiffert soprano, Hana Crisp alto
George Liakatos tenor

keyboards & continuo:
Elizabeth Anderson, Kim Bastin, Peter Dumsday & Joan Pollock organ positive, organ portative, regal, harpsichord, celeste & pianos
Caerwen Martin cello

dancing & games:
Nerija Zemkalnis (Vytautas Landsbergis’ great-niece)

vodka pipeline organ:
Dave Nelson & Antanas Kesminas organ technicians

vodka jelly & pancake chefs:
Dana Binkis & the Australian-Lithuanian Women’s Welfare Association

the ASTRA CHOIR:

soprano
Irene McGinnigle, Catrina Seiffert, Yvonne Turner, Louisa Billeter, Larissa Cox, Maree Macmillan, Kim Tan

alto
Pen Alexander, Hana Crisp, Anna Gifford, Beverley Bencina, Aviva Endean, Frances McKinnon, Toni Robson, Aline Scott-Maxwell, Lisel Thomas

tenor
Lachlan Brown, Mark Kerr, George Liakatos, William Thompson, Greg Deakin, Jon Drews, Simon Johnson

bass
Karl Billeter, Nicholas Tolhurst, Peter Dumsday, Andrew Rostas, Chris Smith, John Terrell, Jerzy Kozlowski

conducted by John McCaughey

Production Angela Pamic
Sound & recording engineer Michael Hewes
Astra manager Bobbie Hodge


DISSIDENT CONSONANCES or: The Iron Curtain, The Flux-Labyrinth & Lithuanian House or: Chairman George Maciunas & President Vytautas Landsbergis

PART 1. FOYER. EXHIBITION & MECHANIZED PIANO RECITAL. / THE FLUX-LABYRINTH & LITHUANIAN HOUSE

SLAVE PIANOS
TRANSCRIPTIONS, COMPOSITIONS (1998–2007)
mechanized piano

George Brecht
COMB MUSIC (COMB EVENT) from Water Yam (1960–63)
choir

TRANSITION & CORRIDOR INTERVENTION: Audience moves up stairs to balcony

Anon.
Estampie
LAMENTO DI TRISTANO (14th century), organ portative

PART 2. MAIN THEATRE. PLAY WITH CHORUS. / DISSONANT CORRESPONDENCES or: / THE LETTERS OF CHAIRMAN MACIUNAS & PRESIDENT LANDSBERGIS

Nam June Paik
2 x mini Giants (1991)
narrator
The East European revolution produced a playwright-president…

Keith Humble
HAIKU 3 from The Seasons (1971)
2 choirs with glass
No sky at all, no earth, and still the snowflakes fall – Shiki

M.K.Čiurlionis
VIENAM KIEMELY / AR VEJAI PUTE from Lithuanian Folksongs (1905)
choir
There was an infallible artist… – V.Landsbergis

Vytautas Landsbergis
SPATIAL POEM NO.3 (1966)
choir
Falling Event. Various things were let fall… - V.Landsbergis

SLAVE PIANOS
CHORALE from Two Lives In Flux: And Vice Versa (2004) choir
Since Monteverdi, nothing of note has been composed… – G.Maciunas

George Maciunas
TRIO FOR LADDER, MUD AND PEBBLES (1962) / DUET FOR FULL BOTTLE AND WINE GLASS (1962) / SOLO FOR SICK MAN (1962)
choir

TRANSITION & CORRIDOR INTERVENTION: Audience moves down stairs to ballroom

Robertsbrige Codex
ORGAN ESTAMPIE (1325), regal

PART 3. BALLROOM. CHAMBER CONCERT. / PARTHENIA or: FLUX-WEDDING / FLUX-MASS

Jean de Macque
CONSONANZE STRAVAGANTI (ca 1610) (Extravagant Consonances)
organ positive

Henry Purcell
A NEW GROUND (1683)
harpsichord

George Maciunas
GIANT WHEEL from FLUXGAMES (1973)
dancer, actor, devices

Rohan Drape
WEDDING SENTENCES (2007)
choir, organs, celeste, cello, electronics
and George, laughing, laughing at it all… – J.Mekas

Henry Purcell
FUNERAL SENTENCES (1695)
choir & continuo
In the midst of life we are in death… - Notker of St Gallen.

Jean de Macque
STRAVAGANTI II. (ca 1610)
organ positive

PART 4. MAIN THEATRE. FILM. / ZEFIRO TORNA / LAST WILL & TESTAMENT or: / SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF GEORGE MACIUNAS & VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS

Jonas Mekas
ZEFIRO TORNA or: SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF GEORGE MACIUNAS (1992)
16mm film 34 minutes

Claudio Monteverdi
SVOGAVA CON LE STELLE from Madrigals Book IV (1603)
choir
He lamented to the stars, under a night sky… - O.Rinuccini

Neil Kelly
SIX CHORUSES (2007)
choir, keyboards & cello
The ship goes forward… - V.Landsbergis

Claudio Monteverdi ZEFIRO TORNA from Scherzi musicali (1632)
choir & continuo
The west wind returns… – O.Rinuccini

PART 5. DINING ROOM. STILL LIFE. / NEVER FOREVER

George Maciunas
POTATOE & FLOUR EVENT from FLUX-FEST (1973)
vodka pipeline organ, vodka jelly, pancakes, devices, façade intervention film


PART 1. FOYER. EXHIBITION & MECHANIZED PIANO RECITAL.

THE FLUX-LABYRINTH & LITHUANIAN HOUSE

George Maciunas & Larry Miller
FAÇADE INTERVENTION from FLUX-LABYRINTH (1976)
mdf, vinyl adhesive, paint

SLAVE PIANOS
TRANSCRIPTIONS, COMPOSITIONS (1998–2007)
mechanized piano

  1. George Brecht Comb Music (Comb Event)
  2. Beuys / Paik In Memoriam
  3. SLAVE PIANOS Chorale from Two Lives In Flux: And Vice-Versa (2004)

George Brecht
COMB MUSIC (COMB EVENT) from Water Yam (1960–63)
choir


PART 2. MAIN THEATRE. PLAY WITH CHORUS.

DISSONANT CORRESPONDENCES or:

THE LETTERS OF CHAIRMAN MACIUNAS & PRESIDENT LANDSBERGIS

Texts:

  • Nam June Paik, 2 x Mini Giants, Artforum, 1991
  • Private correspondence between Vytautas Landsbergis and George Maciunas.

Keith Humble
HAIKU 3 from The Seasons (1971)

No sky at all,
No earth at all – but still
The snowflakes fall…

(Shiki)

NAM JUNE PAIK: The East European revolution produced a playwright- president, Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, but few people know that it also produced a Fluxus-president: Vytautas Landsbergis, the president of Lithuania. During the spring of 1990, the image of this bespectacled and stoop-shouldered “music professor” paraded across the TV news every day. He successfully defied the blockade of Soviet power and the “benevolent” advice of the Western press to go slow lest he destroy the superpower summit. When Gorbachev received the Nobel Prize, Landsbergis sent him a congratulatory telegram: “Your Majesty……”. This audacious style of David- and-Goliath situation strongly reminded me of Landsbergis’ best friend, George Maciunas, founder of the “small” Fluxus Movement and the “enormous” SoHo glitz.

MACIUNAS: I don’t burn your letters, first I memorize, then I burn.

Vytautas Landsbergis
SPATIAL POEM NO.3 (1966)

LANDSBERGIS: Spatial Poem No. 3 “Falling Event. Various things were let fall: Vytautas Landsbergis caught a pike at the lake of Aisetas, cleaned its entrails and threw them into a pit towards the center of the earth. Then he cut the pike into pieces and let them fall onto a frying pan.” Lithuania, July 31 1966

MACIUNAS: Hallo Vytas! I was very happy to receive your letter - It is nice to find old friends and I am very interested to get into closer contact with people in culture or politics in Lithuania and Soviet Union. The reason for my interest in cooperation is motivated by the possibility of a connection of the latest form or art and the communist principles (which Fluxus tries to develop). Such art is: 1. Concrete and realistic, because it does not tend to be artificial or illusionistic, intellectual or abstract - neither in composition, form or rendering. 2. FOLK ART, because it is not created for specialists, critics, artists and other intellectuals. Such art can be created, understood and presented by anybody - with education or without. It is for everybody. 3. Social, because such art finally eliminates the profession of artists and lets the former artists engage in a socially more productive work.

M.K.Čiurlionis
VIENAM KIEMELY / AR VEJAI PUTE from Lithuanian Folksongs (1905)

Buvo heklystas artistas,
Te visko uso butiniu
Pu se visai uz dusino kita Paliko sirgti beuzsipilti mirti.

There was an infallible artist
with a kiss from a fatherly whisker
he nearly choked the one half and left the other to drown approaching death.

(Vytautas Landsbergis)

NAM JUNE PAIK: Landsbergis and Maciunas were both the sons of well-to-do architects, and were best friends at a grade school in Kaunas, Lithuania, in the last peaceful days of prewar Europe. The Soviet-German occupation/war/retreat with the German army/hunger/the displaced person’s camp/his father’s enigmatic death (suicide?)/the vanity of New York/capitalism’s “contradictions” all these horrendous things made George Maciunas a heavy asthmatic, a fanatical do-goodist, an ego-centrist, and a part-time paranoiac. In 1965, as a native Marxist, Maciunas contacted the old friend he had left in Lithuania, who was alas a burning anti-Marxist. In response, in a letter of December 5 1963, Landsbergis sent Maciunas some subversive performance ideas:

LANDSBERGIS: A SEWER’S HYMN: "The performer walks on stage, pulls out from a bag a dozen licey rats and throws them at the public! / this would be work for people, animals and the public. / Do not take this as a joke, these are chance ideas which could, in thousands, come to a head, in Fluxus spirit.”

Keith Humble
CLICKERS EVENT from Trois Poèmes à Crier et à Danser (1969)

MACIUNAS: To avoid repeating the same thing, I am sending you a short article explaining the basis of this new art (I will send it in another letter, because I am in hospital and don’t have it with me). I also send you our “Manifesto”. In a separate parcel I am sending a few issues of Fluxus No.1 (so far only one was published) - I am also sending tapes with recorded music (for our concerts), and programs, photographs and advertisements for our concerts. In short - a parcel with sundry papers.

LANDSBERGIS: Not until 1962, when Almus Salcius came to Lithuania hoping to make a film about Ciurlionis did I find out his whereabouts. Hearing from Salcius about the activities of a George Maciunas in America, I wondered if he was the same Jurgis Mačiūnas I used to know. I wrote him a letter asking if he would help promote the work of Ciurlionis beyond the borders of Lithuania. He responded with a very long, informal and friendly letter. It seemed that he sincerely enjoyed reestablishing our old friendship. He was not interested in the work of Ciurlionis. Instead, he explained to me thoroughly what he himself was doing, and about the artistic problems that interested him. He also mailed me a bunch of used records, presumably from his own collection that happened to be of great value to me, as a teacher of the history of music. They were mostly records that were not available to us at the time. Scarlatti sonatas, Monteverdi Psalms, Bach’s St Matthew Passion, and jazz-blues, John Coltrane, free jazz et cetera.

LEOKADIJA MACIUNAS: My son destroyed a piano with a hammer and axes. At that time he seemed possessed by a dark power.

LANDSBERGIS: Lithuania is watching the strangeness of the world and trying not to add to it.

SLAVE PIANOS
CHORALE from Two Lives In Flux: And Vice-Versa (2004)

Po Monteverdi nieko verto
ne buvo sukurta.

Since Monteverdi, nothing
of note has been composed

(George Maciunas)

NAM JUNE PAIK: Landsbergis, although still confined in Soviet Lithuania, participated three times in the Fluxus mail-art event organized by Mieko Shiomi from Osaka, Japan.

LANDSBERGIS: Spatial Poem No. 5. “Open Event. People opened … Vytautas Landsbergis. A day after my return from the country to my flat in Vilnius, I opened the lid of my piano and hit the keyboard of F sharp. When the sound died down completely, I went to my study to continue on some unfinished work.” Vilnius, 1 PM July 23, 1972

Vytautas Landsbergis
SPATIAL POEM NO. 5 (1972)

MACIUNAS: I am not sending you a dodecaphonic handbook and don’t advise you to use one, for dodecaphonia is decadent and past its time. Like abstract art, it has no social relevance, can be understood only by musicians and mathematicians and only after the notes have been studied. But I will put into the parcel a few John Cage compositions (notes and tapes) - which are, I think, the most important for this century and the evolution of the new art.

LANDSBERGIS: Then other boxes started coming. Flux promotion stuff. Well, as you might guess, the contemporary political situation wasn’t ready for that. All incoming mail from abroad was of great interest to the authorities. I even wondered if this was some kind of provocation, to find out if I would dare to promote Fluxus ideas. Nevertheless, the ideas of Fluxus were cautiously analyzed during my lecture periods, as radical Western avant-garde art, having many meanings.

Keith Humble
MUSIC-BOXES EVENT from Trois Poèmes à Crier et à Danser (1969)

NAM JUNE PAIK: In 1964 Maciunas picketed Karlheinz Stockhausen’s music- play Originale, played by myself and other Fluxus members on 57th St. He accused us (or me in particular?) of being “social climbers" and Stockhausen of being a “racist” and a “cultural imperialist” because the latter did not have a high regard for Jazz, the Black people’s invention. (Maciunas even let the French Fluxus member Ben Vautier picket John Cage and Merce Cunningham in [word obscured] for a similar reason in 1965.) However, we (Allan Kaprow, Dick Higgins, Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Ayo, and myself) continued the Originale performance inside the Hudson Hall at 57th Street.

George Maciunas
SOLO FOR SICK MAN (1962)
TRIO FOR LADDER, PEBBLES AND MUD (1962)

MACIUNAS: Forgive me my mistakes in the Lithuanian language - Even in Lithuania I always had a “one” for grammar, because I never used diacritics. Now I never have occasion to write in Lithuanian, because I write in English and have no contact with Lithuanian immigrants, whose decadent chauvinism and reactionary bourgeois attitude does not interest me.

NAM JUNE PAIK: Feeling betrayed by his comrades, Maciunas, chairman of Fluxus, declared Fluxus dead and plunged himself into the SoHo housing project. He won a landmark decision to convert a light-manufacturing loft building into an artist residence. He endowed the venerable Fluxus name on the first artist co-op in SoHo, at 80 Wooster Street. The similar conversion of twenty-seven buildings followed at no profit to him, igniting the SoHo real estate boom. In 1978, Maciunas finished his life at forty- seven in poverty, betrayed by his tenants, co-op members, and real estate interests.

MACIUNAS: This spring we plan to go to Poland, in autumn - to Japan, it would be best to go to the Soviet Union via Siberia (and give some concerts there).

LOEKADIJA MACIUNAS: Even in the eleventh hour George let his plans exceed the possibilities.

SLAVE PIANOS
CHORALE from Two Lives In Flux: And Vice-Versa (2004)

LANDSBERGIS: I never saw him again. He continued mailing Fluxus materials to me, and announcements of festivals, so, half-seriously, and half for fun, I sent him suggestions for “happenings”. Then afterwards I noticed that my name had been listed on Fluxus festival programs as one of the performers. At the time, I was really worried about possible official repercussions.

NAM JUNE PAIK: That same year (1978), Joseph Beuys and I performed a farewell sonata for him at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Soon a quiet renaissance of Fluxus began, and behind the Iron Curtain, the slow renaissance of Lithuania was growing, led by the stubborn ex-Fluxus man Vytautas Landsbergis.

Vytautas Landsbergis
SPATIAL POEM NO.5 (1972, Revised 2004)


PART 3. BALLROOM. CHAMBER CONCERT.

PARTHENIA or: FLUX-WEDDING / FLUX-MASS

Jean de Macque
CONSONANZE STRAVAGANTI (ca 1610)
organ positive

Henry Purcell
A NEW GROUND (1683)
harpsichord

George Maciunas
GIANT WHEEL from FLUXGAMES (1973)
dancer, actor, devices

Rohan Drape
WEDDING SENTENCES (2007)
choir, electronics, organ positive, regal, celeste, cello

puzzles
totally inconsequential
unimportant…
all in praise of nothingness
including Warhol
his own fragile life…
little boxes…
laughing at it all
laughing
totally inconsequential… HA HA

(JonasMekas / Peter Tyndall)

Henry Purcell
FUNERAL SENTENCES (1695)

In the midst of life we are in death,
of whom may we seek for succour but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord, O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

Suffer us not at out last hour,
For any pains of death,
To fall away from thee.

(Notker of St Gallen)

Jean de Macque
STRAVAGANTI II. (ca 1610)
organ positive


PART 4. MAIN THEATRE. ZEFIRO TORNA / LAST WILL & TESTAMENT or:

Scenes From The Life Of GEORGE MACIUNAS & VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS

Claudio Monteverdi
SFOGAVA CON LE STELLE (1603)

Sfogava con le stelle
un infermo d’Amore
sotto notturno ciel
il suo dolore,
e dicea fisso in loro:
“O immagini belle de l’idol mio ch’adoro,
sì com’a me mostrate
mentre così splendete
la sua rara beltate,
così mostraste a lei
i vivi ardori miei.
La fareste col vostr’aureo sembiante
Pietosa sì come me fate amante”.

He lamented to the stars,
one sick with love
under the night sky
venting his suffering.
And said, fixing his gaze upon them,
“Oh lovely images of my adored idol,
just as you reveal to me,
with your own splendour,
her rare loveliness,
so do you reveal to her
the living fires of my passion.
Make her with your sublime appearance
gentle indeed, just as you make me loving.”

(Ottavio Rinuccini)

Jonas Mekas
ZEFIRO TORNA or: SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF GEORGE MACIUNAS (1992)
16mm film 34 minutes

LAST WILL & TESTAMENT or: SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS
Materials provided by Alena Karazijiene, edited by Rainer Kelly

MEKAS: April 16 1977. In a sense, George’s stance is of one who is totally disillusioned, of one who is resigned to the fact that he has no longer a firm place on this earth - neither in body nor geography. His country has been sacrificed on the alter of Yalta.

MEKAS: June 27, 1970. His body is here only by the grace of cortisone: an artificial, by now, frame held together only by his willpower. The only thing left to him is his laugh. So he became a King in his own Kingdom, a court jester presiding over the games of life, jokes, insignificances - the light and the subtle, the heavy importances he leaves to the rest of the world.

Neil Kelly
SIX CHORUSES (2007)

I

The ship goes forward, ripples form around it.
Some observe the ripples – maybe some feel dizzy or uncertain,
Some don’t even see the ship that carries them.

And on the ship – some are inspecting a little screw
Worrying if it will not undermine the passage.

But the ship parts the waves; its name is Lithuanian Revival,
It’s motor – the Sajudis and favorable winds of the epoch.
On the mast – we raise our Tricolor hope.

(Vytautas Landsbergis)

MEKAS: April 16, 1977. George is in town, stopped to eat with us, with a friend, Billie. Hollis thought she was his girlfriend. They were so nice together. And George was really happy. Most of the time he is happy anyway, no matter what. But he said he’s taking morphine every day, by prescription. Can’t stand the pain. Stomach. It has been like that for four months, doesn’t know what else to do, tried everything. The pain is like ’Pulling tooth without anesthesia all day long, bow could I stand it without morphine?" He said he can’t sleep either. And eats very little. But he ate a lot of tongue and sheep cheese. Said he has four goats on his farm, is making a lot of goat cheese. Billie milks the goats.

LANDSBERGIS: January 13, 1991. Last Will and Testament by Vytautas Landsbergis. Citizens of the Lithuanian Republic, who believe in Lithuania, who love your beautiful birthplace, your fathers’ and mothers’ language and songs - everything that is your homeland and without which you remain an orphan, who thirst for a free and honorable Lithuania, understand: it will be thus, it will be reborn free forever, because that’s how it will remain in your hearts.

MEKAS: January 28th 1978. George is getting married. He finally collected his courage and proposed to Billy. Called George. He says, “I have some news”. I said, “NY is talking already”.

II

I’m going to nail down
the piano keys
tonight.
Would you mind
bringing in the nails?

(George Maciunas)

MEKAS: February 11 1978. To be aware of approaching death is one thing. To accept death is another thing. But George has accepted living with death in a perfect Fluxus spirit. Ah, he has been used to death all his life. He says he is so full of medicine and drugs and cortisone that the bugs do not bite him – and that those bugs that bite him drop dead immediately. Already in 1960, doctors gave him only a few months to live but he’s still around, George, doing his art. George is not using his body to make art, there isn’t much of it left, there never was. He is using his life to make his art.

LANDSBERGIS: I tell you these words having foreseen that I may no longer be able to talk to you. There has come another night, which like the long dark time before the storm, will not last long. The decaying pillars of slavery collapse and neither the caretakers’ fury nor the mercenaries’ marching can save the Soviet prison house. We must maintain our farms, our families, our land without fleeing from, neither our land nor our conscience.

III

Death always walked around me, sparing me.
Sparing me the experience of the death.

(George Maciunas)

LANDSBERGIS: Do not work in a foreign state’s service. Be neither a deputy nor a minister, nor their secretary. Let those generals rule with their riff-raff. Do not participate in any elections. Work and worship in Church. Do not become dispirited or drown yourselves in vodka. Protect the untarnished soul and land, sky and water, because all of this - Lithuania is necessary for our children and our descendants.

MEKAS: NO DATE: George’s favourite writers are Dostoevsky and Thomas Mann. Fluxus was not an Art Movement; it was a way of life. George says he is really looking forward to hearing all 38 lost operas of Monteverdi after he dies. He says: “it’s worth dying just for that”. Monteverdi is his favourite composer, he says “Nothing of any great interest has been composed after him”.

IV

My son had gone
My little son
My joy and my sorrow

He was offended by fate
So many failures
So much suffering

I did not weep
But my heart screamed
Something painful and tangible
Trembled in me like an electrical current.

I spread a rose-coloured oil on his lips,
The dear unforgettable lines of my boy,
Placed fragrant freesias and a white rose near his face.

On the lid of the coffin was a huge bouquet of white flowers:
Freesias, lilacs, tulips and peonies,
Like a bride at a wedding,
A sign of innocence to my pure angel.

(Leokadija Maciunas)

MEKAS: August 1, 1989. Warhol and George. Warhol and Fluxus. Somewhere there, very deep, they were the same, they were both Fluxus, they both dealt essentially with nothingness, they both dismissed the current life, civilization, everything that is being practiced today, as “everything is the same”. Didn’t take any of it seriously. Both took life as a game and laughed at it, each in his own way, untouched by any of it themselves, looking at it all from the side, or from high above, and creating their own realities that didn’t really fit into it.

MEKAS: February 28, 1978. Andy, standing at the Studio 54 in the lobby, standing on the side, never in the middle of it, never really embracing it, and George, laughing, laughing at it all, including Warhol, and creating in its place his own fragile life, totally inconsequential, unimportant, a world of games, little boxes, puzzles, jokes, all in praise of nothingness.

V

(I tell you these words
having foreseen
that I may no longer be able to talk to you).

There has come another night,
which, like the long dark time before the storm,
will not last long.

The decaying pillars of slavery collapse
and neither the caretakers’ fury
nor the mercenaries’ marching
can save the Soviet prison house.

We must maintain our farms,
our families, our land
without fleeing – from neither our land
nor our conscience.

(Vytautas Landsbergis)

MEKAS: May 5, 1978. Visited George at the hospital, the University Hospital in Boston. He looks so thin, sitting on his cot. When I came in, the nurses were preparing to wheel him out to the surgery room. He asked them to wait five minutes so he could talk with me… We spoke for a few minutes. His voice was so weak that several times I had to ask him to repeat what he said. “They are amazed that I am still around” he said. “All I can hope is that they’ll keep me going until the miracle drug arrives”. He laughed. He said he was putting his hopes on a drug they were working on in Texas, or somewhere. “They are very serious scientists, I spoke with them” he said. He couldn’t get on the surgery bed by himself, so I lifted first one foot, then another, and helped him to get in. He hadn’t shaved for several days, since he arrived in the hospital, and he was an image of sickness and weakness. He said he had had to move to the hospital because they were all panicking about him there in New Marlborough and he couldn’t eat anything. When he arrived at the hospital his legs were all swollen. “Look” he said, “film them”, so I filmed them. “There will be a lot of pictures of me sick, I have always been sick. Doctors said I was dying of hunger; I lacked protein, so now they are feeding me protein”. We sat silently for a minute or two. George: “So you have to take the train…”. Me: “At three o’clock. I have time.” Doctor (to the nurse): “Roll it.” George: “Shigeko has gone back?” Me: “No, she is in New York. She is still here.” George: “Anthology (Film Archive) should get more money…” Me: “I am working on it.” George: “This may take a long time.” (referring to his surgery). Me: “As they say, it’s not easy to kill a man.” George: “Nothing to hurry now…” (He laughs.) The nurse began pushing the bed towards the surgery rooms. So he stretched out his hand and I said, “Tai laikykies” in Lithuanian ‘hang on’, more or less - and he gave me a weak smile and they wheeled him away.

LANDSBERGIS: Remember, that in Lithuania only Lithuanian laws apply, and defend them when you are persecuted. Do not acknowledge that others can convict you for faithfulness to Lithuania.

MEKAS: May 9 1978. A note I found on the table when I came home to eat, reads: “Dear Jonas, George died this afternoon. Nyole will probably call you. We are on the tenth floor, love Hollis and Oona”.

MEKAS: May 11 1978. Billie brought the Purcell and Monteverdi tapes that George himself had selected for this occasion. I set up the tape recorder in the chapel and we played twenty-five minutes of George’s favorite music. It was very sad now to listen to this music.

VI

Sakykime spaudai, kad mes ji˛ supratome
sakykime spaudai, kad mes viska˛ padare˙me

Let’s tell the press we did everything
Let’s tell the press we understood him

(Ben Vautier)

Mano sunus plaktuku
ir kirviais sudauze fortepijona

My son destroyed a piano
with a hammer and axes

(Leokadija Maciunas)

LANDSBERGIS: Hold your hand out to the persecuted and help those close to you and turn away from the spy and the informer. Value your honour, we will be saved, we will regain Lithuania’s honour.

MEKAS: Later we decided to have a walk through SoHo, to relax. We just had to walk it out. He was so good, and even when he was suffering, he tried not to impose his suffering on others. He used to retreat to our back room, curl up on the bed, and suffer by himself. He said it hurt less when he curled up into the baby-in-the-womb position.

Claudio Monteverdi
ZEFIRO TORNA (1632)

Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti
l’aer fa grato e’il pié discioglie a l’onde
e, mormoranda tra le verdi fronde,
fa danzar al bel suon su’l prato i fiori.
Inghirlandato il crin Fillide e Clori
note temprando lor care e gioconde;
e da monti e da valli ime e profond
raddoppian l’armonia gli antri canori.
Sorge più vaga in ciel l’aurora, e’l sole,
Sparge più luci d’or; più puro argento
fregia di Teti il bel ceruleo manto…

The West Wind returns, and with gentle cadences
makes the air grateful, and melts one’s step in its billows
and, murmuring among the green leafy branches,
makes dance to its lovely sound the flowers on the meadow.
With garlanded hair Phyllis and Clorinda
are sweetly tempered and joyous;
and from mountains and from valleys, from peaks and depths,
the singing of caverns re-echoes the harmony.
The dawn rises in the heavens more mildly, and the sun
spreads a more golden light; a purer silver
adorns the lovely blue mantle of the sea…

(Ottavio Rinuccini)


PART 5. DINING ROOM. STILL LIFE.

NEVER FOREVER

George Maciunas
POTATOE AND FLOUR EVENT from FLUXFEST (1973)
vodka pipeline organ, vodka jelly, pancakes, dancer, actor, devices

Organ Roll Barrels

  • Zefiro Torna
  • Gerkit, Gerkit, Broliukai

EXIT VIA REAR DOOR TO LANEWAY


SLAVE PIANOS & ASTRA / MACIUNAS & LANDSBERGIS

The Lithuanian origins of Astra, through its founding in 1951 as a women’s orchestra by the immigrant conductor Asta Flack, are just one of many coincident factors of this collaboration with Slave Pianos – a joint project that has evolved over some years, and is as much “about” the multi- form natures of our two groups as it is a representation of the two extraordinary Lithuanian figures of Maciunas and Landsbergis or an attempt at realizing the metaphorical power of their interactions in their diversely dissident lives.

Slave Pianos’ work since 1998 itself deals with overlappings, coincidings and transferrals. Made up of four artists from visual and acoustic spheres, the group has produced multiple explorations and re-workings of the last century’s boundary-crossings between art and performance, a labyrinthine heritage reaching back to early expressionist and futurist manifestations and taken up into the post-Cage Fluxus movement of which George Maciunas was the leading proponent. Slave Pianos performances and installations have gained a wide profile, extending from the National Gallery of Australia to Los Angeles, New York and several European centres. In 2001 the Frankfurt publisher Revolver produced a book of critical essays about their work (Pianology and Other Works) as part of a larger package (Slave Pianos: A Diagnosis) containing an audio ‘triumvirate’ on vinyl, CD and cassette. In 2004 at the National Drama Theatre in Vilnius, Lithuania they premiered their oratorio-theatre Two Lives in Flux and Vice Versa – the forerunner of this program’s new work – with many Lithuanian participants including ex- President Landsbergis.

Dissident Consonances is an assemblage of sounds and sights, texts and actions, experienced across five distinct ‘genres’ of presentation in different spaces of the building. Its materials radiate from the specific – the tale and testimonies of its two central figures; to the general – artifacts of its background in consonance with both Slave Pianos’ and Astra’s performance traditions; and to the unique also – the moment when Alena Karazijiene, the sister of Vytautas Landsbergis and a longtime resident of Melbourne, performs her brother’s Spatial Poem No.5.

Extending from Slave Pianos’ trademark mechanized piano in the foyer, the music of the program surrounds the Astra Choir with its collection of early and modern keyboard instruments, previously at the former Music Department of La Trobe University, and here used in different configurations in the two new choral works by Slave Pianos composers Rohan Drape and Neil Kelly. (The keyboard arc does not stop there, but returns in Part 5 into the Slave Pianos domain with Danius Kesminas’s vodka organ.) Influences in common form further consonances between Astra and Slave Pianos, as represented in Keith Humble’s and George Brecht’s music-theatrical events that originated in the same Zeitgeist as George Maciunas.

The early-Baroque compositions of Monteverdi and Purcell were cherished by Maciunas as the last music of any worth. They are preceded by two mediaeval pieces, heard by the audience en passant - the famous 14th-century Lament of Tristan (organ portative) and the Organ Estampie from the Robertsbridge Codex (played on regal), the earliest published keyboard work to survive. A further composer of Monteverdi’s time, Jean deMacque, inspired the title of the whole work with his Extravagant Consonances, extraordinary and harmonically experimental keyboard pieces that reflect his membership in the household of Gesualdo in Naples. Claudio Monteverdi in his music from the Fourth Book of Madrigals onwards develops new rhythms and harmonies that express a dissenting spirit between the singer and the surrounding world. His duo Zefiro torna for two tenors over a dancing, unchanging bass phrase depicts the west wind blowing across and transforming a natural and human landscape; it formed the title and part of the soundtrack for the film about Maciunas, and is here performed live in an adapted version for mixed choir. Henry Purcell’s music followed closely in Monteverdi’s heritage, giving each segment of text its own expressive force, frequently heard in overlaid patterns. “In the midst of life we are in death” provides a peerless display of dissonances and chromatic expression that, as with Maciunas, were to become consonant with the composer’s own external circumstances. Written as part of the funeral music for Queen Mary in January 1695, it was performed again at Purcell’s own funeral in December that year, following his death at the age of 36.

JMcC.


GEORGE MACIUNAS: 1931 born Jurgis Mačiūnas in Kaunas, Lithuania. 1945 Lithuanian Displaced Persons Camp in Hanau, Germany. 1948 emigrates to United States. 1949–1960 studies art, graphics and architecture at Cooper Union School of Art, architecture and musicology at Carnegie Institute of Technology, art history at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. 1961 changes name to George Maciunas after a political misunderstanding with Board of Directors of the Lithuanian Society of New York. 1962–1967 initiates Fluxus, first European Fluxfest, editions and multiples. 1968–1969 inception of Fluxhouse Cooperative Building Project, real-estate activities, debt. 1970–1974 Fluxgames, and food events. 1975 Feud with Attorney General of New York, loses eye and suffers permanent body damage in Mafia attack. 1976 Flux-Labyrinth with Lary Miller in Berlin. 1978 dies, New York.

VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS: 1932 born Kaunas, Lithuania. 1944 Lithuania invaded by Russia. 1955 graduates from the Lithuanian Conservatory of Music. 1966 composes Spatial Poem No. 5. 1978 professorships at both Lithuanian Conservatory of Music & Vilnius Pedagogical University. 1988 founding member of Sajudis, Lithuanian pro-independence political movement. 1990 election to the Supreme Council of Lithuania, declares Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union, first Soviet Republic to do so. Holds constitutional authority under temporary constitution. Soviet Union imposes economic blockade. 1993 founding member of political party Tėvynes Sąjunga. 1996 wins parliamentary elections, speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament until 2000. 1997 unsuccessful presidential campaign. 2004 elected to the European Parliament, Brussels.

SIX CHORUSES (2007): The Six Choruses use texts taken from Maciunas, his mother Leokadija, Landsbergis and Ben Vautier - a member of the Fluxus circle. The disparate texts result in choruses of stylistic diversity that aim to bridge the lives of the two protagonists. Inspired by the Jonas Mekas film technique, seen here in Zefiro Torna, they aim also address the universal via the personal.

WEDDING SENTENCES (2007): In early February 1978, at the age of 47, with inoperable cancer & in unbearable pain, George Maciunas was married. On February 25th, at the apartment of Olga Adorno, he performed the Flux- Wedding. Four choirs laugh, unobtrusively, a performance - HA HA - sequences of implausible chords. Celeste, organ & cello adopt, examine, reiterate, invert, re-order, delineate, catalogue. A computer traverses medical data sets, an MRI scan of a brain aneurism, a biological model of cancer cell growth. Fragments from Jonas Mekas’ diary are spoken in repeating patterns – “… and George, laughing, laughing at it all, including Warhol, and creating in its place his own fragile life, totally inconsequential, unimportant, a world of games, little boxes, puzzles, jokes, all in praise of nothingness."

VODKA PIPELINE ORGAN (2006): Vodka Sans Frontières derives from the recent discoveries of illegal underground pipelines pumping vodka into Lithuania. There have been no less than 6 such vodka pipelines uncovered and, in the brief period since Lithuania’s admission to the European Union, the phenomenon has escalated. The most recent discovery took place in April this year when a 150 metre-long pipe running under a river and across the border between Belarus and Lithuania was uncovered in the town of Eisiskes before the “aqua vitae” began flowing. There have been numerous such reports by reputable news agencies (Reuters, 10 December 2004) that demonstrate that vodka does not recognise political borders.


REFERENCES:

Jon Hendricks Fluxus Codex: The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, Detroit, Michigan Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, New York, 1988. 616 pp.

Emmett Williams and Ann Noël (ed.) Mr Fluxus: A Collective Portrait of George Maciunas 1931–1978 Thames & Hudson, New York, 1997. 352pp.

Vytautas Landsbergis Laisvės Byla Lietuvos Aido Publishers, Vilnius, 1992. 329 pp.

Vytautas Landsbergis Atgavę Viltį Pasaulio Lietuvių Bendruomenė Publisher, Toronto, 1991. 227pp.


Thanks to Jieva Arienė, Nick Girling, Linas Kaladė, Alena Karazijienė OAM, Rainer Kelly, Ruta Kemežys, Audrone Kesminas, Andrius Lipsys, Margaret Lloyd, Mars McMillan, Helen Saniga, Dugald Sinclair, Petra Stegmann, Rimas Strunga, Nerija Žemkalnis, Arena Theatre, Eleventh Hour Theatre, Lithuanian House.

Astra concerts receive support from: the Commonwealth government through the Australia Council; Arts Victoria, a division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet; the William Angliss Trust; Diana Gibson, and private donors.

ASTRA CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY
Chair: Anna Gifford
Manager: Bobbie Hodge
Musical Director: John McCaughey
PO Box 365, North Melbourne, Victoria 3051, Australia
ABN 41 255 197 577
Tel: (3)9326 5424
email: astra@connexus.net.au
web: www.astramusic.org.au

John McCaughey SLAVE PIANOS & ASTRA / MACIUNAS & LANDSBERGIS

SLAVE PIANOS & ASTRA / MACIUNAS & LANDSBERGIS

The Lithuanian origins of Astra, through its founding in 1951 as a women’s orchestra by the immigrant conductor Asta Flack, are just one of many coincident factors of this collaboration with Slave Pianos — a joint project that has evolved over some years, and is as much ‘about’ the multi-form natures of our two groups as it is a representation of the two extraordinary Lithuanian figures of Maciunas and Landsbergis or an attempt at realizing the metaphorical power of their interactions in their diversely dissident lives.

Slave Pianos’ work since 1998 itself deals with overlappings, coincidings and transferrals. Made up of four artists from visual and acoustic spheres, the group has produced multiple explorations and re-workings of the last century’s boundary-crossings between art and performance, a labyrinthine heritage reaching back to early expressionist and futurist manifestations and taken up into the post-Cage Fluxus movement of which George Maciunas was the leading proponent. Slave Pianos performances and installations have gained a wide profile, extending from the National Gallery of Australia to Los Angeles, New York and several European centres. In 2001 the Frankfurt publisher Revolver produced a book of critical essays about their work (Pianology and Other Works) as part of a larger package (Slave Pianos: A Diagnosis) containing an audio ‘triumvirate’ on vinyl, CD and cassette. In 2004 at the National Drama Theatre in Vilnius, Lithuania they premiered their oratorio-theatre Two Lives in Flux and Vice Versa — the forerunner of this program’s new work — with many Lithuanian participants including ex-President Landsbergis.

Dissident Consonancesis an assemblage of sounds and sights, texts and actions, experienced across five distinct ‘genres’ of presentation in different spaces of the building. Its materials radiate from the specific — the tale and testimonies of its two central figures; to the general — artifacts of its background in consonance with both Slave Pianos’ and Astra’s performance traditions; and to the unique also — the moment when Alena Karazijiene, the sister of Vytautas Landsbergis and a longtime resident of Melbourne, performs her brother’s Spatial Poem No.5.

Extending from Slave Pianos’ trademark mechanized piano in the foyer, the music of the program surrounds the Astra Choir with its collection of early and modern keyboard instruments, previously at the former Music Department of La Trobe University, and here used in different configurations in the two new choral works by Slave Pianos composers Rohan Drape and Neil Kelly. (The keyboard arc does not stop there, but returns in Part 5 into the Slave Pianos domain with Danius Kesminas’s vodka organ.) Influences in common form further consonances between Astra and Slave Pianos, as represented in Keith Humble’s and George Brecht’s music-theatrical events that originated in the same Zeitgeist as George Maciunas.

The early-Baroque compositions of Monteverdi and Purcell were cherished by Maciunas as the last music of any worth. They are preceded by two mediaeval pieces, heard by the audience en passant - the famous 14th-century Lament of Tristan (organ portative) and the Organ Estampiefrom the Robertsbridge Codex (played on regal), the earliest published keyboard work to survive. A further composer of Monteverdi’s time, Jean deMacque, inspired the title of the whole work with his Extravagant Consonances, extraordinary and harmonically experimental keyboard pieces that reflect his membership in the household of Gesualdo in Naples. Claudio Monteverdi in his music from the Fourth Book of Madrigalsonwards develops new rhythms and harmonies that express a dissenting spirit between the singer and the surrounding world. His duo Zefiro torna for two tenors over a dancing, unchanging bass phrase depicts the west wind blowing across and transforming a natural and human landscape; it formed the title and part of the soundtrack for the film about Maciunas, and is here performed live in an adapted version for mixed choir. Henry Purcell’s music followed closely in Monteverdi’s heritage, giving each segment of text its own expressive force, frequently heard in overlaid patterns. “In the midst of life we are in death” provides a peerless display of dissonances and chromatic expression that, as with Maciunas, were to become consonant with the composer’s own external circumstances. Written as part of the funeral music for Queen Mary in January 1695, it was performed again at Purcell’s own funeral in December that year, following his death at the age of 36.

JMcC.

Slave Pianos, Dissident Consonances, Programme Menu

022-006

Slave Pianos, Dissident Consonances, Programme Menu