Listen to Spectacles (1982). Written by Jean Derome (Hemispheres Music Projects).
Recorded at the Music Gallery in Toronto on Nov. 23, 1991. Performed by Adele Armin, RIchard Armin, Michael J. Baker, Daniel Barnes, Victor Bateman, Bill Brennan, Evelyne Datl, Phil Dwyer, Nic Gotham, Shannon Peet, Kim Ratcliffe, Robert Stevenson, Kevin Turcotte, Tom Walsh
In the performance notes, Derome describes Spectacles (1982) as an improvisation game for an indeterminate number of performers. The piece allows the participation of improvisers from various timebased arts, including music, dance and theatre. The score consists of 16 performance directions each indicated on a card. Each performance direction is a distinct combination of four elements, each of which contains two formulations, yielding a total of 16 possible combinations. The four elements are:
• Flow (continuous or interrupted)
• Register or Space (large/wide or small/narrow)
• Speed (fast or slow)
• Tone or Energy (strong or weak)
The elements are color-coded to help aid the performers when moving to a new card.
There is extreme flexibility with respect to how to perform Spectacles. For example, it can be played as a directed improvisation, where a chosen leader points out to each performer which card to play, and when. Alternatively, it can be played tutti, so the group might move simultaneously to the next card on a given signal. A given performance may take the form of a cannon, with each performer playing the cards in the same order, but with a delay between each performers’ entry. Recently, the version of the game played most involves distributing a number of cards to each performer and allowing them to decide both the order, and the appropriate moment to play them. The only element decided in advance is the way the game is played. However in each and every performance, Spectacles is played as a series of superimposed solos, thus creating a genuine polyphony. In the example here heard, the cards were distributed in advance, each player deciding their own point of entry. In this instance the performance is organised into episodes of one and a half minutes, separated by silent pauses, with an overall duration of twelve minutes.
The impetus for Spectacles stems from Derome’s interest in the rapport between music and other media, as well as the translation of artistic ideas between different media in collaborative projects. In Spectacles, Derome’s objective is to challenge performers, perhaps from distinct performance arts, to resolve their differences in performance and to seek out a common ground on which to communicate with each other and the audience.