Torso of Air | Stapled Flesh
Written for and premiered by Ensemble Linea & Jean-Philippe Wurtz
Commissioned by Festival Musica
Auditorium de France 3 Alsace
October 10, 2017
Ensemble Linea: Keiko Murakami, flutes; Jean-Marc Foltz, clarinets; Philippe Koerper, tenor sax; Deepa Goonetilleke, horn; Thierry Spiesser, trombone; Rémi Durupt & Victor Hocquet, percussion; Marco Fusi & Winnie Huang, violin; Elodie Gaudet, viola; Elsa Dorbath, cello; Sven Kestel, double bass
Desire, though often fleeting, is wrought with substance – a heavy feeling which sits at the pit of your stomach, an obsession that weighs on your mind and which refuses to leave until it does. Desire, though a feeling, is rooted deep in the body, in the flesh of a human being. The erotics of performance, the movement of body, the energy and friction between objects is something that I feel is at the foundation of music-making. After all, is it not this friction that causes vibration to coalesce into what we hear and experience?
The title of the piece comes from the work of two artists of Asian origin – the young queer Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong and the surrealist, mid-Twentieth century Japanese photographer Kansuke Yamamoto. Each artists deals with desire and the body by drawing forth the corporeal through the abstract and vice versa. Yamamoto’s piece Stapled Flesh is a photograph of a woman’s back, she is seated, her skin illuminated, her hair falling over her shoulders while a line of fifteen large, rigid staples cut down her spine, creating a visual tension between the ethereal and the somatic. In his piece “Into the Breach,” a poem prefaced by an epigraph by the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Ocean Vuong opines, “To love another man — is to leave no one behind to forgive me. I want to leave no one behind. To keep & to be kept. The way a field turns its secrets in peonies. The way a light keeps its shadow by swallowing it.” In these final lines, Ocean literally transforms the most ethereal substance – light – into something that possesses a very physical trait – the ability to swallow, which is a behavior that has any number of biological and sexual connotations. In my work, then, I seek to find the narrative tension between substance and non-substance, sound and silence, sheer force and simple ease. This piece for Ensemble Linea, like my previous piece for the group, is an exercise in musical dramaturgy, except the characters are the performers and the instrument and the drama is the point of contact between them and the sound that results.