“Music and Its Double: The Immaculate (And Not-So-Immaculate) Conceptions of No Collective” | TDR (61-1, Spring 2017), MIT Press


The new issue of  TDR (MIT Press) has a fairly complex review/analysis of Immaculate Conception we staged last year with ensemble mise-en. Written by Cody Eikman, the piece is entitled “Music and Its Double,” and in addition to precisely articulating the mechanism of the work, it also launches a necessary critique of the relationship between experimental music and the so-called new music (namely the exploitation of the former by the latter). This is the second review of Immaculate Conception following “Double Act” in The Brooklyn Rail last year (http://brooklynrail.org/2016/09/music/immaculate-conception-by-no-collective), and mostly we are very happy abou the fact that there are appropriately two double reviews for our doppengänger piece. Thank you very much to everyone who spent time on this concert in one way or another (especially Dee Ali, our rehearsal director).

The video of the entire piece is here:

“The problem of the double has explicitly haunted music since John Cage declared music to be part of theatre. In Immaculate Conception, No Collective explored this doubling by creating a doppelgänger ensemble that acted as a copy of the musicians of the group ensemble mise-en. This tactic foregrounded the theatrical dimensions of music, while the context surrounding the performance itself highlighted the problematic entanglement of original and double (between “experimental” and “contemporary”) in the social sphere of new music.”

“‘Contemporary music’ and ‘experimental music’ form an uneasy double in the world of new music today. The tendency is for the former to capitalize on the latter, while discrediting it as derivative (and therefore free) resource. Ensemble mise-en does not ‘examine’ as much as ‘exploit’ the ‘unusual corners of the composition world.’ But the perception of an apparent hierarchy between the polished and professional music and its unusual and amateurish double must be reversed. In most cases, the repertoire of a ‘contemporary music’ ensemble comprises none other than the ‘experimental music’ of yesteryear — ridiculed in the past, but accepted and institutionalized over time. Until the moment of acceptance from its double, experimental music remains a peripheral origin of what is generally regarded as ‘contemporary’ in music. That the refined copy can retroactively author the primitive original is no secret in the social sphere of new music. The fear of double persists therein.”


Review of “Concertos” | TDR (61-1 Spring, 2017), MIT Press


The new TDR issue contains a belated book review of Concertos (+ other books from the Emergency Playscript series) we published from Ugly Ducking Press 6 years ago back in 2011 (http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org/catalog/browse/item/?pubID=140). We have our reservations about the review (it contains several factual errors), although some parts of it sound nice and it sure is great to have, finally, a review for that complex playscript we put so much energy into.

“The No Collective piece, Concertos, was first performed in Tokyo in 2008, by the Japanese participants of that prominent international collective — founded by the artist You Nakai — who have presented work at the borders of music composition and performance art at such venues as Tokyo’s Museum of Modern Art. Concertos was then reworked as a transcript by other members of the Collective. The performance piece appears to have an ongoing existence in the Collective’s repertoire, extending beyond the published volume of 2011, and has been performed with variations on at least four occasions, most recently in 2012. The original performance, consisting of 3 “movements,” each 18 minutes in duration, entailed animal as well as human participants, including interventions by a dog and a bird (the dog having been obtained from a “rental pet shop” [15], and the pigeon caught with a net, according to the transcript). The account of the performance on the Collective’s website records: “Feedback is produced between the contact microphone attached to the pigeon and the mobile speaker attached to the dog” (http://nocollective.com/c1.html).

The published volume of Concertos experiments with the duplicities and multiplicities of transcription [...]. Concertos works both as a performance record, in its transcription of the participants discussing their memories of the performance, and also as an imaginative reflection on the performance itself: “People say ears don’t have lids, unlike eyes. But ears will open and close selectively, unlike eyes which seem incapable of selection” (9). The Collective’s participants appear keen to reinforce the elements of malfunction and disarray integral to their performance, recasting its ending as an extended suspension: “Then, after packing all the equipments, drinking, lamenting everything that went wrong, you have an INTERMISSION of eighteen months” (33).”

“A Double Act: Immaculate Conception by No Collective” | Brooklyn Rail


A very nice review of Immaculate Conception we did earlier this year with ensemble mise-en has been published on Brooklyn Rail. It’s entitled “A Double Act” and was written by Cody Eichman. It contextualizes our efforts in the history of theatre and its discontents, including John Cage’s adoption of the term which placed it in a dialectical tension with the domain of “music.”

It starts like this: “I once heard a performance-studies scholar explain the difference between performance art and theater as that between presentation and representation. She was wrong. For the essence of theater lies not in representation, but in the duality between presentation and representation, as well as in the indeterminacy infiltrating this dichotomy. A play takes place in between action and act—and, as Gregory Bateson observed, the line separating one from the other always remains vague. Theater plays with this double identity (performance art often pretends it doesn’t exist).”