22 September 2014

Readymades & furniture music

In this blog post, I will quote a passage from the book that I've been reading, and then I will give a couple quotes regarding furniture music. I will label these two sections "1." and "2."

1.

A quote from DUCHAMP: A BIOGRAPHY by Calvin Tomkins, accompanied by a low-quality self-shot

I love Calvin Tomkins's biography of Marcel Duchamp. The book was out of print for a while, but recently a revised edition was released — I'm slow to realize this kind of news, so I just found out about it and ordered my copy... and it arrived TODAY! — This book has gems worth quoting on every page... I'll give an excerpt from the end of the chapter that I just finished reading — but first I'll take a blurry webcam photo of myself holding the book awkwardly.

The glittering, elongated, rectangular, silvery object in my right hand is the bookmark that I use. (My left hand had to press the computer's space bar to snap the photo — that's why I'm holding everything in one arm... I should have put the bookmark INSIDE the book, where bookmarks belong; but I'm so proud of its dazzling surface that I wanted to show it off.)

Here is a quote from the chapter called "New York", in Calvin Tomkins's biography of Marcel Duchamp — it's a letter that Duchamp wrote to his sister Suzanne who was living in Paris at the time, and it regards his infamous concept of the 'readymade':

Now, if you went up to my place you saw in my studio a bicycle wheel and a bottle rack. I had purchased this as a sculpture already made. And I have an idea concerning this bottle rack: Listen.

Here, in N.Y., I bought some objects in the same vein and I treat them as “readymade.” [This is Duchamp’s first recorded use of the term, which is always in English.] You know English well enough to understand the sense of “ready made” that I give these objects. I sign them and give them an English inscription. I’ll give you some examples:

I have for example a large snow shovel upon which I wrote at the bottom: In advance of the broken arm, translation in French, En avance du bras cassé . Don’t try too hard to understand it in the Romantic or Impressionist or Cubist sense — that has nothing to do with it.

Another “readymade” is called: Emergency in favor of twice, possible translation in French: Danger (Crise) en faveur de 2 fois. This whole preamble in order to actually say:

You take for yourself this bottle rack. I will make it a “Ready-made” from a distance. You will have to write at the base and on the inside of the bottom ring in small letters painted with an oil-painting brush, in silver and white color, the inscription that I will give you after this, and you will sign it in the same hand as follows:

(from) Marcel Duchamp.

I love this because of its casual stance — Dear sister, I'd like to make an artwork, so please find an object that I purchased and sign my name on it for me, thanks!

2.

A few words about my new YouTube affair, featuring some quotes about furniture music

I received the following email from "Your latest fan, The YouTube team" after setting up a new account as a half-joke. My idea is to make "furniture beats", named after Erik Satie's "musique d’ameublement" — music that is supposed to play in the background and be ignored.

Here are some extra words about the concept of furniture music, from its Wikipedia article and the Wikipedia article about Entr'acte:

Furniture music, or in French musique d’ameublement (sometimes more literally translated as furnishing music), is background music originally played by live performers. The term was coined by Erik Satie in 1917.

...the first publicly performed furniture music composed by Erik Satie was premiered as entr'acte music (1920 – the play for which it was written fell into oblivion), with the variation that it was intended as background music to the sounds the public would usually produce at intermission, walking around and talking. Allegedly, the public did not obey Satie's intention: they kept silently in their places and listened, trained by a habit of incidental music, much to the frustration of the avant-garde musicians, who tried to save their idea by inciting the public to get up, talk, and walk around.

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