Author Archives: Emily Holt

Sifting and Juxtaposing

To aid with devising a script to use for the live section of the soundscape, that shall become the crux of our performance, the group looked at Tim Etchells Certain Fragments: Texts and Writings on Performance.  This piece of literature became an inspiring stimulus for the group and from it; we have extricated ways in which to begin writing. The path which clearly became the route in which the group would travel was to use borrowed language, as Etchells describes his experience of “collecting, sifting and using bits of other people’s stuff – copied language like precious stones” (1999, p.101) the group looked at how to deliberately borrow language. We decided on a few books, works of fiction to begin with, mainly devoted to the theme of romance which juxtaposes the theme of our performance, and began “sifting” (Etchells, ,p.101) through the pages, stopping on a random number and picking out two words from the first sentence our eyes settled upon. We would repeat this action with multiple books until a sentence was formed. Sometimes these sentences were, on the surface, nonsensical. However, after experimentation with intonation of voice and expression, the group were able to make the sentences applicable to the performance, with an elite group of sentences making it into the final soundscape.

This method of writing compliments the experiment of juxtaposing the emotion of a word with the way in which it is said, by creating words and sentences which seemingly have a meaning to them but are, in fact, random combinations put together to subvert meaning and contradict emotion. Etchells describes how the difficulty we encounter when trying to create new writing might be due to the “inadequacy of language. It’s unsuitability for the job it has to do – it’s failure” (Etchells, 1999, p.102) this claim is, in essence, the point that we are exploring. If language is used with juxtaposing intonations and emotions to what it is used to being heard with, does the entire meaning flip and change? If this is the case, then language is failing, to some extent, to perform its job consistently. It is failing to have meaning, and cause meaning. This moment in which language breaks down is teeming with interest. Etchells describes it as “language transfixed on its own inadequacy” (Etchells, 1999, p.102) the performance is going to be transfixed on the malleable nature of language to be able to convey whatever emotion the vessels wish to convey. For example, if as performers, we wish to make the audience feel happy, we can quite simply say any lines that we have in a high pitch, jolly, inflection and this, in theory, should convey joviality. However, the experiment could go another way entirely.

When the group were recording some vocal sounds for the soundscape, they burst into laughter at a humorous event that happened at the time. Although their laughter was founded in humour and nothing sinister, when the recording was played back to an audience member, they remarked that the laughter was creepy and haunting. This was an interesting revelation as it meant that although the group thought they were conveying humour, the audience member received it very differently. This is where the experiment will become incredibly interesting when the performance takes place. The juxtapositions might have a certain emotional intention, however it might be conveyed to the audience in varying ways, and the audience may all experience different feelings towards it.

Works Cited

Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments, London: Routledge.

Tagged , ,