Sunday, July 22, 2012
From a Diary: I:xxviii
Logistics. Spent the last week painting a room and laying a parquet floor in it. Had the vague and hopelessly optimistic idea that patterns of interlocking oak might inspire me much as Anatolian rugs inspired Feldman and all those Feldmanistas. But not to be: this particular room had to be painted and this particular floor had to be cleared of its old covering and set with the new flooring while all of the major pieces of furniture were still in the room; they could be moved about within the room, but they could not exit, for there was no external space available in which to exile them, or, in the case of a large wrought iron bed frame, there was no way to physically remove the frame from the room except out the balcony window, through which it had once entered. Not having a crane available, the bed frame had to stay, but somewhat more compactly, on its side, amply padded so that it might be rotated. Flooring is not supposed to be done this way, it needs to settle in all directions, so it wants a room emptied of everything. That being impossible, it became a logistical game of some complexity, doing the room in three parts and, with each new part, reassigning the bulky furniture parts so that their weight was distributed so as better to assist the settling of the parquet. Too, as the tasks changed, from stage to stage, the tools and supplies required changed as well, and an additional logistical feature was insuring that the required tools were in place and the tools no longer required had been returned to their proper place in the workbench so that they might readily be retrieved. It's all a bit like one of those toy puzzles in which tiles (numbered or lettered) are slid about within a frame, all movement made possible by adjacency to the single empty space in the frame. Composing has logistical dimensions, assigning forces, materials, within a piece, but also more practically, in the organizing ones work ahead, to make a plan that will sustain an environment still ripe for invention. (I admire composers who have their logistics down. Cage and Stockhausen were incredibly disciplined about working to a plan. Henry Brant's "prose reports" were precomposition designs that removed doubt from composition itself. Babbitt, to his credit, was a composer with no logistical anxiety, and could compose to full score without sketching. In his mature output, all he really needed was an array (these being complicated to make, he often reused the same arrays and also used arrays composed by others) and a set of rules about how parameters projected the "lynes" of those arrays. The rest was extemporaneous invention, a bit like playing from a figured bass or a lead sheet. But the real logistical heroes of music-making are the librarians and contractors or personnel managers who make sure that players are in place at the right time and place and with the correct playing materials, and while all musicians have logistical tasks (string and brass players not forgetting to bring mutes, or all the doubling instruments a woodwind player has to bring, whether owned or borrowed), it's the percussionists who have really to have logistics down to an art form, as their entire menagerie of noise makers gets plundered a different way in every piece.