Selected Works‎ > ‎

Why Improvised Music is so Boring

by Diego Chamy (concept, performance), with Jean-Luc-Guionnet (alto saxophone) and Seijiro Murayama (percussion). Previously performed with Mathias Pontévia (percussion) and Nusch Werchowska (objects) at alberto ukebana, Berlin, November 18, 2008, and with Christof Kurzmann (laptop) and Seijiro Murayama (percussion) during the "Nine Lives" concert series at Ausland, Berlin, July 10, 2009.

Description of the action: 

The program indicates an improvisation by three musicians/performers, but I do not appear on stage until after the others have played for some time. I tell the audience that before coming to the theater I had received an unusual email from a friend I had invited to the performance. In this email, which I read out loud, my friend says that he's fed up with improvised music and asks me to give him a good reason to come to the concert. He also proposes that I ask the audience why improvised music is so boring. I tell the audience I have accepted my friend's proposal and have prepared a list of questions to ask them. As I present these questions, it becomes clear that they are all rhetorical in nature. The two musicians continue playing throughout. After my last question, a member of the audience suggests that I sing a song, which I proceed to do. (In fact, I had planned to sing a song after asking these questions, and it is purely coincidental that an audience member makes this request.)

Watch the video / Download in HD (Right click > Save as)

Some ideas: 

A rhetorical question is not so much a question as a device used to assert or deny something. In this performance I don't look for interesting answers from the audience. If this were my intention I would have chosen other types of questions (or I would have let the audience ask their own questions). The point here is not whether "improvised music" is boring or not. The point is the mixture of confusion and disappointment generated by someone making this statement and "hiding" it in the form of a question. Another interesting aspect to these questions is the stupidity carried within their generalizations. One can speak about John's music, Peter's music, and so on, but "improvised music," insofar as it is a generalization, doesn't help us think creatively. Nonetheless, in their stupidity, I find the raw use of generalizations and the flagrant use of rhetorical questions somehow interesting. The same goes for the "comparison" I make between the music being performed on stage and the song I sing at the end of the video.

Extra information:

I performed this action three times. The first two times, the musicians I worked with didn't know what I was going to do. (I only asked them if I could speak while they played, and they agreed.) The third time (presented here) was a reenactment of the first two actions: the musicians (Jean-Luc and Seijiro Murayama) understood my concept and kindly agreed to play the role of "musicians," trying genuinely to play their own music and see if it was possible to achieve the tension that was present during the first two performances. To reinforce this act, I asked Seijiro to throw a chair at me immediately after the performance while the audience was clapping. Seijiro did not (or could not) perform this action, but in the video it's possible to see the tension generated after the audience claps: Seijiro remains seated on stage, looking troubled, knowing that he has to throw his chair at me. For some reason he doesn't do it.

In the video:

Diego Chamy (concept)
Jean Luc Guionnet (alto saxophone)
Seijiro Murayama (percussion)

Performed at the INSTAL Festival, Tramway, Glasgow, U.K. November 12, 2010.