Drinking and Hooting: Variation I

Since people like the link to the disastrous performance of Christopher Hobbs’ Voicepiece a while ago, we thought we might begin our current investigation of performances of John White’s great minimalist masterwork, Drinking and Hooting Machine, with a performance by GCSE and A-Level students at Sandown High School on the Isle of Wight. Now, we don’t want to do down any real efforts on the part of the students, but for some reason, we suspect that this performance was not thought quite through. Like the Voicepiece performance, there is no sign that the students have actually read the instructions. If they had done, they wouldn’t have been able to describe Drinking and Hooting as ‘infamous’. So, lesson 1, folks: RTFI [the last letter is ‘instructions’, equivalent to ‘manual’ in computer terminology].More versions to come, but in the meantime, enjoy, and let us know your thoughts!

Author: Virginia

Virginia Anderson is a writer who messes with the EMC Blog. She specialises in the study of experimental, minimalist, and free improvisatory music. She also plays clarinet, and has recorded on Zanja, Advance, and Rastascan Recordings, specialising in new works for Eb clarinet and free improvisation.

One thought on “Drinking and Hooting: Variation I”

  1. Thanks for reminding us of a beautiful piece of music and a fine (“authentic”, should one say?) performance taken from the original LP, as well as raising some questions. On the face of it, one may tolerate every kind, or almost every kind, of realization, dealing with ‘open’/graphic/verbal scores (or half-graphic or half-verbal scores). Some would ask, very sincerely: wasn’t this music meant just for this ? But, of course, we have our own professionalism and professional discourse, and we are well aware of the unique Experimental Music tradition (fragile as it may be) needed – so we think – for everyone who would like to perform this music and to listen to it as well. So, there is a tension between two attitudes, maybe more, and it seems that many experimental scores do not make it easy to decide upon the ‘right’ direction . The tension is inherent. Must we judge the ‘innocent performer’? Shall we just accept the fact that a lot of experimental scores are not clear enough to many musicians , especially the young ones, so any decision they take must be OK?

    Tony Harris, in his book ‘The Legacy of Cornelius Cardew’ (2013), is trying to deal with this issue while discussing “[…] Lukoszevieze’s tendency to work within, and make reference to, a relatively defined historical experimental tradition, in many respects the canon that the Cardew Ensemble attempts to subvert” (Pg. 178). This is neither the only way nor the first effort to define the problem, but it gives one a new opportunity to get into the matter. White’s music, as it was recorded in the 70’s, may be thought of as a frame of reference, a ‘tradition’, a ‘canonic’ version. Should the young generation follow it? My personal answer is Yes (anyway, the old recording is so beautiful!). And what should I tell my students ? Probably I’ll explain to them the whole tradition and the historical background of White’s music to begin with. But then, just as Virginia Anderson has commented, who knows how those young, very sympathetic students have come across White’s score, and who knows if (or how) they were instructed? Is it right to ‘blame’ them, to preach? Perhaps they are ready to justify their (well, rather clumsy, to my mind) interpretation with their new, quite accepted nowadays, anti-hierarchy/ anti-judgement worldview? I’m thinking, in this respect, of some of my best students, for whom even Post-Cageian tradition is a bit old and a bit ‘frozen’ , and, moreover, they tend to agree with David Toop (quoted in Nicolas Collins’ ‘Quicksand’ [2013] ): no paradigm is needed (for the moment?), nor any attempt to discuss paradigms shift (so, not even Experimental Music tradition?), and we have ‘[a] wonderful work and not-so-wonderful work, some of which gets remembered and some of which doesn’t’. The same with any interpretation and any performance?

    I’m not so sure, but it’s worth thinking and rethinking.


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