As we all know, The Living Theatre has been the driving force behind theatrical innovation in the second half of the twentieth century, but it has also inspired the most brilliant composers of modern music, ranging from John Cage, who composed the incidental music for “The Marrying Maiden“ (1960) and who enjoyed a long-lasting friendship whit Julian Beck and Judith Malina, Morton Feldman, as well as Luigi Nono who nonetheless had a difficult relationship with the the company while working on “A floresta é jovem e cheja de vida“ in 1965-66.
After working successfully together, Judith Malina and I both felt the desire to continue our collaboration. Judith and Hanon Reznikov invited me to their place in N.Y.C. and let me explorer a large old cupboard overflowing with cassettes, old tapes and reels of all sizes. I thus began the long task of listing, duplicating and cleaning these immense sound archive. And then one day, literally submerged by hundreds of tapes, I came across two reels on which had been written in pencil : John Cage – material from “The Marrying Maiden“. These two experiment from the year 1959 contained acoustic experiments which John Cage had carried out using the voices of Living Theatre actors and which then became the incidental “music“ for “The Marrying Maiden“.
This very important discovery, together with the fifty years of sound recordings of theatre plays which I found in that extraordinary cupboard of memory, gave me the idea for a concert where the main instrument would be memory. I would like to thank the sensitivity of Daniel Teruggi and the whole of the GRM for allowing me to carry out “64“.
I chose to base this musical composition upon the 64-hexagram structure of the I-Ching in a spirit of both rigour and freedom. There were several reasons for this choice: the first reason was that I wished to pay homage to John Cage and the “The Marrying Maiden“. The second reason was that every single hexagram of the I-Ching contemplates a rich dramatic structure. Each hexagram has a title and one basic idea which it develops either through symbols, e.g. the sky, the earth, the well etc., or through more precise notions : war, quarrelling, excess, obedience and so on, until it reaches the number 64, which marks the end but also a new beginning. I used the oracular meanings as well as the symbolic language which expresses them, a language made up of continuous conflicts and combinations between primary elements of nature – water, fire, wind and so on – and I used them as containers and generators of idea for my music. The most instructive example is No.7, “The Army“. I found recordings of the military marches which the Living Theater performed during their play “The Brig“. A small fragment lasting a few seconds gave me the idea for the creation of a piece of music through various processes of manipulation and editing. The only real instrument I used is the Guquin, an ancient Chinese instrument which dates back to the time of Confucius. It seemed to me that this sort of large circle made up out of mosaic pieces would be the ideal way to tell the story of memory not by following and fixed chronology but, as is often the way in life, through mental associations.