Saturday, 29 June 2013
Blog Response by Kellen Hoxworth
Lights come up on two women wearing blue dresses, each standing behind a microphone. Behind them, a screen image of a pristine clock at 12 o’clock looms. A fan produces a soft breeze, rippling blue fabric and the water half-filling plastic cups on a stand between the pair. Alexandra “Sasha” Kovacs, stage right, begins to sing “tah” on a long tone, ending with a gutteral “kuh.” Natalie Mathieson, stage left, immediately follows with “tih” on a slightly shorter tone, ending with the same “kuh” sound. The second hand moves minutely.
For slightly over 30 minutes, this pattern reiterates as the second hand completes a one-minute cycle. “Tick” and “tock” answer each other, either pushing the second hand around the clock face, or panting to keep up. “Tick” and “tock,” though, do not produce the equivalent sound. Fry developed the structure of the piece on a John Cage-inspired random generation process. Each “tock” and “tick” lasts between one and sixty seconds as determined by a number drawn from a hat. As a result, Kovacs and Mathieson vary pitch, timbre, and breath support as they struggle — and generally succeed — at sustaining a single tone. The amplification provided by their microphones makes miniscule gasps, rasps, clicks, and tremors into dramatic swells, drawing each section of each “second” out, dwelling in the inability for the time to be sustained aurally. Vibratos weaken and falter; hands clench and bunch dresses at the sides of legs; increasingly empty plastic cups begin to dance in the fan’s breeze.
Despite the piece’s structure on principles of randomness, patterns, themes, and characters emerge. “Tock” seems much more prevalent that “tick,” confounding the binaristic equivalence promised by their metronymic origins. Kovacs and Mathieson embody the production of sound with striking differences: Kovacs’s eyes shift about the space, landing on individual audience members throughout often sustained tones, whereas Mathieson appears more stoic, grounded, and occasionally, offering her “tick” as a comic riposte. Yet, the central theme of the piece — the sound of time — resonates strongly through both performers’ breath. The vocalized breath of each tone is met with its necessary supporting intake. I am reminded of Reagan Truax’s “Exchange,” and the cycles of breath between persons, which are here combined with the cycles of time.
Then, 5 minutes prior to the conclusion, when the second hand passes the “50” on the clock face, a sudden burst of sound enters the space through the walls. Clusters of explosions — fireworks from the neighboring Major League Soccer game between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Los Angeles Galaxy — layers a new soundscape onto the minutiae of breath. Time is shot through, repeatedly. The finale arrives too early, but just early enough to end the piece in a new tone — one between the fragility of human struggle and the extravagance of ludic celebration. The audience files out to see time marked on the sky as it has been for the prior half hour on the screen and in the lungs of the performers. It is an ending that refuses closure. In my mind, the second hand keeps moving, Kovacs and Mathieson keep breathing, and Fry continues out the studio door to pull more performative investigations from a hat.
Note: I served as lighting designer and stage manager for this performance.