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Ear Here, Democracy in Action & Gamelan Mobilel et al.

by Philip Corner


The first part of Philip Corner’s performance took place at The Culture House where a bus was waiting to carry the audience to the library for Corner’s scheduled performance. However, before entering the bus the audience was invited to listen to the sound of the engine. A sign attached to the side of the bus read “Ear Here – læg øret til her”.

At the library, Corner started out with the performance A Reverence for the Piano. He stood in front of the piano, his arm stretched out while he slowly descended on the stool. The slow movement ended when Corner eventually touched the keys with his bowed head.
As Corner’s bowing reached its limit at the keyboard, he performed OneNoteOnce as a head tone-cluster. In immediate continuation of this piece, Corner performed elementals, repeatedly striking a note in regular rhythm by hands at each extreme of the piano register while his head was held down. 

Eric Andersen then entered the stage and explained to the audience the nature of the next piece Democracy in Action. Corner would continue striking the same keys until the audience decided that he should stop. Every couple of minutes the audience was asked whether or not Corner should continue with his performance. Finally a vote decided that he should stop (30 for stopping, 4 for continuing).

As an encore, Corner played another version of OneNoteOnce.

Corner’s next piece continued the investigation of democracy. The performance and termination of the work Consensus was based on the audiences’ ability to reach a unanimous decision. However, this proved to be difficult and after app. 10 minutes of debate, Corner terminated the performance without having played a single note but he thanked everyone for an optimum performance. Instead he decided to perform no isms, to go. This piece reminds the listener of their freedom to leave whenever they like. This is usually done by printed statements on the seats, but there are no records of that being the case in Roskilde.

The piece Objective Necessity is concerned with ending a performance due to specific external circumstances which impose fixed time, in this case Anne Tardos’ performance at 9 pm. Corner decides to perform the work gamelan MOBILEL – a transcription for piano of one of the compositions from the “gamelan” series, based on Corner’s many years of involvement with the ensemble Son of Lion in New York, which plays contemporary music on classic Javanese instruments.

gamelan MOBILEL opens up symmetrically from the centre of the keyboard, each hand mirroring the other with chromatic scales moving progressively outward. There are gradual expansions and contractions in the dimensions of speed, loudness, and pedalling colour, mirroring the pitch structure. Since it could conceivably go on until the outer limits of the keyboard have been reached, it could be stopped at any point, which it was.