If you’ve visited the New Music Scrapbook recently, you know that my colleagues and I have been hard at work on a production of Stockhausen’s Ylem. This expansive piece requires a very particular staging and configuration of the performance space, so deciding on other pieces to complement it has been a bit of a programming challenge.
But rather than discuss the works we eventually settled on (Cage, For Paul Taylor and Anita Dencks; Tenney, Having Never Written a Note for Percussion) and why, I want to talk about this extraordinarily disturbing video:
No doubt some of you are already familiar with it. Let me bring your attention to a few of its characteristics that I find particularly ripe for comment in contrast to the original version.
- If you were to watch the normal-speed video and compare it to this slowed-down version, you might notice that the normal-speed video is cut together in an especially rapid and jarring way, almost as if directed by Paul Greengrass (I checked; it was Michael Kruzan). Accordingly, in this regard, the slowed-down version seems more believable than the normal version: The pace of the cuts is moderated.
- The song at normal speed features a bouncy, thoroughly palatable sample, a signifier of hip-hop pressed into service to establish a funky, urban vibe ideationally consonant with young women ordering pizza at a time (i.e., 1995) when rap was just beginning to reveal a non-threatening valence to mainstream white culture. In the slow version, however, this head-nodder is transformed into grimy downtempo trip-hop, delineating an affective space quite different from the original’s and prompting the question of whether drug use (ecstasy, one assumes) might be responsible for the girls’ powerful hunger.
- The impression of altered consciousness is further fortified by the performers’ expressions, which take on an exaggeratedly euphoric cast. The short-haired brunette opposite Mary-Kate and Ashley is the most enigmatic of the five performers: Not only is the character of her voice eerier than the others’, it’s always she who has to deal with fluids and gels. The slow-moving whipped cream and caramel sauce are the two uncanny images in the video that violate its verisimilitude. If not for the whipped cream and caramel sauce, we could maybe believe we’re simply viewing five very small, heavily narcotized adults rather than five young children.
- Finally, note that it is the African-American girl, unfortunately, who demands that we “bring [her] some chicken.”
Until next week.