to rush down

Henri Michaux, Untitled (Mouvements), 1950-51

“Any old wood will do,” wrote Henri Michaux in 1949. The drum needed no skin. Just as long as your whole life could be concentrated into the impact of fingers, hand, fast, faster, less fast, slowly, very slowly. Silence was a great leech lying down within him. “In my music, there is a great deal of silence,” he wrote, but then again spoke of noises, his noise pushing away all others, then night, the self entering further into the sounds, and the pressure to record these sounds, his resistance to the needs of the mechanism, the necessity to watch its functioning and be subdued by its division of time, whereas Michaux was working into the unknown through time, “long boring passages”, or improvising on a drum to auscultate himself, to take his pulse, to make flux in his time, to be against much of civilisation, to break through a dam, “to rush down” . . .

“Since I never went in for playing with sand on the beach as a child – a disastrous deficiency from which I was to suffer all my life – when the age for it had passed, the desire to play came to me, and now to play with sounds.

Oh! what a strange thing at first, that current suddenly revealed, that liquid unexpected, that passage bearing something in itself, always, and which was.

You no longer recognise your surroundings (the hardness has left them).

You have stopped bumping into obstacles. You become the captain of a RIVER . . .

What I want (not yet what I produce) is music to question, to auscultate, to approach the problem of being.”

Henri Michaux, First Impressions, on music (1949)

About davidtoop

David Toop is a composer/musician, author and curator based in London who has worked in many fields of sound art and music, including improvisation, sound installations, field recordings, pop music production, music for television, theatre and dance. He has published five books, including Ocean of Sound, Haunted Weather, and Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener, released eight solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Black Chamber and Sound Body, and as a critic has written for many publications, including The Wire, The Face, Leonardo Music Journal and Bookforum. Exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London, Playing John Cage at Arnolfini, Bristol, and Blow Up at Flat-Time House, London. Currently writing a two-volume book on free improvisation - Into the Maelstrom: Improvisation, Music and the Dream of Freedom - the first volume will be published by Bloomsbury in 2016. His opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – was performed as an Aldeburgh Faster Than Sound project in September 2012. He is Chair of Audio Culture and Improvisation at University of the Arts London.
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