Repeat Indefinitely text

Repeat Indefinitely

Full Script


Michael Picknett

Charlotte (Charly) Webber

Fontane Liang

Jennifer (Jen) Carter

CARTER STARTS (her performance becomes suspended).

1. Beginnings:

So here we are, balanced between action and action, a space where time has become stretched and sickly. In between the notes and yet not a silence, nor an absence of sound, but a suspension that must eventually resolve.

Here we can pause and really examine each other. You, sitting watching us watching you.

This then is my moment, before anything, in these early breaths I start to make the decisions that begin to shape this piece – and now I must act on them. In fact everything I do when I am on this stage creating a moment: how I walk, how I talk, how I stand, where I put my hands, how I breathe, what I am wearing, the sound of the air conditioning, the smell of musty scores, what I saw on my way in today, and what I remember of this script. So through this context made of tiny moments and gestures, everything becomes part of this piece. And we can’t really escape this and how it affects us, not through any assimilated ritual or culturally enforced patterns of behaviour.

But I think it is really important to recognise this. You see, you and I have an extraordinary relationship. We are here meeting in this moment and it will never be like this again. Even if you saw this another time, there would be changes. I would have different things to say, you would remember different parts, and the performers would have found new ways of playing. If you waited long enough between the encounter and re-encounter, you might not recognise the same piece at all. And would this be a problem? Surely you would like to see something that is happening now, not a recollection of what was once thought.

In short, we would have all moved on, and the past would be a fragile memory. The moment shattered to be stored in boxes. Each mind with its own collection of fragments – a chrysalis where what happened between us metamorphoses into what you need. Sometimes it becomes something that never happened, but that is still the piece for us. And sometimes you forget, putting it aside in your mind for your lifetime. Then it is gone, and we accept that entirely.


So here we are between action and action. A long quietness, a held breath. Time has become stretched and slow, but it is not silence, nor an absence of sound, but the gaps between events that must eventually resolve.
If you distort and stretch a moment too much it will find a new meaning. But you can never forget the history of what it once meant. This piece will become another, and maybe this other was always there.

I wanted to use this stolen time to talk to you about us, and what was do, and yet this is also about the possibilities of repetition. This is a research, a microcosm of my studies into composition. My research is about asking compositional questions of what it means to perform, and so this piece is also about asking questions. Although I do not look for a single answer, but I am more interested in exploring the interconnected answers of many people with their many questions. Each answer, each repetition, different and unique. And all reflections are distortions.


So here we are balanced between action and action. A long pause where time has become sick, and yet limpid in between those notes, in the twilight of sound. The performance within a performance behind me hasn’t stopped, it is not a silence, nor a rest, nor an absence of sound, but a suspension. Eventually it will resolve, but not yet.

She, Jen, remains in the performance, without sound – contained within an unbroken, tacit connection with her audience.

But this is not the silence of John Cage, of previously unnoticed continua. This silence is about the intention to play – the anticipation of the next note – the presence of the performance. Intention is more a part of this piece than the lack of notes. This intention is not drawn from a set of instructions, pre- determined and followed precisely, but from the presence of decisions being made, live, here in front of you.

Do we need sound to perform music?
With your permission we would like to perform more music with no sound.

But I have talked a lot about us, now we would like to perform something for you. We do not wish to make you uncomfortable, so if you would not like to take part, please indicate to us. It is quite painless – and remember, you always have a choice.

2. Whispers:

• Why are we here?
When I first began to ask questions of my practice, we made a piece called Apologetics. In Apologetics I wanted to find out how we could create a sororic presence on stage that was as much a part of the piece as the notes and silences. A piece that didn’t rely on a series of instructions, but was first a feeling, and then a communication of that feeling. We found this was best understood as complicity, the shared understanding between performers – the process where each performer knows what the others will do before they do it. For us this was our silent sorority.

• What are we doing?
To look at complicity in Apologetics we used various exercises and tasks. And we are performing one for you now. This exercise is called ‘whispers’ and is, as you see, interactive. As an audience, you will have to put something of yourself on the line. As performers, we are always interested in you – the audience. We want to create something with you, not in front of you. Yes we might create a beautiful harmony, or a passing melody, or a dazzling technique that you have never seen before, executed with perfection. We might. But what does that mean, for you and for us? Where does that leave us? We do not wish to play to the un-present, the dead space of a sleeping theatre. Or to those who spectate: the silent rows of eyes that give us nothing for all our efforts. Or to the auditors, the indistinguishable audience, for whom we have no corporality, where we become the ghosts on their tv, their moving wall-paper, if we start to penetrate you, you can always flip the channel. Nor do we wish to perform to the witnesses, who watch in shock and see nothing but the surface. We want to perform to you, those who are here and present…

• How do we do it?
We divide our creative process up into three stages: Intention, Process and Outcome.
Intention is what we want to say – that is to say, the questions we ask. In this piece we investigate what we mean by performance and re-performance?
Process is how we plan to turn our intention to perform into a piece. It could be a long development through many rehearsals to carefully find the best way to express our thoughts and feelings on our intentions.
Outcome is the performance, what we play and how we interact in the moment. If the intention and process are strong enough, the outcome can be flexible – a reaction to the situation – never repeating, always different always a solution to moment in hand.

• Why are we here?

My doctoral practice has developed into asking fundamental questions of my compositional process, such as: How can I bring together performance and composition into a single process? This, a performance that is also a lecture, is the perfect space to ask such questions. To ask them live, is to confront them.

• What are we doing?
Classical music performance is usually a process of firstly knowing what you must do (having the notes), working out how you are going to play it (learning the piece), and finally working out what you want to communicate in playing the piece. In my research, we are looking to reverse this to start with our intention, then to find how we are going to achieve it, and finally finding the notes we play in the moment of performance.

• How do we do it?
We start with talking, with getting together in a room sitting down and discussing what we are looking for. We start with a general enquiry, such as how can our state of social interaction become a performance? Then we search. I ask questions, we all ask questions, and we look for answers. But we all know there are no correct answers to our questions – they merely reflect us in the moment, that is why we never stop the process of our projects. Eventually these answers become music and begin to fit together to make a whole. A piece; to be polished and performed. Each question becomes a field of possibility within which there are many potential performances. And each performer wears their part, like a skin, aware of all the moves possible, because the part is themselves.
This is my research.

• Why are we here?
We are here because we want to play pieces for you, our audience; to express ourselves – to find the common intentions between you and us. To find something in this moment that means something. So maybe we fail, but this is the risk we all take when we walk onto stage. It is more important for us to reach an understanding with our audience, than to play the right notes.

• What are we doing?
In this exercise, we interact with you as specific people. To ask questions and create little pieces for you. But, although they are interesting to watch, the presence of a performance is a performance in itself, if you don’t know what is being played, and you can never experience the interaction. Then what is the performance for you? An overheard half of a phone-call between people you do not know? If it is not performed for you, to you, then a performance is lost.

• How do we do it?
Charly and Fontane have an intention to make a bespoke piece for a spontaneously chosen member of the audience. The process is to ask questions, not to intrude, but to find a common social connection. The answers guide more questions. Eventually the answers to the questions, not matter what they were, are processed into a short improvised piece through a practiced abstraction. The outcome is a performance that is not a description of you, nor of your answers, but a meeting of two people.

• Why are we here?
The performance I remember the most and with the greatest affection happened to me several years back. I was rehearsing for a devised piece with a group that included a clarinettist, a viola player, a pianist and a dancer. The rehearsal was long and at a difficult moment in the process. We had all become tired and unable to continue constructively, so I finished the rehearsal early. As we had a few more minutes and a free room, the clarinettist asked me if she could practice a piece for a concert the following day. We all agreed, and so she played. I cannot remember what the piece was, or who wrote it. That is not really the point. You had to be there, a recording would not be the same. You had to have gone through the process of the rehearsal, the exhaustion and the moment. The context. In the end, all I can say is you had to be there, and that is the point.

We are here, because we believe in these moments, and we want to share them with you. And so we ask ourselves questions…

3. Questions:

[These questions are typed onto a computer that is being projected behind the lecture-performance]

What notes will I play?

What notes should I not play?

Does the audience have to understand?

How can I be myself?

Does my presence affect the music? / Does it have to be me playing?

Does the audience have to be there?

Mike types:

What am I trying to say through my performance?

How much do I lead, how much do I follow?

How much can I change in a performance?

What does it mean to repeat?

Could we record this? – audio, notation, film?

4. Repeat Forever?:And so, in the end, we confront ourselves and these questions here on stage. How do we perform a piece that only exists in the constantly changing flux of our context? A piece that truly reflects us? In short, can we repeat indefinitely? And what does this mean?IMPROV. 1 (prelude)On a fundamental level we can’t repeat what we perform, but equally, we always do. The piece is our knowledge of what we want to say, and the processes we go through to say it.IMPROV. 2 (fast)Maybe we will be recorded, caught as a digital ghost, endlessly frightening no-one. Rattling our ones and zeros to be studied and dissected by people who search for meaning in counting our parts.IMPROV. 3 (static)Have you never wondered why a recording is nothing like the performance? Lacking the emotions that were generated when you were surrounded by others feeling the same way. Emotions spread like viruses through audiences. And these recordings are full of mistakes that were not noticeable when the performers were before you. Could the imperfections of memory, with its all too human filters of context, emotions and distractions be enough? This is how we would like to be remembered: in a hundred different ways, each one different and beautifully inaccurate.IMPROV. 4 (cadence)

What happens when we drift away? When we no longer feel connected to the piece? When it has become part of our past, but not of our future? Then, like life, the piece dies and becomes the soil for something new for each of us. Repeat indefinitely…