Cacophonic collisions: SF Guerilla Opera

Cacophonic collisions: multiple poets spoken voices, at once, at zero, together in writhing (roaring) silence: was it mere noise, or noise of recognizable phonemes shattering? Expected delivery of signs corrupted, they met in the air to make anew, calling the question, are the words molten? Prosody sounds so.

As a subject is also a conglomerate, a crowd is also one voice. So who is the author of a library? Or, rather, how does it’s voice sound? The SF Guerilla Opera found out: on February 26, 2011, at 7:00 pm, at the Adobe Bookstore in San Francisco, their voice grew, before their name was coined. “The score: 40+ people read aloud for 40 minutes from books found in the bookstore.” [1] An open listening is imperative here, lest the performance decay into stiflingly cynical, embarassed laughter. Though easily cast off as so, this score wasn’t senseless; rather, its performance was a possibly overwhelming welling of sense, but what can be heard in it? Surely each bookstore sounds unique, by both the readers and the read, and this breath is telling – but telling of what?

If the prenatal soundscape is one of muted tones, articulate speech is largely irrelevant to the meaning there. Perhaps expired through some pre-Oedipal poesis, as a choral emergence past the Requiem of Ligeti, a seeking of tones which rather bridge the fourth wall, the SF Guerilla Opera’s score for Opera No. 5 was reminiscent of a dérive:

“Dear friends, After much deliberation over what to do or say during 100 Thousand Poets for Change, we decided to let the city speak for itself.  We invite you to sing with us tomorrow in our 5th opera! the score: 1. This Saturday, just before 1:00 pm, meet at the intersection of Howard & Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco. 2. At exactly 1:00 pm, proceed on foot to Ocean Beach, singing text found en route.” [2]

Who is the author of that opera?

It was not mere polyphony; between some (con)texts, harmony and dissonance, tonality, may go on irrelevantly; yet, the decentered interferences, the summation of voices is unavoidable insofar as it is physical fact – it is the separation of them that is the analysis. Solidarity is implied by the ears, vocal cords, and mediums of vibration which are their union- it is the divisionary apathy that is the implacable rouge. In the midst of the Occupy protests, from San Francisco to New York, SF Guerilla Opera invited you to “[begin score:] Sing from The Wall Street Journal until you can’t sing anymore. [end score]” on October 17th, 2011 [3]. Was the number of the market expressed in the infinitely divisible timbre of the word?

Composers or, rather, directors, authorities wield batons. But the scores of SF Guerilla Opera enact a problem-posing pedagogy, imperatives become invitations for collaboration as authorship is acknowledged and questioned:

“the score:
On October 26, 2011, sing the USA PATRIOT ACT to your nearest surveillance.
[end score]
This is the 2nd guerrilla opera you can perform anywhere, anytime–before work, between classes, after dinner, etc.
Here’s our operatic direction:
1. You are invited to sing as feels right in the moment (from belch to monotone to whisper to …).
2. Will you sing the entire USA PATRIOT ACT? A fragment? Your favorite moment? Something else? It’s up to you.
3. Will you sing to a surveillance camera? Your smartphone? Your parent? Your partner? The heavens? It’s up to you.
4. Costuming is up to you.
5. Documentation is up to you.” [4]

For Guerilla Opera No. 9, the concert hall was, again, walled by its libretto: scores of books. On February 10th, 2012, at The Reading Room of the Berkeley Arts Museum, the opera was an echo of the company’s first: for 40 minutes, the author/s of the library flew off the shelves and shared the acoustic space before together returning to (and out again from) the ears of the audience-performers [5].

Today, the company merely appears under an “indefinite intermission,”[6] but the resonances of these events reverberate regardless of remembrance entailed. SF Guerilla Opera scratched the surface, began to make audible the manifest vocations: the oceanic roars of protests and political rallies; the striking birdsong of friends and family huddled over newspapers; the patter ‘neath swimming of signs being read.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s