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\title{Tactile Paths}
\subtitle{on and through Notation for Improvisers}
\author{Christopher Williams}
\publisher{Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, University of Leiden}





\chapter[Entextualization and Preparation in Patterson's \textit{Variations~for~Double-Bass}]{\texorpdfstring{Entextualization and Preparation in Patterson's \\ \textit{Variations~for~Double-Bass}}{Entextualization and Preparation in Patterson's \textit{Variations~for~Double-Bass}}} \marginnote[-2cm]{Media for this chapter may be found at \url{http://www.tactilepaths.net/patterson}}


Most composers of notation for improvisers are improvisers themselves.
This is no coincidence. As composer-pianist and improvisation scholar
Vijay Iyer has noted,

The most savvy composers writing for improvisors are those with personal
experience as improvisors -- those who possess an intimate understanding
of its parameters of expression, its interactive possibilities, and the
stakes involved in the commitment to process.\footnote{Throughout
  the dissertation I use the ``-er'' spelling of the word
  ``improviser''. However I respect the alternate ``-or'' spelling in
  citations by others who choose this variant. Likewise I respect
  British spelling norms in citations, while adopting American English
  norms for myself.}
\end{quote} (Iyer 2004)

How, why, and what these artists notate can vary substantially. Some
transmit aspects of their own practice as improvisers (Malcolm
Goldstein); some develop it privately (Derek Bailey -- see Lash 2011);
and others agitate their ensembles (Misha Mengelberg -- see Schuiling
2016 and Whitehead 1998). Some luxuriate in the gray area between the
written and the improvised (Bob Ostertag), and others inscribe a gap
(see Richard Barrett's \emph{Blattwerk} (2002) or my \emph{Apples are Basic}(2008).
But in all these cases, the matter of what gets notated is nearly always
intertwined with ongoing improvisational practice.

The present chapter aims to articulate the dynamics of this intertwining
-- the process of inscription. It centers on the following question: how
do composer-improvisers use notation to share, challenge, or transform
their own ways of improvising?

By tracing my study, preparation, and multiple performances of Ben
Patterson's \emph{Variations for Double-Bass} (1962), I will flesh out a
deceptively straightforward answer: notation for improvisers
\emph{entextualizes} the ongoing improvisatory practices of its
composers and/or performers. Borrowing from anthropologist Karin Barber,
who, after Michael Silverstein and Greg Urban (1996), defines
entextualization as ``the `process of rendering a given instance of
discourse as text, detachable from its local context'\,'' (Barber 2007,
30), I will pursue two related claims: (1) notation in this piece
emerges from and feeds back on improvisation, rather than simply
generating or freezing it, and (2) improvisation in this piece is a
continuous thread throughout processes of score-making, preparing and
rehearsing, and revision after performance -- above and beyond its most
obvious manifestation in concert performance. \emph{Variations} offers a
unique opportunity to address these issues, as it foregrounds aspects of
inscription, preparation, and revision that are often too private or
ephemeral to trace in other scores for improvisers.

\section{Variations for Double-Bass: Background}\label{variations-for-double-bass-background}

I first learned about Ben Patterson's \emph{Variations for Double-Bass}
in Fluxus\footnote{Fluxus is (or, according to some, was) a
  heterogeneous network of artists including Patterson, George Brecht,
  Geoff Hendricks, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Yoko Ono, and many
  others, ``founded'' in the early 1960s by George Maciunas.
  Fluxdaughter and historian Hannah Higgins states, ``Since Fluxus
  artists never seem to agree on anything, Fluxus has become `a pain in
  art's ass,' in the words of Fluxus artist Ben Vautier. Neither the
  style nor the substance or significance of what they do produces
  consensus among the artists. Production ranges from minimal
  performances, called Events, to full-scale operas, and from graphics
  and boxed multiples called Fluxkits to paintings on canvas. The
  artists come from almost every industrialized nation, they span
  several generations, and many even dislike each other. Accurately
  portraying Fluxus therefore requires thinking about art in a way that
  forgoes the normally definitive terms of style, medium, and political
  sensibility.'' (2002, xiii)} catalogs and histories -- the piece has
something of a legendary aura around it. Composer and experimental music
scholar George E. Lewis describes it as going ``well beyond any previous
notion of extended technique then in force in the world of contemporary
classical music'' (2014, 95); elsewhere it is referred to, along with
other early pieces by Patterson such as \emph{Paper Piece} (Stegmayer
2012, 59-61), as a historical contribution to black performance
  \url{http://13.performa-arts.org/artists/benjamin-patterson}.} It was
premiered at Mary Bauermeister's Cologne salon in 1961, subsequently
performed at the famous Wiesbaden Fluxus exhibition of 1962\footnote{See
  \emph{Fluxus Festival neuester Musik}
  \url{http://www.hundertmark-gallery.com/videos.0.html}.}, and is now
considered by most scholars and enthusiasts to be a Fluxus classic.

So it was with some surprise that my request to Patterson for a score in
2001 was answered with an unceremonious thicket of typewritten text,
handwritten comments, unexplained Xs and arrows, cut and pasted
fragments from Verdi's \emph{Rigoletto}, editorial scribbles, and
photographs from an early performance. Its provenance was Patterson's
\emph{Black and White File} (1999), a ``working file'' (Patterson 1999,
``Overview'') of the composer's scores from 1960-1999. Unpaginated and
bound in a simple two-ring binder of the type used by Germans for the
most banal of record-keeping, the seventeen \emph{Variations} are
unassumingly sandwiched between \emph{Duo} (1961), for voice and string
instrument, and \emph{Paper Piece} (1960), for an unspecified number of
performers playing (with) paper.

The humble presentation of this Do-It-Yourself collection stands in
marked contrast to scores by many of Patterson's Fluxus contemporaries
such as George Brecht's \emph{Water Yam} (1963) or the La Monte
Young-edited volume \emph{An Anthology of Chance Operations} (1963).
Compared with these Fluxus archetypes, both meticulously designed and
packaged by the movement's self-appointed spokesman George Maciunas,
\emph{Variations} seems more like a leaky sketch than a polished,
autonomous art object. Its informality is emphasized by its distribution
history: from 1999 to 2012, Patterson produced copies of the \emph{Black
and White File} to order and often gave them away for free, up until his
scores were published together in an anthology edited by Benedikt
Stegmayer (2012).

In my opinion Patterson's direct, unfussy approach to writing,
publishing, and distributing his scores does not reflect a lack of care;
nor is it merely cosmetic. In choosing to work this way Patterson
underlines practice's primacy, and notation's embeddedness within it:

My pieces, as they appear on paper, have neither material nor abstract value. They achieve value in performance, and then only the personal value that the participant himself perceives about his own behavior and / or that of the society during and / or after the experience. (In fact, any piece is just this: a person, who, consciously, does this or that. Everybody can do it.) (Patterson, as quoted in Lewis 2012, 988)

Having performed \emph{Variations} on several occasions, I can attest
that the principle value of Patterson's notation is indeed personal and
reflective; one discovers this both in and \emph{en route} to concert
performance. However whereas Patterson implies that \emph{Variations'}
notation ``on paper'' is simply a means to an end -- prescribing and
preserving the piece for performance -- my own experience playing the
piece has revealed that the score is something more. In addition to
providing the performer a set of instructions or generative conditions
for performance, it is also itself performative, and the nature of that
performance -- always shifting, contingent, and reflective -- might be
best termed improvisation.


Explaining the performative, improvisational nature of
\emph{Variations}' notation -- as well as that of any other example of
notation for improvisers -- can benefit from the notion of
entextualization. A brief historical contextualization of the term
suggests why.

The concept emerged in the field of anthropology in the 1980s and 1990s
as a response to the rise of performance theory. According to Karin
Barber, performance theory sought to provide an alternative to the then
dominant view of culture as text:

Text implied a view of society as prescriptive, fixed and adhering to
rigid structures; performance implied a focus on what was improvised,
ephemeral, fluid, of the moment only -- but in that moment, vital and
responsive to the contingencies of context. {[}\ldots{}{]} Dwight
Conquergood elegantly sums up the opposition as a war of vocabulary,
where the benign forces of ``improvisation'', ``flow'', ``process'',
``participation'', ``embodiment'', and ``dialogue'' are ranged against
the enemy lexicon -- ``fixity'', ``structure'', ``objectification'',
``reification'', ``system'', ``distance'', and ``detachment''
(Conquergood 1989). {[}\ldots{}{]}

But while performance theory provided wonderful conceptual tools for
thinking about emergence, it had a tendency to dismiss the whole idea of
the aspiration to fixity as a scriptocentric imposition. It thus offered
inadequate resources for understanding how the fluid is consolidated,
and why stunningly creative oral performers so often claim that their
texts have never changed by so much as a syllable. But out of
performance theory came its own inverse and complement: the concept of
``entextualizuation''. {[}\ldots{}{]}

The concept of entextualization {[}\ldots{}{]} opens the way to an
integrated vision of the generation of cultural forms from the bottom
up, in which misleadingly sharp binary oppositions can be allowed to
fade away. (Barber 2007, 29-31)

This ``performative turn'' (Conquergood 1989) in anthropology (as well
as in theater studies and other disciplines in the humanities) has
resonated in music scholarship over the last twenty-five or so years.
``New Musicology'' (also currently known as ``Critical Musicology''),
music performance studies, and in particular the field of improvisation
studies, of which I consider this dissertation to be a part, have all
turned away from hard textuality and embraced the role of agency,
contingency, collectivity, corporeality, and intersubjectivity in
musical discourse. Musicologist Floris Schuiling summarizes the shift

During the 1990s, musicologists increasingly started to address music's
entanglement with social and political issues, as well as the
ideological baggage that had prevented this earlier, and ethnomusicology
was swept up in the more general reflexive turn in anthropology that
problematized the notion of ``culture'' and the nature of ethnography
and fieldwork. In both fields, one outcome of these developments was a
shift in emphasis towards the concept of performance, to avoid either a
work-based approach or a totalising concept of culture, and to
foreground the forms of social and creative interaction that were now
increasingly seen to be essential to music's existence. (Schuiling 2016,


I can't understand what they refer to, but I believe it may be related to a chapter heading. The PDF looks right, but the sections after this point in the code stop showing up in the document viewer index, and subsequent chapters don't show up in the TOC.

Can anyone help? Many thanks.

  • I get some warnings about underful boxes, but not 'errors' -- The line numbers given by you are quite ambigious -- it is not clear which lines are meant. What is the error? – user31729 Sep 8 '16 at 21:23
  • here are the errors: pastebin.com/RB5pgRS2 – christopher Sep 8 '16 at 21:33
  • I don't get this errors. I've compiled on TL 2016, on Linux with pdflatex. – user31729 Sep 8 '16 at 21:38
  • On pdflatex I don't get the errors either... they came running latex from within texmaker on linux. Was I compiling incorrectly? – christopher Sep 8 '16 at 21:44
  • As far as I can see you are not using any features that restricts you to latex. Use pdflatex rather in this case! – user31729 Sep 8 '16 at 21:49

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