Sunday, January 23, 2011

Piano destruction

Wiener Gruppe - 2nd Literary Cabaret - 15. 4. 1959 Porrhaus, Vienna.
Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm and Oswald Wiener.

the evening (of 15th april, 1959) began as promisingly as the first one. as soon as the first spectator entered the auditorium we started to play the tape recording of an oil—extraction plant transmitted by loudspeaker, which we kept going for about three quarters of an hour till the beginning of the performance proper. this created a technical atmosphere and made for nervousness in the crowded audience (there were about 700 people).
then the "first number": the curtain rose, the ensemble was sitting on chairs in three rows, facing the audience and looking at it with great interest. the stage was dark, the auditorium lighted. We behaved like ordinary theatre-goers. one of us was late and tiptoed to his seat. we pointed a finger at individual spectators in the audience, gawking through our operaglasses, whispering. after some five minutes occasional bursts of laughter rose from the audience, which we interpreted as an important turn in the play we were watching; so we started to applaud just when the audience had started to do so as well, calling for the occasional encore. the atmosphere was great.
a grand piano was pushed onto the stage, and i started to sing a chanson in viennese dialect, "bye-bye, old toad", playing the piano in order to show that it was in perfect shape. konrad entered and read me some lines from a book on indian brothels. i rose and countered with "l’étre et le néant" ("why — what do you have on page 73’?"). in the background of the auditorium achi started his motor-scooter, driving, with rühm on the pillion, through the centre aisle toward the stage. both jumped off, opened suitcases they had brought along, put on fencing masks, and smashed the piano with hatchets. a penniless music student in the audience burst into a fit of crying, as so far she had been unable to afford such a piano. we liked this very much.
we soothed the audience with a set of chansons and another dialect play by rühm, "vowelists", which, however, was performed in an unusual way: it was rehearsed and produced for the first time under rühm’s direction, for later performance somewhere else. then followed a chanson which rühm had specially written for achleitner and schuppan; both, however, could not produce a single correct note so that the chanson was turned into a one-note tune, which they finally managed to sing more or less correctly.


Janas said...

Scans source: Peter Weibel (ed.): die wiener gruppe. a moment of modernity 1954-1960 / the visual works and actions. (Springer, Wien & New York 1997) - Exhib. cat. Biennale di Venezia.

bolingo69 said...

I sympathize very much with "a penniless music student in the audience burst into a fit of crying, as so far she had been unable to afford such a piano" and this statement; "we liked this very much"; makes me feel as offended as I ever was each time a stupid pop-group (whose name I refuse to use) smashed their guitars on their loudspeakers. I was even saddened by the ritual murder of Hendrix guitar and I remember Ravi Shankar being appalled at musicians that harmed and mutilated their instruments, something unheard of where music was sacred including the instruments one used to make the music with! I had no problems with the second vienna school who expanded the borders for music. But this... nothing but heinous crimes...

Janas said...

Bolingo, your annotations, as always are interesting. Thanks.

I too, hate to see a musical instrument that is destroyed, especially if it is destroyed with another musical instrument.

Piano destructions, chronologically:

- Wiener Gruppe (Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm, Oswald Wiener), in zwei welten, „2. Literarischen Cabaret“ by Porrhaus, Wien, 15.4.1959

- Nam June Paik, fourth and last movement of Hommâge à John Cage, Galerie 22, Kaiserstr. 22, Düsseldorf,13.11.1959 / Atelier Mary Bauermeister, Lintgasse 28, Köln, 16. o 18.6.1960 / LouisianaMuseum, Humblebæk, 30.9.1961

- Jeam Tinguely / Billy Klüver, Hommage to New York: A selfconstructing and self-destructing work of Art, Sculpture Garden, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 17.3.1960

- La Monte Young, Piano Piece for Terry Riley #1, Notation from - November 1960

- Poul Gernes, DUT (Die jungen Tonkünstler), Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, 1961 (destroys a piano prepared by Nam June Paik with a sledge hammer.)

- Arman, Musical Rage / Chopins Waterloo, public piano destruction in Galerie Saqqârah in Gstaad, 2.8.1962

- Fluxus-members (George Maciunas, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Emmett Williams, among others), performance of Philip Corner’s Piano Activity, at „Fluxus Internationale Festspiele für Neueste Musik,“ Städtisches Museum Wiesbaden, 23.9.1962

- Joseph Beuys, destruction of a piano prepared by Nam June Paik during a solo exhibition by Nam June Paik, Exposition of Music Electronic Television, Galerie Parnass, Moltkestr. 61, Wuppertal, 11.3.1963

- Raphael Montañaz Ortiz, Destruction in Art Symposium in London, 1966 (Film, b/w, 4,5 Min.)

- Nam June Paik, A Tribute to John Cage, Video, 60 Min., colour, 1973 (Scene from Stan Vanderbeek, Violence Sonata, 1969 (Abb.: Decker: Paik, p. 156ff., Abb. 101/102 Film)

- Sonic Youth performing Maciunas, Piano Piece # 13 (for Nam June Paik) (1999)

(List by Andrea Buettner)

bolingo69 said...

There is little time at the moment to be of any explicatory or translatory help but 1964 there was a concert in The Modern Art museum in Stockholm in a performance "The Last Piano Evening" by the swedish composer Karl Erik Welin. I was not there myself but I remember the scandal and all the mentions in TV and Radio. You can follow this link and google translate...
There is also a blurred photo from the evening performance where Karl Erik Welin also managed to saw himself in the leg... How is that for instant Karma ;-)

There was also a reconstruction of that concert in Fylkingen Stockholm, by Johannes Bergmark who gave his "Sista pianoafton" (Last Piano Evening) on the 14th of december 2001.

Janas said...

Nice photo, thank you for this valuable addition. This swedish performer must have produced a delicious noises using a chainsaw.

bolingo69 said...

Now that is the point and I have a very good friend, , musician and composer, Dror Feiler, who has used chainsaws, electric cutters and grinders and various other tools in concerts and compositions. And that is fine because then you are using the tool as an instrument what I have problem with is for instance rock musicians using their guitar as an ax or a sledgehammer. I could very well enjoy a piece of percussion with sledgehammer but not if it is used to demolishing instruments or life. I think it is good that something is kept sacred! More details on these pieces of music if there is any interest...

Janas said...

About Dror Feiler, I have only heard "Celestial Fire" released by the swedish label Anckarström, really an interesting album.

I do not know well the swedish experimental scene, but I like this group called "The Sons of God" (Leif Elggren & Kent Tankred)

Guds söner - Sons of God @ Issue Project Room (Brooklyn, NYC) November 7 2009

The Sons of God live at LUFF 2010