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POLYPHONIC SONGS 1-2-3 | Igor Dobričić

22 February 2019


On the last days of November 2018 a get together of both emerging and established generations of the dance and performance scene in Amsterdam took place in Veem House for Performance, co-organised with Keren Levi | Neverlike, Nicole Beutler Projects and BAU. The program – that included an exchange of practices and work in progress, performances and thoughts featured many female performance artists that all worked in different ways with voice, sound, song – carried the title POLYPHONIC SONGS. Dramaturge Igor Dobričić was asked to follow the 3 days event and share his observations on the last evening with the present audience. The text in which he reflected on the notion of Polyphonic Songs for a local scene can be read here. 

1. Polyphony

So here he is:

The master synthesizer, a man of a certain age and experience, bringing together the voices that spoke before him, making sense in the midst of a clamor and flashing out the wise word. Is this really where polyphony resides; in the hands of a conductor who levels up the many distinct voices into one god-fearing Sunday song? Or do we need to conclude that ‘song’ is masculine but that ‘songs’ are feminine? Maybe that’s why, even unintentionally,  the title of this program Polyphonic Songs uses the plural form. Polyphonic songs are many voices that are coexisting and care about each other unconsciously, at distance, without taking possession of one another. Plenum. It is a beautiful word, plenum; a meeting of a deliberative assembly in which everybody is present autonomously, yet in solidarity. 

So again, it should not be him (me) – the elderly white man – who should be offering this interpretation to the others. Plenum is not in front of – but with you. With all of you. Or, if you allow me to join, we could be together in plenum right now. Then my voice is just one among many. Maybe that’s what polyphony is all about: The joyful collapse of the binary – of you and me, them and us, male and female – that makes it possible to finally listen to each other. A polyphony of all ages and genders and ways of being that puts an end to all of this binary rubbish, once and for all. They are singing utopia; a prophecy for a different kind of ecosystem.

In the BAU meeting two days ago young artists from the local scene were sharing with each other what they are currently busy with and passionate about in short pitches. One of them, Leela May Stockholm said at one point something that stuck in my mind (I am paraphrasing): ‘Just think about it, right now there is somewhere a waterfall – falling.’ Just think about it. And although I don’t really know what to exactly think about it I do hear a particular waterfall in Iceland – falling right now. That is to say; there is no polyphony without taking into account the voices of those who are not here. Of those – humans and non-humans – whom we need to imagine outside of this room, this city, and this continent. Imagining here means tuning into a different kind of sound, listening – not as to music – but to the noise of the multitude that exists beyond ‘our’ community. Hear: screams and laughter and whispers, unintended harmonies between complete strangers, everyday stories, all in the same time. Listen to the gentle roar of a fluid assemblage, loudly celebrating the proliferation of distinction and incongruence. Maybe that’s another name for Polyphonic Songs: WATER FALLING SOMEWHERE ELSE – NOW. 

2. Assemblage

Nothing fits, yet everything is still taking place in relation to one another. Subjects that become objects to other subjects in temporary ecologies of chance encounters. Artful accidents that no-body can own but every-body can celebrate. Wherever we are, we partake in the experience of the exuberance of this moment, we gather in the midst of the trouble, while elsewhere the waterfall is still falling. The inexhaustible luxury of the present moment does not make a distinction between presence and absence. What is not here still is. So let the voiceless walk among us who sing. I often say to myself: better learn how to befriend ghosts since one day you become a ghost yourself. Let’s keep assembling what is disassembled because only in the assemblage everything, both present and absent, will be accounted for. Assemblage is Plenum. Plenum is polyphony. Polyphony is always now but not necessarily here. In a moment of listening far away can become our home when we hear guests finally knocking on our door, it is them who will host us. Not here but there, where we are – not. I know; it is confusing. Just remember: confusion is good as long as one is not afraid. Fearless confusion sings on it is own and in many voices, beautifully.

3. Voice

In his Moralia the 1st century Greek scholar Plutarch observes: A man plucked a nightingale and, finding but little to eat, said: “You are just a voice and nothing more”. Just a voice and nothing more: a ghost inside the shell; a guest knocking on our door, welcoming us into our own house. Alien spirits taking possession of our faculties, making us speak in languages that we do not know. Maybe that’s why so many artists are at the moment obsessively opening their attention to voices. It is kind of obvious that we are badly in a need of prophecy. Yet, we certainly do not need another prophet. So lets remind ourselves once again that we are just voices and nothing more. Polyphony is our destiny.

Igor Dobričić

The ghost’s of Anna Tsing’s ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World’, of Gilles Deleuze’s ‘Thousand Plateaus ’ and of Louis Althusser’s ‘Philosophy of the Encounter’, are absentmindedly hovering over this text as it’s unintentional guardian spirits.