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Le CAC Brétigny

Past: February 14, 2013 → February 19, 2014

Like a cloud hanging in the sky?

“What is a collective? It is a network of affect relationships, Cornelius Cardew seems to tell us in the improvisational story The Tiger’s Mind”. The CAC Brétigny is pursuing its own collective experiment guided by the scores of the English composer, after having dedicated a retrospective to the “visionary” musician in 2009, which has since been presented across Europe. Matthew Saladin, in a text that one would like to read with its soundtrack, explains what is at stake in this social composition. A communion that Beatrice Gibson recently brought to the big screen, and one from which he himself takes inspiration in his revolt against a new “struggle of the affective classes”.

Like a Cloud Hanging in the Sky? is a collective improvisation by the group AMM (which at the time included Cornelius Cardew, Lou Gare, Christopher Hobbs, Eddie Prévost and Keith Rowe). It was recorded in June 1968, one year after the publication of Sextet: The Tiger’s Mind, a prose composition by Cardew dedicated to AMM. The Tiger’s Mind narrates the activities of a hypothetical collective in two acts: day and night. If, in its title, Like a Cloud Hanging in the Sky? appears to question the very meaning of free improvisation as a collective endeavor, it is not however a performance of Cardew’s score. On the contrary, The Tiger’s Mind can be understood, from a compositional point of view, as a reflection on collective engagement as it was then being developed by AMM in each of its improvisations, and thus as a heuristic analysis of the group’s creative process, which the recording of Like a Cloud Hanging in the Sky? offers as an excellent example.

The Tiger’s Mind comprises six characters: Amy, the tiger, the tree, the wind, the circle and the mind. In the description of the characters, which forms the basis of the score, emphasis is explicitly given, not to the sounds to be produced, but to the play of relationships at work in the characters’ individual and collective activities. Each character is established in relation to the others: together they form the framework for staging a number of possible relationships between the players. Characters are attributed a series of characteristics, which henceforth represent their singularity and relations of affect. Their very consistency is made visible only insofar as it is mediated by the other bodies with which they interact; the wind, for example, is visible and audible only through the objects in its path. Characters are made legible in the way their actions — or more precisely in Spinozian terms, their conatus, i.e., the effort with which “each thing, in so far as it is in itself, endeavours to persist in its own being” 1 — affect each other’s actions, which, in return, affect themselves. These relations of affect can be as mutually enriching as they can be detrimental; together they give rise to an intermingling whose complexity depends on the number of players involved and their possible associations, yet whose form also depends on the given situation — “a melodic line of continuous variation constituted by the affect.” 2

1 Spinoza, ‘Ethics,’ in Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002), part III, proposition 6, 283.

2 Gilles Deleuze, Lecture on Spinoza at Vincennes University (24/01/1978)