Mark van Tongeren, December 17, 2011

I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.
John Cage

This is one of many famous aphorisms of John Cage the composer, whom many of you know, I guess. I liked what Ping said in his introduction about listening, a theme that I am deeply involved with personally. My presentation here comes just days before the submission of my PhD at Leiden University, that is, after having a great deal of things to say, instead of nothing. A tiny part of many thoughts and ideas that I soaked up and produced now covers some 270 pages of text, which will bear the title Thresholds of Audibility. It as an artistic research at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts of Leiden University and a live performance will form an integral part of the PhD, together with the text. And despite all those words I feel a great deal of kinship with Cage’s approach to silence and listening. Half an hour before Red Room I tried to reduce those many pages to some key phrases, which I will now read to you. (I interspersed every phrase with different forms of vocal improvisations rendered here as […].)

I really like to think of a human being as something that exists on a threshold.
My words, thinking, exist on a threshold with your words, thinking, and everyone else’s.
It is never just ‘me’ talking, thinking … something talks and sings with me (and with you too).
Every word is an empty gesture, a grasping of reality, a way out of nothingness.
Behind our words is fantastic realm where ‘everything’ is possible and yet ‘nothing’ exists.
Bold, empty, glorious numbers.
This is the polyphony of the body.

I would like to conclude with a poem that ‘visited me’ when I was flying above the South-China Sea, in november 2010. I returned from East-Jeruzalem where I had performed with an amazing, young Sufi-reciter, a  muezzin, Firaz Gazzaz. It was a very impressive project and journey to a place that is laden with dualities. I have dedicated the poem to my great teacher, the German artist Michael Vetter, whom Ping also heard here in Taipei and whom I hope can return to Taiwan to share his creative genius.

Flying through the sky,
I am everwyhere.
Yet no man can fly.

Humanity gives me wings.
Am I a whole.
Am I a part.

Humanity surrounds this being
that freely roams the sky.

It is the nothing
the almighty, beautiful silence
and silence resounding
that seeks me.

vliegend door de lucht
ben ik overal
geen mens kan vliegen
de mensheid geeft mij vleugels
ben ik een geheel
ben ik een deel
de mensheid omringt dit wezen
dat haar vrijelijk doorkruist
het   is   het   niets
de machtige, mooie stilte
en de stilte verklankt
die mij zoekt

boven de Zuid-Chinese Zee
8 november 2010-11-08

fliegend durch die Luft
bin ich überall
kein Mensch kann fliegen
die Menschheit gibt mir Flügeln
bin ich ein Ganzes
bin ich ein Teil
die Menschheit umringt dieses Wesen
das ihr freilich durchkreutzt
es ist das nichts
die mächtige, schöne Stille
und die Stille verklangt
die mir sucht

1 reply
  1. Ping Chu
    Ping Chu says:

    Dear Mark:

    I would again take this opportunity to thank you for bringing Red Room to a different level with your out of this world sharing. I could imagine people’s eyes brightened and then astonished gasp among the Red Roomers as you continue. It was unexpected and a new experience for many Red Roomers. People came to me and wanted me to invite you to come again. I told them they should contact you directly. I hope you made some friends that night too.

    Yes, let’s do something together with Red Room and invite Michael Vetter and his lovely lady companion back to Taiwan. I only enrolled one class with master Vetter, however, his pure genius had left an indelible mark on me. I finally managed to invite his lady companion ( I forgot her name ) to Canmeng Aveda Third Place for a spa service. She graciously performed an ” overtone ” for my spa team. They had no idea of what overtone was. They just felt this was the voice with healing power from the Heaven.

    Mark, please mark your calendar for every Red Room and make Red Room your monthly creative energy replenishment.

    Thank you for making so many people’s day that night.


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