Punchcard rewind: a contemporary reconstruction of Udo Kasemets’ Tt

On reviving a cybernetic audience-controlled, audio-visual performance piece. A tribute to Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, and John Cage

Tt by Udo Kasemets (1919-2014)

A cybernetic audience-controlled, audio-visual performance piece. A tribute to Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, and John Cage

Performed by David Schotzko, Richard Windeyer , and Adam Tindale on March 27, 2015 at the Robert Gill Theatre (Centre for Drama Theatre & Performance Studies) as part of the Opening Up the Space Festival (T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko, David Schotzko and Dennis Patrick, producers). Realized in Max/MSP/Jitter with an iOS data entry template for TouchOSC (https://github.com/drart/Kasemets)

Udo was a pivotal figure in the evolution of the electronic arts and contemporary music communities in Toronto. He was a composer of chamber works, orchestral and electroacoustic works. He was a conductor, a concert presenter, and a teacher to young artists — most notably at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). For a time, he was also the music critic for the Toronto Daily Star. Like so many people in the 1960’s, his work became heavily influenced by the ideas of John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, and Marshall McLuhan. He maintained correspondences with all three of them and continued to compose music — often employing — like Cage — the I Ching, and exploring the application of fractals in algorithmic composition. With Udo’s passing just last year, it seemed fitting to remount his own ‘tribute’ piece.

According to Kasemets’ instructions, “aural and visual presentations and illuminations (by means of speech, recordings, slide projections, films, sculptural constructions, etc.) of words ideas and images of B. Fuller, M. McLuhan and J. Cage,”1 are manipulated according to a live audience poll which is then processed by a computer. The first and only performances of Tt occurred at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute on the weekend of March 9 and 10 in 1968 — part of a weekend extravaganza of ‘environmental compositions’ entitled SightSoundSystem that capped off the Kasemets-curated ‘Festival of Art and Technology’2. As an aside, I should also point out that this was the same festival at which John Cage and Marcel Duchamp rather famously performed their ‘chess game’ piece Reunion. Despite computational challenges and harsh reviews by the Toronto Daily Star’s William Littler and The Globe and Mail’s John Kraglund, Tt may be regarded as a curiously ambitious local landmark in the pre-history of ‘crowd-sourced’ and participatory performance situations now made possible through 21st C computational advancement.

In a forthcoming lecture-demonstration at the 2015 Toronto International Electroacoustic Symposium in Toronto, Adam and I will delve into the data capture (punchcards) and processing methods (manual data entry), performance material curation and historical contexts researched and developed for this digital reconstruction of Tt.

Special thanks to Kasemets scholar, Dr. Jeremy Strachan.


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