Sites of Reason: A Selection of Recent Acquisitions

Charles Gaines. Manifestos 2. 2013

Four-channel video (color, sound; 64 min.) and four graphite drawings on paper
Acquired through the generosity of Jill and Peter Kraus, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, and the Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art.

Charles Gaines: Hello. I'm Charles Gaines.

In order to produce this work, I researched political manifestos of all sorts and decided on four. With each manifesto, I edited them down to around 300 words and then applied a system that translated the text of the manifesto into musical notation. Every time that an A or a G came up, I would write the A notes or the G note. The letters of the words in the manifestos that are not used in musical notation, those letters were written out as silent beats or rests. I gave the music to a composer, a friend. And we collaborated, where he translated my music for a nine-piece ensemble.

The drawings that you see on the wall are enlargements of the piano music that I wrote that was a transcription of the text into music. These are hand-drawn, something that I always point out because if you don't look very closely you think that they're printed.

My work is about combining things, or making relationships between things that are completely unrelated. In this case, the combination, of course, is the political manifestos and the music that is produced by them. Often, people feel that the music sounds melancholy or elegiac. But in fact, the relationship of the music and the text is completely arbitrary because of the random system that I described.

We're used to believing that the power that we feel in reading or experiencing these political issues is implicit in the issues themselves, and when I apply my systems and produce the affect from another source, what one realizes is that there are other properties that produce the emotional aspect of the content that really have little to do with the content itself.  

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