Benjamin Patterson Paper Piece 1960

  • Not on view

Clothespins, plastic butterflies, blowtorches, buttons, a red feather duster, a Japanese fan, a map of the world—these unexpected objects are invoked in Patterson’s whimsical scores for Overture and Variations for Double-Bass. Patterson, a composer and classically trained bassist, was denied employment with orchestras because of his race. In the 1960s he began traveling the world with the international Fluxus collective, becoming one of its key participants and its only African American member. Rejecting the conventions of Western musical notation and performance, Patterson created a form of communal creation in which participants interpreted and “composed” in the moment, rather than following a predetermined set of notes or instructions. The result was startlingly open-ended. Indeed, the score for *Variations for Double-Bass* denies the very existence of a score: “Pitches, dynamics, durations and number of sounds to be produced in any one variation in this composition are not notated. In the first performance by the composer a graphic score derived from ink blots was used as a guide; however, there are many other satisfactory solutions.” By prompting performers to elicit unconventional sounds from unconventional sources—such as whistling tea kettles and bursting balloons—Patterson created multisensory experiences that redefined both music and art.

Gallery label from Artist’s Choice: Grace Wales Bonner—Spirit Movers, November 18, 2023 – April 07, 2024
Ink on two sheets of paper with mailed envelope
sheet (.a, folded): 8 3/4 x 6 7/8" (22.2 x 17.5 cm); sheet (.b (irreg.)): 8 3/4 x 6 7/8" (22.2 x 17.5 cm); sheet (.c): 4 1/2 x 8" (11.4 x 20.3 cm)
The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift
Object number
© 2024 Ben Patterson
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