Music Program

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Co-sponsored/co-presented by:
The University at Buffalo; this event was supported by a grant from the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

James Currie and the Open Music Ensemble

Examples of Excess

Presented at:

James Currie, a well-known musicologist currently teaching at the University at Buffalo, will collaborate with the Open Music Ensemble to create a performance piece around a lecture on music, philosophy, and critical theory.


"Examples of Excess is a three-part performance-art work that explores the excesses (emotional, political and sexual) that haunt the fringes of seemingly normal, day-to-day professional activity. Thus, each of the three different sections deals with a specific ritual typically present when an academic (in this instance a music historian) gives an invited lecture at an institution: part 1, the formal introduction (Scena ed aria); part 2, the lecture itself (Scherzo serioso); and part 3, the question and answer session (Finale in the Style of Comic Opera). As one can see, each part refers to stylistic elements of Western art music, parts 1 and 3 to opera, part 2 more to the symphonic tradition. In part, this is simply since the main protagonist of these pieces is a music historian. But the intention here is also to communicate how the lecturer's very subject matter starts to infect the proceedings in general, with the result that the normally sacrosanct distinctions between the subject (the lecturer himself) and his object (the music he seeks to discuss) become blurred, resulting in a series of both amusing and also deeply disturbing crises, where the pro forma becomes consumed by its own excess, by that which its own attempted normality constantly seeks to exclude."

"Although the pieces were not composed with any particular political agenda in mind, one might nevertheless note the presence of broader themes here: the frightening fragility of the professional roles to which we strive to conform ourselves; the excessive emotions (at one end, of fury and euphoria, and at the other, suicidal ennui and melancholy) that constantly explode into a world which forces us into such forms of professional incarceration; and hanging around at the margins, the brokenness of the world per se. But we must be careful of not going too far with this description, since part of this work's raison d'étre is simply that of the pleasures to be gained from the excesses of performance itself as can be seen by the way in which the work voraciously consumes, like a kid in a candy store, all and any available performance gestures and clichés. And so is there not maybe then a moral to the story after all: that although the presence of excess may well signify how miserably compromised our lives may be (take the issue of road rage!), excess may also be the route out of the structures that enforce such privations upon us? Perhaps. But the piece fails to be responsible enough to answer the question, wrapped up as it becomes at its conclusion in enjoying its own excesses for the mere sake of enjoying them. It is the holiday season after all!"

 - James Currie (Dec. 2006)

Some publications related to this event:
November and December, 2006 - 2006