Musical Pointers

Christopher Fox’s Catalogue irraisoné , for solo voice or vocal ensemble, teeters on the edge of music. It consists of the simplest forms almost entirely drained of content and context. Of the 12 short pieces, some are unadorned speech, some simple, nursery rhyme-like melodies, some have sparse percussion accompaniments. There are no harmonies, no expansive tunes, no rhythmic complexities, very little development.

The description ‘catalogue’ is appropriate: each piece seems little more than a precisely annotated index card for something of more weight, housed somewhere else. Their collection hints at an inscrutable culture, with its own rituals and strange art. This is reflected in the restricted, but crucial, concessions to variation, stark switches of parameters like factory robots executing their pre-programmed movements. The listener, as archaeologist, is invited to reconstruct something of this alien world. And only now something sinisterly familiar is traced, first through the texts, sourced from a multilingual array of guidebooks and introductions, then through the titles: ‘Patrol’, ‘Scanner’, ‘Outsider’, Security Code’. This world hides itself behind a peculiar bureaucracy, but its threat still permeates even the most objective utterances.

EXAUDI’s straight-up performances are the only way this music could work. A different performance would try to invest them with weight and significance of their own, something ridiculous, rather than leaving them as pointers to unknown objects. EXAUDI bring the disinterested commitment of the archivist or bibliographer, leaving the mystery and meaning of this music to us to uncover.

—Tim Rutherford-Johnson