Sunday, July 15, 2007


The most difficult — and thus most compelling — of the poetic dance-scores in Mac Low's Pronouns are those in which the grammatical subject is "nobody."

27th Dance — Walking — 22 March 1964
Nobody does any waiting,
& nobody has an example.

Does nobody give gold cushions or seem to do so,
& does nobody kick?


& nobody's seeming to send things or's putting wires on things —
nobody's keeping to the news.

At least nobody ends up handing or seeming to hand snakes to people.

There's a level of punning at play here — "no body" engages in the physical acts described — but more importantly an interpretive difficulty. From the perspective of the dancer, the question of how to follow these instructions takes the form of an impossibility. On the one hand, "nobody kick[s]" could be represented via a dancer not kicking, doing anything other than kicking. And, from this angle, the instruction seems to open itself to a nearly infinite range of possibilities, proscribing only one action.

But how to distinguish, in performance and for an audience that may not have Mac Low's text at hand, an instruction like "nobody's seeming to send things" from an instruction that simply dictates the activity that is taking place? It is not enough to simply perform an activity other that "seeming to send things," as it does not embody the instruction, and thus does not interpret the instruction to the letter.

Of course, its possible to approach such an instruction as providing precisely such a degree, nearly without limit, of interpretive freedom, but the fact that these proscriptive instructions co-exist with prescriptive ones (stated in the positive rather than the negative) suggests that a clear distinction should be drawn between the two modes, in order to fully and truly perform interpretation...