distribution study (2011)

“It is this model of disorganised disruption and of dissent entrepreneurship that is at the heart of … the movement against the proposed increases in tuition fees as we are seeing today with the student protests … This is a paradigm informed by decentralised and self-organising networks that are inherently more flexible, dynamic and are more capable of reacting to fast changing events than those of centralised, hierarchical organisations with bureaucracies that by their very nature hinder quick and effective decision making.”(Aaron Peters).

distribution study is a series of distributed sound compositions by James Saunders. Taking the model of a decentralised and self-organising network, as utilised by large dissipated groups of people when attempting to mobilise en masse for the purpose of demonstrating, distribution study operates as a composition made for personal, distributed performance. Realisations of the piece performed at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich during 2011 catalyse an emergent score-distribution network. Copies of the scores are made available to visitors, who facilitate their dissemination through self-determining channels. These exchanges are mapped via this website, showing the way in which inter-personal communication networks can shape the dissemination of information. Each month a new score will be distributed in the museum by the singers from Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. They will give performances of each piece, and pass the scores to visitors, who may then take the scores with them to perform and pass on to others as determined by the particular instructions.

The piece also examines the way in which people give and receive objects, communicate and make contact with each other away from social networking sites. It is about direct contact between people as a means of distributing information, which in this case is a sound structure performed in an unobtrusive and quiet manner. It has its roots in leafleting as a method of disseminating information. For me this direct contact is important in the age where everyone is our friend online, and where it is easy to convey one’s point of view in a blog which nobody reads.

distribution study was part of Olaf Nicolai’s Escalier du Chant project at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. Since 1997, Olaf Nicolai has developed a wide variety of interdisciplinary projects through his examination of body, time and space. Escalier du Chant was a sound installation made especially for the sweeping staircase in the Pinakothek der Moderne. At its centre is the human voice-with both its sensual power of expression and its political dimension.Nicolai invited twelve composers to write songs about topical political events throughout the current year-events that at the present time are just as unforeseeable as the compositions themselves. Premieres of these songs were performed a capella on the staircase in the Pinakothek der Moderne on twelve Sundays. There were no specific times for the performances as the songs will be repeated at varying intervals several times throughout the day.

They were sung by the Neue Vocalsolisten, Stuttgart. The other composers are Tony Conrad, Georg Friedrich Haas, Georg Katzer, Liza Lim, Samir Odeh-Tamimi, Enno Poppe, Rolf Riehm, Rebecca Saunders, Elliott Sharp, Mika Vainio, and Jennifer Walshe. The project transforms the staircase in the Pinakothek der Moderne into a stage on which visitors find that they are the actors. Nicolai explains “My work has to do with the meaning of sound – as does the title of the work: when saying the French title ‘Escalier du chant’ out loud, there is an allusion to Marcel Duchamp. His work ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ painted 100 years ago, radically extended the traditional concept of the static picture into the visual experience of motion. Duchamp’s painting renders time visible. My work also combines a staircase with a temporal experience.”