How To Be An Artist

Well that was interesting. Last night I became one of North Finchley’s “Seventeen” at the soon-to-open Arts Depot. This is part of Bill Drummond’s latest project entitled “How To Be An Artist” and involved seventeen men (well, it was actually fourteen I think) recording an improvised vocal performance accompanied by the sound of Bill’s Land Rover engine and a C minor chord.

Bill Drummond doesn’t come across as the scary maverick I was expecting – more like a aging painter/decorator on holiday. The people who turned up were a mixed bunch, and most had never met each other before. I wondered how many knew who he was.

Bill explains the deal.

After an initial talk about the proposed work, and an introduction to the ‘score‘ (PDF download) we had a brief rehearsal and level check then went for it. The lights went down and we embarked on fourteen minutes of anything-goes “singing.”

About half way through I was reminded of the essay in The Doors of Perception in which Huxley says that chanting and singing are among the various techniques for humans to glimpse the “mind at large” and thereby attain religious or shamanic states of mind. I was certainly beginning to feel light-headed, and the free beer, together the odd mix of lads largin’ it with serious-minded types like me made me think things might start to get a bit psychedelic.

But I managed to stay on track and despite the potential for anarchy, there was some surprising continuity in what we were doing. When I was in bands I remember experiencing the same things: co-ordinated tempo-changes with no apparent leader; loud and soft passages arising without any prompting. Was this the “mind at large”? I don’t know if Bill had thought of that or not.

After declaring the recording a success, we were invited to perform the work live one night at the forthcoming exhibition of How To Be An Artist on the 11th November.

So perhaps I should become an artist and ditch this information architecture crap?