Art does not seek to describe but to enact. —Charles Olson

Festival III

June 28–July 7, 2006

+ Carolyn Chen + Jason Federmeyer + John Mark Harris + Cole Heinowitz + Sarah Miles +
+ Tom Ontiveros + Sabina Piersol + J.H. Prynne + Marcia Scott + Yaron Sokolov + Erik Ulman +

The Third Poto Festival took place between June 28 and July 7, 2006. In the past we’ve posted a schedule of events; that is less useful this time around, as there were fewer official events and more free interactions among the participants. Instead, I’ll offer this very abbreviated diary: it leaves unsaid what is most important, the actual content of the exchanges, and their lasting, developing effects; but that’s not something I can quickly summarize.

One of the happiest features of this festival was the presence of the poet J.H. Prynne, who joined us from England a few days before Poto, and who stayed on in Los Altos for a few days after. On Tuesday the 27th, Marcia, Jeremy, and I drove to the Kissler Ranch in Grass Valley to begin setting up; this continued on the 28th, supplemented by some time spent with the film Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet made of Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron: we discussed the mechanics of serial technique, as well as the opera’s larger significance and Straub and Huillet’s interpretation. On the 29th other participants began to arrive. First were the poet Cole Heinowitz, from Bard College, and the pianist John Mark Harris, from San Diego; then the composers Jason Federmeyer and Yaron Sokolov, from Stanford University; and also lighting designer and photographer Tom Ontiveros, from UCSD, and masseuse Sarah Miles, the two of whom invaluably took upon themselves the bulk of the cooking duty. Much of the day was spent in conversation: about poetic practice in the afternoon, focussing on Cole’s completion of her sequence The Rubicon; and about global politics in the evening.

On Friday the 30th, more formal presentations began. In the morning I played recordings of my Thoughts on the Esterházy Court Uniform and my Third String Quartet; the former is based on a poem by Jeremy, which I read and which helped to orientate discussion. In the afternoon, Cole read The Rubicon, which again led to lively conversation; in the evening, John Mark gave a beautiful recital:

William Byrd: The Eighte Pavian (pub. 1591)
Carl Ruggles: Evocations (1943, rev. 1956)
Henry Cowell: The Harp of Life
Claude Debussy: from Preludes, Book II (1912)
La Puerta del Vino
La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
Morton Feldman: Last Pieces (1959)

On Saturday the 1st we had the densest collection of people and events: poet Sabina Piersol arrived from San Francisco, as did composer Carolyn Chen from Stanford, travelling in with Kristi Elkins, who had cooked and supported us in the previous two festivals but could this time around spare only one night. Several friends of Sabina’s came as well, to camp and observe. In the morning Jason presented a recording of his piece Irredenta and discussed his current (and elaborate) compositional processes and concerns. In the afternoon, John Mark and I gave a miniature recital, consisting of the violin and piano version of Franz Liszt’s La Lugubre Gondola and John Cage’s final piece, Two6. Then Yaron explained his new work in process, Kedma; discussion centered on his microtonal scales and the implications of his allusions to Baroque and Middle Eastern practices and traditions.

Marcia’s parents Mark and Cathy Scott prepared a marvelous barbecue dinner for everyone. In the evening, Marcia showed her recent work in video and film, Suspicious and A cup of tea for Carolyn. The latter was made in collaboration with Carolyn, who presented her own version, Still. Afterwards, Tom demonstrated possibilities of light projection outdoors. The night was capped off by a group reading of The Gangsterlode, a new and obscene play by Raul (The Pole) Colbert.

On Sunday the 2nd the first event was designed by Sarah. Outdoors in the grass she led us first through some stretching exercises, and then into a blindfolded exploration of the space, opening new awareness of senses, environment, and personal contact. Jeremy accompanied us on the recorder. In the afternoon Jeremy gave a rare and memorable reading, first of his fierce poem Refuse Collection, and then of his sequence Blue Slides at Rest. In the evening Carolyn showed us more recent video work; and finally we watched Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop.

Sunday night and Monday morning some of our core constituency left; and the density of collective events decreased, while smaller engagements continued. The main event on Monday was my presentation of the work of La Monte Young, concentrating on an analysis of the Trio for Strings. Later there was more time spent at the creek; and after dinner a viewing of Fritz Lang’s The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.

Tuesday was July 4th; in the late morning I presented an overview of the music of Dieter Schnebel, focussing on für Stimmen (missa est) and the Schubert-Phantasie. To celebrate Independence Day, Sabina, Jeremy, and I read some great American poets–various shorter works by John Wieners, Michael McClure’s For Artaud, and then Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger, Book One. Much of the evening was spent outdoors, again exploring the magnificent landscape.

Wednesday the private discussions continued, with more time at the river as well; and we began to put things back in order for tomorrow’s departure. In the evening we watched Todd Haynes’ Safe, which provoked from Jeremy a very strong critique. And on Thursday morning, we finished cleaning and rearranging the furniture, and the last of us headed back to the Bay Area.

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