Fissures, Futures Ensemble (for Buckminster Fuller)


Buckminster Fuller
architect, author, designer, futurist, inventor, and visionary.

Rova Saxophone Quartet initiates most of its larger special projects as part Rovaté, its annual series set in San Francisco. Rovaté 2009 brought together Lillevan Pobjoy, the acclaimed, Berlin-based multimedia-artist, with the newest OrkestRova combination: a 10?piece ensemble of local and international greats from the field of improvised music: sax quartet plus string quartet plus electronics and percussion. This no-sounds-barred evening of improvisatory collaboration consisted of a suite of pieces collectively known as Fissures, Futures: original compositions dedicated to the visionary genius that was Buckminster Fuller. Each composition, commissioned by Rova:Arts and created by 5 different members of the new Orkestrova, inspired and interacted with the live digital animation from Lillevan in different ways, but in all cases the music influenced the real-time films? creation and the film images inspired the musicians, who were situated in such a way that they could react to the animation as it was created in real time. Both shows were recorded live for future DVD release. Rough edits of these pieces are available on DVD for prospective promoters. Fissures Futures will always include Rova and Lillevan, and as many of the original performers as is reasonably possible, but the exact make-up of OtkestRova is flexible and open to scheduling and budget considerations.


Why Buckminster Fuller?
by Larry Ochs
This show was conceived in 2005, and we were hoping to find the funding for it for a 2007 or 2008 show. While for me personally life has been good, in those years our government was committing all sorts of crimes against humanity in all of our names. I wanted to create some art that flew in the face of those acts ? but not an overtly political perfroamnce, because that?s not what we do. Instead simply: inspired work by people brought together from different countries - if only to point out that it was possible for people to meet for the very first time and in a week of collaboration, create something positive for the spirit, and something that was more than any one of the collaborators could create on his/her own; a ?synergistic? event where the whole was not predicted by the individuals involved, where everything added up to more than the sum of its parts...

...a piece that we could dedicate to Buckminster Fuller, who over 40 years ago was stating categorically that mankind had to find a way to work together to create a one world-system that benefitted everyone. He called this ?Spaceship Earth.? **

[** = I have assigned five of the musicians and the visual artist Lillevan to create six constructs, within which the ensemble will improvise spontaneous music and spontaneous films; Rova calls this ?structured improvisation,? as opposed to ?free improvisation? where anything goes (or ?through-composed work? where the outcome is known in advance of the performance). I?m thinking that Fuller would understand that we are taking the skills of the individuals and creating a synergistic whole; six Universes where the whole is not predicted by the individual parts.]

He also said: ?My own picture of humanity today finds us just about to step out from amongst the pieces of our ?just broken eggshell.? Our innocent trial-and-error sustaining nutriment is exhausted. We are faced with an entirely new relationship to Universe. We are going to have to spread our wings of intellect and fly, or perish; that is, we must dare immediately to fly by the generalized principles governing Universe and not by the ground rules of yesterday?s superstitiously and erroneously conditioned reflexes. And as we attempt competent thinking we immediately begin to employ our innate drive for comprehensive understanding.? ***

(*** = both the film maker and the musicians were at one time or another shackled by more conventional forms. But here we take our most advanced thinking and work collectively during the rehearsals to form something exciting and new, something that is predictive of content but not pre-determining content; a living breathing structure - a tensegrity structure - within which the protons and neutrpns, the smallest particles of the art, can form and reform with every performance. This is the key to improvisation. The invited artists are all trained in adaptability in performance, and we take inspiration from Fuller?s acknowledgement of the importance of being excited by change rather than fearful of it.)

Fissures, Futures acknowledges someone whose time came decades ago, but who has been forgotten in the decades since, and to point people back towards exploring his ideas, which should now resonate into our future, as the world grapples ? finally ? with problems (and opportunities!) that have been waiting for resolution since Fuller spoke about them in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Throughout his life, Fuller was concerned with the question "Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how??

Here are some of his thoughts in his own words: "? society tends to think statically and is always being surprised, often uncomfortably, sometimes fatally by the omni-inexorable motion of Universe. Lacking dynamic apprehension, it is difficult for humanity to get out of its static fixations and to see great trends evolving."

"Most importantly we have learned that from here on it is success for all or none, for it is experimentally proven by physics that ?unity is plural and at minimum two? ? the complementary but not mirror-imaged proton and neutron. you and I are inherently different and complimentary. Together we average as zero ? that is, as eternity"?. ****

(**** = Just to restate it: Improvised music is at its strongest when all the musicians involved are consciously making everyone else sound better, rather than taking ?star turns,? solos over the rhythm section, or playing without listening. Ultimately the greatest statements are made by the best listeners, not the most limber players. The whole will then be greater than its parts. Rova lives this experience constantly as a quartet, but also in our many collaborative works over the past 30 years, including, for example, the 12 piece band playing at festivals since 2005, performing our arrangement of John Coltrane?s ?Ascension; we call it ?Electric Ascension.? But that?s only our most recent high point. We hope that this event will join EA and others as a model for raising the bandstand and the energy and consciousness of the audience?)

"There is no shape of the Universe. There is only omnidirectional, nonconceptual "out" and the specifically directioned, conceptual "in." ?The atmosphere's molecules over any place on Earth's surface are forever shifting position. The air over the Himalayas is enveloping California a week later. The stars now overhead are underfoot twelve hours later. The stars themselves are swiftly moving in respect to one another. Many of them have not been where you see them for millions of years; many burnt out long ago. The Sun's light takes eight minutes to reach us. We have relationships __ but not space? ?Synergy? means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately?. It is dealing with the whole that makes it possible to discover the parts".

"The greatest of all the faculties is the ability of the imagination to formulate conceptually. Conceptuality is subjective; realization is objective. Conceptuality is metaphysical and weightless; reality is physical. The artist was right all the time. Nature is conceptual".


The other connection with Fuller here is that our music is always about active participation of the listener. And most of the collaborations we produce are that way too. Like Fuller, we?re not trying to improve or comment on the current forms used in music but rather suggesting other possibilities altogether. We don?t work with conventional forms most of the time because we?re really not that interested in entertaining. Well, that?s a negative explanation. Fuller would have been more positive?. We?re interested in conceptualizing along with the listeners, in exploring and creating a Universe of Sound (or sound and film in this case) within which the listener/viewer can revel, can be energized, and maybe even inspired to come up answers to their own problems. Fuller was certainly about this in his own way. We don?t always succeed, but it?s fun to try?. And more people need to be trying.