On the Happy Loss of the Key

Single page scores: with this title, William Engelen presents an impressively rich variety of drawn sheets as scores in the tradition of Satie and Cage. Hung next to one another, they open in an exemplary way the space of the score as notation, blueprint, and notational icon to a gestural, automatic condensation. Yet although each individual sheet in its ornamental, abstract, concrete, tectonic, or physical linear power would suffice, the series title signals that an additional act, beyond that of mere beholding, is impending: a transposition to sound, as indicated by scattered instructions on the instruments to be used or the concretization of duration. Engelen does not show any complete sound images, but images on the border of a possible musical experience that can be essentially ambiguous, degressive, loop-like, variable, aleatoric, depending on the fantasia and idea of the musical beholder. Only the limitation to the “single page” beyond stretching keeps the drifting into the space-time of infinity in some sort of check, for each line by itself is sound. We could instrumentalize these lines and imagine sounds. We could thus temporally short-circuit the line sounds with the breaks, graphemes, folds, crosshatchings, points that are seen, and we would have the most wondrous mental music: light, trembling, sublime, pulsing, rhythmic, atmospheric, melancholy, or cheerful. The Single page scores intend to transform the time of visibility to musical time in improvisation, whereby in principle they allow for each beholder to be an excellent composer and musician, at least in their heads. This deeply emancipatory act frees the sound from the specialist approach of the Darmstadt School without refusing the professional a chance of an equally highly subjective realization. These autonomous and yet applied drawings are, as mental scores, suggestions for an inner, individualized musical beauty or cacophony of sounds never heard, unless we hum along or arm ourselves instrumentally.

Michael Glasmeier