17. Event Scores


George Brecht (27 Aug 19265 Dec 2008), born George Ellis MacDiarmid, was an American conceptual artist and avant-garde composer, as well as a professional chemist who worked as a consultant for companies including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Mobil Oil. He was a key member of, and influence on, Fluxus, the international group of avant-garde artists centred on George Maciunas, having been involved with the group from the first performances in Wiesbaden 1962 until Maciunas' death in 1978.

One of the originators of 'participatory art', in which the artwork can only be experienced by the active involvement of the viewer, he is most famous for his 'Event Scores', such as 'Drip Music' (1962), and is widely seen as an important precursor to conceptual art. He described his own art as a way of 'ensuring that the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed.'

Steve Joy took me to meet George Brecht in his studio when I was in-residence at St Michael's in Manhattan in 1962. We became friends and he mailed instruction cards to me. I brought Steve Joy to St. Vincent College when I returned to the monastery from Paris in 1963. George Brecht agreed to provide instructions for an event at St. Vincent. For his 'Vehicle Sundown Event', he published a set of about fifty cards to be given to participants who participated in the event with their vehicles. Each card held an instruction to be performed with a vehicle. Drivers were instructed to assemble at sundown in a parking lot and randomly park their vehicles. Then each driver, with a shuffled deck of instructions, would begin performing at the sound of a signal. Participants performed about fifty instructions such as 'turn on lights', 'start engine', 'stop engine' and 'open window'. This work was performed at St. Vincent College under the direction of Stephen Joy with Roman Verostko assisting in 1963.


The 'Event Scores' of George Brecht are still actual pieces. He is inspiring for a lot of performance-based composers. Of specific inspiration is the fact that his works are composed of simple instructions and can be performed by anybody, giving them a highly democratic factor without losing their artistic impact. The fact that the work is purely language-based also hones in on our interest, as DE PLAYER has been publishing and presenting a lot of sound poetry over the years.

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