lt is as if each man were an atom, floating isolated in space; and each atom were to begin to emanate feelers towards other atoms It is as if a giant molecule were taking form out of Nothing
The performer finds that he has been transported into a new situation, in which there are other laws of gravity. He discovers a new economy of energy; he is almost weightless, and able to move with fantastic ease. The energy which had formely been expended in the general tumult and conflict is now used more efficiently... Ultimately the sound of many persons oscillating in a harmonic relation with one another will acquire an unimaginable richness and fineness, which will completely transcend the individual musics The space will no langer be occupied, but created.
The difference between magic and work is one of duration. This work may also, for some reason, not take place. The tumult and confusion may grow worse; as the performer may find himself with nothing to do, nothing to say; he is surrounded by Nothing, and in him there is Nothing. In both cases, it is possible to transform a negative condition into a positive one.
The first negative case is that of conflict. Here the performer's task will be to give vent in his music to violence in an extreme form: to push the conflict further, to let it break out into open war
The second negative state drifting in nothingness is more critical, because the body lacks the energy to plunge itself into conflict. It is a situation of silent hatred. The performer has been, or is being destroyed. Four courses of action are possible:
A. To continue to be destroyed = To do nothing;
B. To destroy = To make a gesture of total negativity: to produce a change, any change, which will transform the state of things;
C. To put on a professional mask = To conceal, to falsify, to draw upon the reservoir of formulas which constitute one's virtuosity, to save appearances;
D. To go back to point zero = To wipe the slate clean, return to the original situation, begin the piece again.
These course of action are the results of different interpretations of Nothing There may be insuperable obstacles which bar the way to music. The obstacles may never be overcome, and the piece will end in exhaustion.
Three possible courses of the music have been described:
1. The goal was achieved instantaneously, through magic;
2. it was arrived at after a natural and necessary duration, through work;
3. it was never found at all.
The third result will be as acceptable as the first two, because of its excellence; but with the difference that it communicates sadness, whereas the others were joyous.
A final note with regard to the situation at the beginning of the piece:
Here the performer is not entirely without responsibilities. He does not merely begin to play in anyway whatsoever. Since this piece is based on an idea although it has no necessary form and since this idea is the transformation of space from one state to another state, the music at the beginning must express what state it is that exists at the moment when this transfomrmation is about to be attempted. We consider the audience as being in a state of ignorance. The space in its present state is non-musical. It is merely occupied. The people, including the musicians, are merely what they are and always have been: flesh, bound and finite, imprisoned in labyrinth, repositories of the past, automata. There is a general state of numbness. There is neither pleasure nor pain, memory nor hope; there is no obligation to move in one direction or another. Life is imprisoned within a shell of immobility and paralysis. There is, however, a state of expectation, of general anticipation that an attempt is going to be made to bring about another state of things. What the musicians have to make clear is that this change is not just any change, but a fundamental one: the redemption of the space and of everything in it.
For what the audience does not yet realize, before the beginning of the music, is that the space which it occupies is profane, dominated by demons; and that these demons are they themselves. Each individual is a worshipper of images. What is going to happen now is that images are going.to be smashed, and meaningful rituals created in their place. The air is charged with stupidity, complacency, inaction, slavery; it is poisonous, and we have to be fully aware of its loathsomeness. The music which sets in now must necessarily be demonic, because demons are everywhere, also in the musicians, which is where they are now acting. The musicians is possessed: the first sound that he strikes must be one of terror. The breaking of the silence is a breaking of the spell of stupidity which shrouds the soul. This sound, which may be called ''anti-music", awakens the soul to its demonic state; and only then may the exorcism begin, the struggle to cast lines through the tumult to another soul.
Frederic Rzewski, July 3, 1967 (CD liner notes, originally published in Source Magazine)