Tim Daisy :: 12 Hours of Sound
An Experiential Review
By Jill DeGroot
Bright and early on August 13, I head to Fulton Street Collective for Tim Daisy’s 12 Hours of Sound, a benefit for RefugeeOne. 8am to 8pm non-stop noise making, and I commit myself to live-tweeting the entire event for Cacophony Magazine.
I give myself an extra 45 minutes of commute time, as anxious individuals do. My bus gets rerouted. I arrive at the venue a few minutes before showtime, several [okay more than several] minutes behind my internal anxiety clock).
I beeline to the restrooms, because man I really hate leaving performances for bathroom breaks, and as I close the door behind me, I hear the sound of Tim kicking off the show on the floor above me promptly at 8am. The wild sound of the bass drum drowns out the hand dryer.
Thanks to the bus re-route and bathroom stop, I enter the performance in medias res.
There is only one other audience member. I wonder if I should go over and say Hi.
Is this the kind of show you can mingle at? I’m not sure. Who makes the rules, us or Tim? I officiate the first unspoken rule of the day and sit quietly in the nearest seat.
Tim’s energy is visceral from the very start, weaving boisterous and intricate rhythmic patterns using a drum set, turntables, hand-held radios, metal dog bowls, chains, and an electric toothbrush. The choice of instruments somehow seems to me both simple and complex: a motley crew of noise personalities.
Soon another audience member arrives, and they too honor the unspoken rule, sitting quietly several rows away from me and the other on-looker in the room.
After about 20 minutes the other two audience members leave their seats to lie on their backs on the hardwood floor. I wonder if they can feel the sound in their skulls. It strikes me as such a definitive choice.
Tim’s sound is constantly changing, expanding, shifting as if it too has a skull and a brain and a heartbeat. Does Tim hear the sound a fraction of a second before it occurs or is he finding out with us? Maybe it’s somehow both.
Tim begins to sweat, and I wonder how his red framed glasses aren’t slipping off.
Glasses slippage: the centerpiece of my personal favorite pre-performance stress dreams.
I close my eyes to breathe in sound, and when I open them again Tim has shed his glasses. His eyes are closed now too.
I try to image which part of the brain holds the memory of where the small radio volume knob is so Tim can gracefully turn it up/down without looking. Each of his musical silences are air brushed with the sound of the small fan pointed to face him. He switches out the hand-held radio for an electric toothbrush. It sounds like the dentist, a small motor bike, and a motel hair dryer.
Throughout the day, as the hours pass, I spend much of my time alone with Tim.
I wonder, if I hadn’t cared about this event, if I wasn’t interested, if I had other plans, if I hadn’t come, Tim would have spent a lot of the day playing for an empty room, or perhaps playing for himself. I imagine what that feels like. Playing for myself feels different than playing for a crowd which feels different than playing for a handful of people which feels different than playing for one person. I cannot tell if Tim is glad that I continue to fill at least one chair, or if he wishes he was alone.
I imagine all the times in which I was backstage before a performance. My internal dialogue screaming.
“Maybe nobody will show up. Maybe I’ll walk out and the seats will be empty, and I can just go home.”
Maybe he is indifferent to the space I am taking up. Maybe he hasn’t noticed at all. Maybe he is hyper-aware as I shift in my seat throughout the day, as I get up to go to the bathroom, as I shove a PB&J in my face and sit in the thought “oh god what if he’s actually allergic to peanuts and he has an allergic reaction and I have to call 911.”
At the seven hour mark, Tim swallows the room in a wash of suspended cymbal. Glasses back on, record switch at the turntable, big swig of a strategically placed La Croix.
I catch myself anticipating the arrival of other audience members. I hear footsteps in the hallway and try to will people inside. Once they sit down I don’t want them to leave. People will sit for 20 to 25 minutes before they begin to shuffle and squirm in the folding chairs. I shoot my thoughts from across the room into their skull, I shove Tim’s sound out of the way and plant a thought:
Why don’t I want to be the only person in the audience? It is not awkward or uncomfortable or lonely. Maybe I feel for some reason that sound must be validated by as many ears as possible. I also think there’s this expectation, driven home in my early classical western music education, that one must focus and engage with a performance the entire time in order to respect and validate.
In this context, “focus” “engage” “respect” “validate” means sitting quietly in your seat. Face forward, don’t fidget, look like you’re concentrating, this is art, pay attention, engage, focus, respect, validate. I want to challenge myself to “be present” (what a fluffy word, I mean seriously, as if being alive isn’t already difficult enough? I am awake, I got out of bed, I’m here. How can I be more “present” than confronting the fact every day that eventually I’m going to die and it won’t matter who I was or what I did or whether or not I attended a 12 Hour benefit show for RefugeeOne and live-tweeted the whole thing?) with Tim for the entire 12 hours. If he can be engaged for 12 hours as an artist, shouldn’t I be able to engage for 12 hours as a listener? But halfway through this train of thought, I hit the breaks. Why can’t engaging with sound also be: zone out, tap my toe, send a tweet, day dream, lie on the ground, close your eyes, eat a PB&J, answer an email, text a friend, admire the sunset beaming through the window, take a photo, people watch. Why does appreciation entail stillness or fluffy meta “presence”? Why don’t we change this unspoken rule?
Maybe durational performances, a monumental journey for the performer no doubt, are actually also about the listener, the audience. Maybe it would have been somehow more poetic if the room was empty, if I had left all together. Maybe it’s exercise on being joyously present in lacking “presence.”
At around the ten hour mark, the room dimming at dusk, Tim shouts to me, “That was just the warm up, I should probably start the concert now!” He stomps his feet on the oriental rug. Things are heating up. I can see bristles that have fallen off his snare drum brushes stuck in the fibers of the rug.
A distorted vocal growl beams from the record on the turntable. Before my ears can grab onto it, the sound becomes an extraterrestrial looping melodic flute line. In the final hour of the show the sun has set, the room is dark, but the air is hot.
The sound becomes a screaming tea kettle, and just when I think it’s going to blow, my watch reads 8pm and the bottom drops out.