Chromelodeon (4th Concretion), 1963

This was the most completely “scripted” work before Meat Joy (1964)-the movement sequences were based on diagrammatic drawings of crisscrossing patterns, and were coordinated to layers of sound and lighting changes. “Chromo: combination of forms, colored vision. Chromatic: having notes not included in diatonic scale, admitting notes marked with accidentals.”

The texture of the work is contrapuntal. The movement is a set of object equivalences, consisting of three sorts:

a) Spins, leaps, pushes, runs, whirls: all from and returning to center points. These spiral patterns have a correlative in the body's balance on its central axis while at the same time its energy is released, spun like a centrifuge. A toy top (in which a handle is pushed down like a piston against the weight and balance of the top) was the precise object correlative for the movements: the “tops,” “whirling,” and “struggle-to-rise.”

b) Set against, cutting across these gyroscopic move­ments is the silent, dark, heavy slice of “the pursuit.” Debby's squeals and shrieks were aural equivalents to the final sounds evolved in the “chicken cluster.” The pursuit motions reiterated the centrifugal movements, but pulled them all into a single line: two performers facing each other, focusing and tracing the energy.

c) The chicken cluster is the resolution of the piece: conceived as a rooster solo for Yvonne Rainer (and in­spired by her Three Seascapes), it became a group movement when she dropped out of the work. Chicken cluster pulled in, and tightened all the open lines, curves, the momentum of drops and leaps: straightened the body axis down into the fixity of feet taking all spatial information from the ground.

Barrel organ (“nickelodeon”) music and the Aria Duetto of Bach’s Cantata BWV 78 were collages live by Jim from three tape decks, both during rehearsal and performance. During one rehearsal Ruth and Cindy had climbed into the choir loft and began to play the church organ--we discovered they could manage a wonderfully crude and sonorous four-hand version of the Fugue in Em, and it worked perfectly for the performance. The third tape was made by Jim: a computer-generated bass pulse, like a heartbeat; a unifying and consistent thump or clunking which acted as a bridge between the bass ranges of the barrel organ and Bach.

Allusions to old movies are an obvious aspect of Chromelodeon: the use of flickering lights and exaggerated running, the melodramatic pursuit by a wolf man after a heroine trapped in a sensual dream of inevitable capture. The barrel organ music refers to the music played in movie houses to accompany silent films, and with the movement it evokes circus big tops and ice skating rinks.


Darkness. Noises from the balcony: banging, clanking. [Electronic-tones tape] Dim vertical light centered. John appears in the balcony, drops horizontal poles hung with costumes, hats, cloths to the floor; additional pile thrown down. Carol at edge of curtains. [Barrel organ music, low rises into collage] John calls to him, climbs over balcony onto his shoulders—Carol spins him quickly off, runs to pile of materials. John follows. They are in colored underwear, proceed to dress themselves from clothing on the floor (all smeared with paint and singed or scorched). [Barel organ] Flickering light. John and Carol exit running (exaggerated slow motion). [Back lighting, golds and blues.] They return dragging and open crate—Debby and Cindy (wearing underwear) are half hidden among various cloths and blankets. Men slowly dump crate contents onto the pile of materials. Ruth enters with a ladder, positions it on right, exits. Debby and Cindy dress themselves while emerging from the pile. John and Carol sort and handle additional fabrics on the horizontal poes above and behind them—their motions are short, frantic, they run back and forth. While dressing, Cindy and Debby begin to talk, and paint each other’s legs.

Gold/white lights fan out from above. Wearing singed yellow and blue “capes,” the women are stood up by the men and turned to spin off into dervish whirls, enlarging their area, making whirring sounds. Fast changes of bright lights, many colors. [Barrel organ collage into Aria Duetto.] (The whirls: arms pumping in and out, centrifugally.) John and Carol drag out a huge pyre of paper to the side of the ladder. Ruth enters with a violin case, climbs the ladder, and hands down makeup jars to the men, who are sitting in the paper. The man paint each other’s faces, then legs, with quick, intent strokes. Ruth goes to the clothes pile and takes off her leotard (a 1930s bathing suit underneath).

Cindy exits whirling through the center curtains. White lights, centers. Debby falls whirling, continues spinning slowly on the floor until she “runs down.” Cindy enters walking backward and turning: to begin writing “LOVE,” “LILLY,” and other words with her body and a long yellow ribbon: sharp and linear—verticals, horizontals, diagonals against the floor. She announces each letter while chewing gum; collapses after completing a letter. [Collage and Aria Duetto, low fading] Carol runs with a large blanket over to Debby, covers her, says “Now go to sleep, you’re good as gold, you’re my girl, I want you to dream”; he moves away distracted several times during what follows, always returning to Debby, patting, pulling, uncovering nad covering her up again. John completes streaking his own face. Ruth returns to the ladder. [Barrel music, low behind collage tape] Steady blue light. John moves to Ruth, bring her from the ladder, and “pushes” her off into [grand jetés] across the area; he beats times and yells “Grand Jetty!” When she reaches far right, lights out. Ruth runs back in the darkness, joining John in the paper Pyre, which they make into a “house.” Lights. [Aria Duetto] They watch Cindy. John is seized with nervous confusion, gets p. Ruth exits. John begins to run back and forth, his cap and pants are slippig off; he turns, runs, slips, reaches finally for an overcoat to throw himself around, and exits. Immediately he returns pulling Ruth.

Bright to soft, slow tonal shifts—roses, violets. As Cindy completes her letter writing, John begins his “turn-body” with Ruth, soon joined by Carol. (Ruth in stiff angular positions as the men turn her over and over, sometimes lifting her, shifting her, resting, consulting, turning her again.)

[Barrel organ] Spill light around ladder. Cindy handstands over to Debby, uncovers her. Together they rise slowly underneath the blanket; twists and turns over to the ladder. [Fade-out]

John ties the blue silk strips onto Ruth. Carol calls Cindy and Debby in Japanese. They come down from the ladder. Carol, John dress Cindy, Debby from the hanging clothes, adding scraps. Carol begins counts in Japanese numbers loudly; John quickly spins Cindy, Debby, and Ruth into “tops” which wobble and twirl (feel close together). [Barrel organ] John and Carol sit on the clothes pile, clapping, calling. The wobbling tops collapse, John and Carol slowly regroup them together—dim spotlight—cover them with a massive red blanket.

[Silence] Masked spotlight. Struggle-to-rise sequence. The women, hands on shoulders, push each other down and up like pistons, pushing to rise. The men are pushing them down from outside the blanket. Choking, coughing sounds. The swaying struggle continues; eventually men become entangled, the blanket covers them, the struggle reverses, and as the men try to rise the women push them down. Blackout. Exit all.

Ruth and Cindy re-enter left, in darkness, and carry a lantern to top of the ladder. [Barrel organ low] They climb up into the balcony, begin to play [Bach Fugue in Em] Balcony spot. They play “together,” syncopating the organ (open valves) to the barrel organ tape. John enters right, carrying food in an American flag “apron”; throughout the next sequence he watches the movement as he methodically eats.

The Pursuit. Dim, ominous flickering light from side toward center. From between the center curtains Debby appears. In alarm, walking backward, She is pursued by Carol (wearing a “wolfman” cap and fur scraps). [Fugue in Em fades out] Sow dream. He “surrounds” her, motion barely visible as they advance through space. An “endless” walk circling across the floor—she faces him throughout. Suddenly drops to her knees . . . retreats backward, staccato, stands, walks backward, drops to her knees . . . Carol arms raises—monstrous, growling, grunting—lights up, slowly, colorless, diffuse—nightmare pursuit; she shrieks, slows, Carol catches Debby on his side and over his back: swinging, growling, her legs wing out from his back, shaking. Debby repeats unvaried shrieks. Falling forward on his knees, they drop over in rolling, entangled, single form . . . separating, she runs past him, gathering momentum, both roll through the back curtains. Rolling, she appears first—he rolls in pursuit over her, almost into the audience. He lies over her—[silence]—rise up, sink down together . . . slow rolls facing each other, back to the clothes pile.

Lights slowly up—magenta and yellow—to flood center stage. Caro takes off cape and furs, puts on shirt, slowly removes Debby’s clothes. [Collage and Aria Duetto] Dresses Debby, choosing from the hanging array.

[Intermittent mix with collage] Debby is dressed and standing. Carol leaves, retuns with a small bench, which he places upside down near her feet. Bright shifting golds and yellows. He puts her
inside the bench, and begins to push the bench. He stops to change her position, and pushes again. All very slowly. They hold eye contact and discuss the movements. With Debby like
a statue, the bench is pushed in a full circle around the performance area.

When John has finished eating he rises and distractedly flings peels and crusts into the audience. Bright yellow, green, blue. Ruth and Cindy enter in bizarre tutus of curtains, making [grand jetés] twice around the floor, to John upstage. [Music fades out.] John calls out through a megaphone, reading from a list of ballet steps (Midwestern pronunciations). Cindy and Ruth figure out what he's saying and perform these precisely, one at a time, while John imitates their steps:
reel levy (relevé)
tan do (tendu)
change meant (changement)
pass de cat (pas de chat)
pass de ducks (pas de deux)
please (plies)
tour jetty (tour jeté)
balancey (balancé)
brush sess urbley (brush cesseurblé) pass de hurry (pas de bourée)
coupy (coupé)
[Barrel organ collage fade in, with Aria Duetto line] Carol and Debby begin “chicken cluster”—attempting to become chicken-like from the feet/claws up, emitting squawks (natural to arched diaphragm). Lights dim slowly. Cindy follows. Spots center blue, green, yellow. John reads four more ballet steps. Ruth follows. [Cut Aria Duetto line.] John reads five more steps, then follows. [Collage fades out to silence.] Random contact. All chickens. No exits. Lights out.