French surrealist and theatre theorist Antonin Artaud, so wished for a searing realness upon the stage, that he called for the actors to strip themselves of all artifice and to present themselves as “…being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” (The Theater and Its Double, 1931)
His writings had a tremendous influence on the creators of The Living Theatre, Julian Back and Judith Malina, when their vision was coming together in the 50s and 60s. A 1983 documentary about The Living is even titled, “Signals Through the Flames,” such is their association with the Artaud.
In their early days, the LT’s history is almost like a who’s-who of Village artists and aesthetic innovators from the theater, art, musical, and progressive political worlds. In 1959, with the help of a producer in collaboration with John Cage and Merce Cunningham they were able to open the theater on 14th St. and 6th Ave. which was the Theatre’s home for five years. Cunningham had his dance studio on the top floor. The Living occupied floors two and three.
Many years after that I met Judith when I was in my 20s and was lucky to work alongside her, creating music for theater, off and on for the group, for over twenty years. This included performances in the USA and extensively throughout Europe. The modus operandi abroad was that we would perform whatever current production we were touring plus we’d give workshops and create activist street theater with the local population. NYC was no exception. Performative political protests were a part of city life when the LT was based here. Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars might not have ever come into being had I not had this experience in my formation.
It is in that spirit, taking it to the streets, that we present our latest musical procession, as part of The Village Trip Festival opening on September 10th in Greenwich Village. For the event, we will premiere a new piece with that name: “Signals Through the Flames.”
This performance is dedicated to all of the politically active artists and troupes that The Village has given birth to over the years, but especially to The Living Theatre. Our aim is to bring positive attention to their work and legacy and to all of us who owe them a debt for initially breaking down The Fourth Wall.
Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars is an orchestra of guitarists and percussionists led by post-rock composer/performer Patrick Grant. They perform original music untethered via mini-amps strapped over their shoulders.
Tilted Axes can perform anywhere there are people, excelling in untraditional venues. Its roster of musicians can change from performance to performance, city to city. The musicians learn a common repertoire created by diverse composers and rehearse it in workshops.
The project takes on aspects of spectacle informed by municipal band tradition, avant-garde theater, and world music. It takes music out into the world and seeks transformative situations meant to change community conversation.
2022 DMA Nominee Outstanding Classical Composer — Patrick Grant
My first publicly performed piece was “Cantata for the Easter Mass” when I was 15 years old at the Our Lady of Victory Church in Northville, MI. It was written for soloists, choir, strings and organ. While I’m not a traditionally religious person at all, I have retained this sense of ceremony in all my work ever since. It seeks to find a place in the world. And there is always a feeling of a larger narrative. My work with the Tilted Axes mobile electric guitars project is another branch of this same aesthetic. Some times it asks: What is classical music? Is it an instrumentation or an intention? Is it as the venue it’s performed in or can it be found anywhere? Is it solely a technique or is it what we find beyond it if we know where to look? And yet other times the music aims to say as little as possible. It only asks you to listen with prejudice. One thing I have found to be common to all things “classical”, whether it’s traditional or it’s pushing the envelopes of genres: It seeks to elevate us all by pulling us into the present. Together. And if the composer is from Detroit, it’s also not unusual if it has a mean groove. — Patrick Grant Final Phase DMA Voting closes on March 6th at 11:59pm.