Sunday, August 5, 2007


-Originally posted Sunday, February 27, 2007

Visiting the websiteof Kenneth Goldsmith (“the most boring writer that has ever lived”) reacquainted me with an old friend I had forgotten about. Goldsmith is the founder of the website, an online collection of experimental writing, music, and film. I first heard of the site about a year ago while I was studying abroad in Paris from someone in my program. One of my almost daily tasks while in Paris was going somewhere with free wireless internet, as I had none in my apartment and wanted to spend as little time at the NYU center as possible. On rainy days, the closest place to my apartment was the basement of the McDonalds on Rue de Passy (“the most boring neighborhood in Paris”—A.D.). It was here, probably eating french fries or drinking bad espresso from a Styrofoam cup, watching Passy teenagers on after-school dates, that I first visited Ubu. I don’t remember what else I looked at that day, but I wrote this in my notebook:

come the torch comes
feet quick come
the women of the past come
thick grass come out of
from thick bushels come outside
on the paths of gods always lie

from “The dance of the greased women”
Nauri [Africa]

and dated it March 20, 2006.

Today, I went back to the site for the first time in awhile. I started to watch a Discovery Channel-type documentary about Borges (“he was destined to become one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century...”—pretentiously-accented narrator), but quickly decided against it. Instead, I watched a video of a performance of a composition for 100 metronomes by György Ligeti (1923-2006). Titled Poème Symphonique (“une des pièces la plus rarement performé du monde”), the performance was bizarrely introduced by two identical computer animated women in green t-shirts, speaking at the same time, one in German and one in French. The composition itself features one hundred mechanical metronomes on a set of tiered shelves, which are triggered to start ticking at the same time. They continue for a few minutes until each one stops from inertia. I was reminded how, when I used to practice music when I was younger, I always preferred the old wooden mechanical metronome that sat on our piano to the plastic electronic one my teacher had me buy. He explained that the electronic one was much more accurate, but I couldn’t understand how anything could be more accurate than gravity. Ligeti’s piece can only be performed by mechanical metronomes, because electronic ones would only stop when their battery ran out. But the amazing thing about the swinging metal arm of the old-fashioned metronome is that, up until the moment its own weight brings it to a halt, it never slows down, but continues to click at exactly the same rate.

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