I BREAK, premièred at Pembroke, Cambridge this month, is reviewed here by Joscelin Dent-Pooley. Joscelin comes from Shropshire, studies at Cambridge and performs in London.
Jay has historically been about mistakes. Playing Julian Trevelyan in a first year recital, he made a few mistakes and didn’t care, and performing Mut from Winterreise in a seminar in second year (both singing and playing the piano part) he made a lot of mistakes and didn’t care.
In I Break I think he set up a game in which there couldn’t make any mistakes.
I had my eyes closed for almost all of I Break and I think the lights went off and on twice but this didn’t change the piece.
At some points I felt angry and at some points I lost focus and started thinking about other music and at some points I started seeing the things you see when you have your eyes closed for a long time and for the first ten minutes of the piece I started crying.
There was very little ambient noise. I heard footsteps sometimes and creaking and a door closing but those didn’t change the piece either and I think if there had been a lot of ambient noise or no ambient noise or a lot of variation in light or no variation in light or if I had kept my eyes open or closed it wouldn’t have changed the piece either.
A way I have tried to think about I Break is like when you vacuum pack meat and the plastic becomes the shape of everything, but I think that constriction as a metaphor is too brutal and I don’t think I want to use metaphor because it is not what I want to say about the piece.
I also wanted to talk about the universality of the oscillation of the bass line, and how it becomes the shape of everything. In V by Thomas Pynchon if you let your eyes slightly cross at every description, you realise everything in V is in the shape of a V, and that isn’t because Thomas Pynchon made it like that it is because everything is like that.
In the same way the reason no noise or sight could change what I Break sounds like is because everything sounds like I Break, because I Break is what everything sounds like.
And those who listened to it will say “what everything sounds like is probably not going to be in a Western scale” and fine. That came to me for a second too and I discarded it when I started thinking about what Jay was doing as a translation:
I have been talking loudly at a couple of parties recently about tesseracts and how they have to do things they shouldn’t do to be seen by us. In I Break, you can’t hear what everything sounds like without Jay making it do something it shouldn’t do.
And “making it do something it shouldn’t do” isn’t even accurate because Jay hasn’t made it do something it shouldn’t do, because like everything I Break is part of everything, so in the same way I Break sounds like everything, I Break therefore sounds like I Break.
It is one way how everything sounds and all ways how everything sounds expressed through one way how everything sounds,
And why by the same logic doesn’t that apply to every piece of music well buddy let me tell you it just doesn’t.