“Piece for Four Strangers” is an exploration of two types of connection between knowing, thinking, people.
The first type is the social introduction—the connection formed in the culturally prescribed arena of a party or meeting. It produces the chance to say that you have “met” someone (in the literal and figurative sense of meeting, including “coming into contact with,” and “being acquainted with”…). In this piece, performers (ideally strangers), must follow a tight itinerary of speaking and listening, in order to make social introductions during the performance; in so doing, the piece tries to amplify or magnify the feeling of our cultural formulae for those meetings.
The second type of connection is what William James calls a “co-conscious transition”: the inner perception of one thought transitioning to another in the flow of awareness. James defines this connection—not between people but between thoughts in succession—as the most intimate way that any one thing can be with any one other thing. Like other difficult musical scores, and especially those involving some amount of improvisation, “Piece for Four Strangers” demands a heightened attention to the movement of concepts through our minds, and from others’ minds into ours. I wrote this piece for the Cage Centennial symposium, as part of the iLAND, “Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance” 2012 conference. I hope that detailed and collaborative forms of indeterminacy might help us learn about, and teach about, our sensitive roles in urban ecologies, which are deeply active and fluid even when they appear passive or constrained on the surface of our awareness.