In August 2010 I was asking several composers to write a piece for udderbot, often adding a twist to make the request personal and interesting. I requested Mark Enslin, longtime teacher at SDaS, student of Ben Johnston, John Zorn, and Herbert Brün, collaborator, composer and playwright, to write a piece for udderbot as part of a one-man band.
Hard as I had tried, I did not anticipate the corporeal onslaught that followed. By October, Enslin had produced a piece for 17 instruments—udderbot, trombone, umbrella, tambourine, hi hat, bass drum, guiro, cymbal between the knees, flipper, plastic jug, police whistle, train whistle, harmonica, candy wrapper, finger cymbals, poem, 52-tube tubulon, and a poem by Indigo Crespighi previously used for Safety Nets I of 17 Tone Piano Project fame. That performance, I garnered an applause simply in the act of walking onstage. I didn’t get very far; the tubulon was especially heavy, and all the rehearsal time had gone to constructing the outfit.
By January, Enslin had completed a color-coded score made in Microsoft Word—avoidance of standard notation programs is thematic in his work—and I set to work learning the off-kilter melodies and decoding the complex rhythms, even making a guide track. By my estimation, performing this piece is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. I don’t feel I have yet done it justice, yet I know that many of Mark’s pieces are foolproof in this peculiar way; no matter the impossibility of the score, the theatre of the attempt always fascinates.
The performance here is from a festival of Enslin’s work in September 2011. It is about the best I have managed to do…but I am far from finished with Safety Nets II.