Monday, March 06, 2006

Chris Bliss - Is this possible, or even likely?

Thanks for the link, Norm.

Watch this. It's wonderful.

I have been trying to account for the effect of watching this performance. I don't think I've found myself clapping at the computer screen before, and laughing with pleasure. How come?

To start with, there's the unlikelihood of it. Music as accompaniment, yes, but someone interpreting the music with his body and three balls, no. Through how many tortuous increments of experience and excess did he even arrive at the idea that it was something he might possibly do?

Then, there's the fact that he interprets the music with his body and three balls. I remember being forced to watch an entire show of Torville and Dean (my parents had bought the tickets; my first visit home with my new wife) and having to bolt down two whiskies in the interval and drag my wife back inside to see yet more vacuous elegance and wanting to scream and even go so far as to embarrass my mother. They moved to the music, but that was all, like someone playing the first movement of the Moonlight sonata allegro con brio, just because they can. But Chris Bliss is like a cherry blossom in the wind - the slightest change in tone, or tempo elicits from him a simultaneous reaction that seems to say the same thing, but in another form, to change in a similar way the flow, the rhythm, the texture of his movement.

Perhaps the word 'interpretation' is not the best one. It is more transformation, or translation. Because it is not that he is adding anything; he is restating it in a completely unexpected way. In such a way, that for me, at least, it felt like a discovery, as if some new planet had swum into my ken.

There is another element, one that is always present in live performance; but perhaps more so here. Risk. The first time you watch, you hold your breath - surely, he can't keep this up; it isn't possible. There is something fascinating about difficulty, and about conquering difficulty that almost acquires a moral dimension. Watching someone conquer some upland of skill or craft and then maintain it for what seems an extraordinary length of time is gripping and empowers the spectator just as great tragedy or comedy does. It's a sustained cliff-hanger - he must fail; he must fail; he doesn't.

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