Spoken Word

Completed: 9/12/2017; Posted: 11/19/2017

Spoken Word is a Multiple-Percussion solo written by Ben Wahlund. It features improvisatory sections, speaking, and a baking timer. The only text that is provided is for example; the performer is encouraged to choose their own text to recite during the piece, and for that text to have aggressive, challenging subject matter.

Here is my performance:

The moving shots were filmed by my friend, Daniel Thompson. Otherwise, I filmed and edited the video myself. I chose to use excerpts from The Stranger by Albert Camus as my text:

(pp. 62-63) The investigators had learned that I had ‘shown insensitivity’ the day of Maman’s funeral. He asked if I had felt any sadness that day. The question caught me by surprise and it seemed to me that I would have been very embarrassed if I’d had to ask it. Nevertheless I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another all normal people have wished their loved ones were dead. Here the lawyer interrupted me and he seemed very upset. He made me promise I wouldn’t say that at my hearing or in front of the examining magistrate. I explained to him, however, that my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings. The day I buried Maman, I was very tired and sleepy, so much so that I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. What I can say for certain is that I would rather Maman hadn’t died. But my lawyer didn’t seem satisfied. He said, ‘That’s not good enough.’

(pp. 56-57) The sun was starting to burn my cheeks, and I could feel drops of sweat gathering in my eyebrows. The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward. I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn’t get the sun off me by stepping forward. But I took a step, one step, forward. And this time, without getting up, the Arab drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun. The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. At the same instant the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm, thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt. All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me. The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That’s when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, (is where it all started. I shook off the sweat and sun. I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I’d been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.)

The parenthesized text is not included in this video. The end of this speech is dictated by the baking timer, and the text that actually gets used varies from performance to performance.

(pp. 106) The trouble with the guillotine was that you had no chance at all, absolutely none. If by some extraordinary chance the blade failed, they would just start over. So the thing that bothered me most was that the condemned man had to hope the machine would work the first time.