the rain of alphabets / Michael Pisaro

In Memoriam Raúl Ruiz (1941-2011)


the rain of alphabets

Michael Pisaro



the rain of alphabets, for 14 musicians, is part of harmony series [2004-2006], a collection of 34 pieces composed as a display of the question of how do we harmonize? This question is the trace of the encounter with the work Swell Piece for Alison Knowles [1967] by James Tenney. the rain of alphabets is inspired by a poem by Inger Christensen [Denmark, 1935-2009]:

alphabets exists

the rain of alphabets

incessant rain

grace light

intervals and forms

of stones and stars

courses of rivers and

motions of mind

tracks of animals

their routes and ways


human solace

daylight in air

sign of the hawk

union in color

of sunlight and eye

wild chamomile

at houses’ doorways

snowbanks wind

houses corners sparrows


The score stipulated as a structure a segmented sum of musicians, tones and times set chronometrically: first a musician, then two musicians, then three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen. First a tone, then two tones each musician, three tones each musician, and so on. First a minute, then two, then three, provided with a two-minute pause after each section is completed. In musicians: 1, 2, 3, ….13 and 14. In tones: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100, 121, 144, 169 and 196. In stopwatch: 1 ‘(2’) 2 ‘(2’) 3 ‘(2’) 4 ‘(2’) 5 ‘(2’) 6 ‘(2’) 7 ‘(2’) 8 ‘(2’ ) 9 ‘(2’) 10 ‘(2’) 11 ‘(2’) 12 ‘(2’) 13 ‘(2’) 14 ‘(2’). The play ends at 133 minutes, ie. two hours and thirteen minutes after the start.
But the number is not the experience.
In the words of Pisaro: “A work is the contact made by the score (or any possible kind of musical structuring) and sounds (and performers and actions) under the condition of the site.” The increase in harmonic density is the intensification of a time-intensive experience – not only two-minute breaks are abbreviated: the experience of a long time becomes elastic.
We decided to place the musicians in different parts of the exhibition hall of the gallery, freely using a transparent sheet with points from the score Fontana Mix [1958] by John Cage, overlapping the sheet to a rough plan of the room. What initially was a strategic decision to break with the traditional management of large groups of musicians (an orchestra), was transformed with the performance on a very different way to experience harmony. Although Western harmony, thanks to musical notation, is conceptualized as a vertical phenomenon, that Friday, little by little, it appeared as a horizontal harmony of fields and areas, gas and topography simultaneously, or poetically imagined:

” courses of rivers and
motions of mind
tracks of animals
their routes and ways”






the players
Santiago Astaburuaga, Nicolás Carrasco, Sebastián Carrasco, Álvaro Castro, Renzo Filinich, Sebastián Jatz, Fernanda Ortega, Álvaro Pacheco, Alejandro Palacios, Camila Pérez, Gonzalo Ramírez, Marcelo Troncoso, Benjamín Vergara y Paulina Wiehoff

the instruments
electric bass, 2 mouth organs, 3 trumpets, dulcimer, 2 laptops, accordion, 2 violins, acoustic guitar and cello

AFA Gallery, Santiago, Chile

August 26th, 2011

from 17:00 to 19:30

133 minutes

the audience
general audience


audio (recorded on Zoom H4n)




1.- 10 tones, 10 minutes, 10 musicians


2.- 11 tones, 11 minutes, 11 musicians