SPECIAL MAIL-ART REPORT: Music Score by Cheryl Penn Inspired by Ruud Janssen's Fluxus Word ZALOP and Eduardo Cardoso's ZALOP Video (Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa)

"Zalop Concerto in No Particular Key" by IUOMA members Cheryl Penn (South Africa) inspired by a performance score and Fluxus word by Ruud Janssen (Netherlands) and ZALOP video by Eduardo Cardoso (Portugal).


February 22, 2011 - This is a case of mail-art "in the air" scooping mail-art "on the ground." I haven't received the hard copy of this yet, but Cheryl Penn's venture into musical composition is so noteworthy I had to blog it.


Most of the IUOMA members are aware of Cheryl's group for the study and advancement of Ruud Janssen's Fluxus word "ZALOP," given legs by the enthusiasm of visual poet Eduardo Cardoso of Portugal. Eduardo has already made a ZALOP video. Word has it that Cheryl is going to release a video of a ZALOP concerto performance, possibly with a percussion track by Eduardo (but you know the rumor mill.) 


For more info on Fluxus words see: http://fluxuswords.blogspot.com/


Cheryl's composition made me think about the kind of notation systems associated with Fluxus, Black Mountain, and other groups. Unfortunately, finding time to do real research is the monkey on my back. But here are some examples of musical scores that probably have have some relation to Cheryl's "ZALOP Concerto." First is a score by John Cage: 


All kinds of interesting notation systems have been devised for more experimental pieces that often require the performers to contribute significantly to the work. Being primarily interested in vispo, I cannot help but note these scores have visual elements. Next is a score by composer Morton Feldman written for abstract expressionist painter Wilhelm De Kooning:

I'm not stuck in the fifties and early sixties, I'm just reading a lot about that period right now. These scores are visually interesting, IMHO. Perhaps even more interesting is that in an e-mail from Cheryl Penn concerning the ZALOP concerto, she did not seem at all aware of these scoring systems. However, she is a musician in addition to being a visual artist. I could not help but see some similarities between what she is doing and what amounts to a long-standing tradition in the avant garde.


(For a really interesting discussion of original texts, as opposed to edited reprints, see:


Also included is info on recursion in Dutch chocolate advertisements - of interest to artists. You can catch the witty banter of the ubiquitous Ed Baker there too - a mainstay on the ruthless morning blogpo circuit. This team has been "on the air" for years, while the others come and go - a trusted brand for sure. They do vaguely tolerate the scruffy likes of us it seems. If you do take the leap, make sure to scroll down to "Transparent City" - total winner, IMHO) 


The whole history of musical scoring is fascinating but cannot possibly be explored here. Definitely these are "texts" too and often involve the mixing of a number of different artforms, such as the relation of language and poetry to musical scores. I think the truth of the matter is that the Zalop composition is derived from Cheryl Penn's work that is related to concrete poetry. Here's a good example:

Ruud Janssen's Fluxus words are part of a performance score he created. Cheryl Penn and Eduardo Cardoso are engaging with that score, so here is the original piece from a hard copy I have:

Iam definitely staying tuned to developments on the ZALOP front. 


IUOMA member David Stafford (New Mexico, USA) barely survived as Guest Mail-Art Psychic for 24 hours. Yet he managed to produced this great (parody) of an asemic writing magazine. It fits right in with this blog so I grabbed it from his portfolio:





I want to offer heartfelt apologies to all who suffered in the recent Mail-Art Psychic debacle. To provide reparations, those involved will receive an oil change coupon:



This is not about my extraordinary generosity. This is not even about whether you own or use a car. The "Oil Change and Lube" is a performance, life become art, and the coupon is your ticket to the fluXy show inspired by George Brecht's "Drip Music," usually done with water, but in the end we know it's always really about oil:

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Comment by cheryl penn on February 23, 2011 at 1:32pm
I am currently in a state of flux regarding the performance.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on February 23, 2011 at 12:19pm

TIC TAC(K), you are sharp as ever. It's always great to hear from you. Glad you appreciated the "Drip Music" reference in the oil change coupon.

For the longest time, I thought "Drip Music" was a John Cage concoction because it's so foundational in performance art. George Brecht sure did some interesting things.


Alison Knowles (partner of Dick Higgins) is a case where life and art seem to have merged in some kind of Fluxus, Hegelian, "End of History" synthesis. This, I believe, is the Nivea score you mention:

Nivea Cream Piece (November, 1962)- for Oscar WIlliams

First performer comes on stage with a bottle of hand cream, labeled "Nivea Cream" if none is available. He pours the cream onto his hands, and massages them in front of the microphone. Other performers enter, one by one, and do the same thing. They join together in front of the microphone to make a mass of massaging hands. They leave in the reverse of the order they entered, on a signal from the first performer.




Variation #1 (evolved through many performances of the above)

Large quantities of Nivea Cream must be available, at least one large jar per person. The performersenter and each lathers up his arms and face, then his colleagues, in a fragrant pig-pile.



After all the discussion, it would be interesting to know more about Cheryl's intentions for the ZALOP concerto.


TIC TAC - I hope we can figure ou

Comment by Ptrzia (TICTAC) on February 23, 2011 at 10:01am

it is always enriching to read you De Villo...Brecht's "Drip Music" reminds me of the Nivea Cream piece from Alison Knowles, have you heard it? and talking about 'noise'...first, compliments for the score Cheryl, anarchic and whimsical are my favourite words for it, now a question: you are presenting a concept as music piece, will you leave it that way as a visual art work or will you execute it. it would be interesting to hear it too...


Comment by De Villo Sloan on February 22, 2011 at 11:39pm
cp-sa - how do u stay sew composed? next time use a penn-cil & the muzak will b more penn-etrating. gb - u like the 'pissing contest' fluXy score? try it on a pee-iano. who busted there guitars
Comment by Bifidus Jones on February 22, 2011 at 9:47pm
It's hard to articulate the significance of De Villo's blog, but you can just feel the shift to expanded creative thinking and appreciation between the artists involved here. That's thopiesis!
Comment by cheryl penn on February 22, 2011 at 8:59pm
hey Karen :-) DVS - read about all those scores you mentioned today - as you say, the sky's the limit. Thanks again - MAN! the visual world - its SO ENORMOUS!!!!
Comment by Karen Champlin on February 22, 2011 at 7:17pm
Cheryl,  you are soooooo FUNNY!!!!!!  I Love it!  Thanks.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on February 22, 2011 at 7:09pm

Hi Cheryl, your work always makes me think, that's for sure. The blog doesn't allow for great detail, so two points of clarification/


1. Yes, performance scores from Fluxus are almost always very simple, as you point out. Ruud Janssen's score is a good example. Here is also another example from much earlier in the movement by George Brecht, a classic, involving music:

Nam June Paik did "One for Violin" that involves lifting a violin above your head and smashing it on a table. I read about another one that's interesting called "Pissing Contest" (that's the score) that might or might not have been performed in Russia.


2. John Cage is often called the "Grandfather of Fluxus" or is it Godfather? Anyway, his scores tended to be longer and more complex - a whole different strain you find in work by experimental or avant composers not necessarily associated with Fluxus. In my estimation your concerto is more along the lines of experimental music composition scores, although I have seen more complicated Fluxus performance scores. Morton Feldman is an avant composer with some ties to Black Mountain. 


Mudhead in Arizona has issued a new "Fluxus Manifesto" that's fairly long, and I sometimes see it posted as a performance score. What interested me with yours was the integrating of concrete poetry and musical score - the sky is the limit with this stuff.

I'm really enjoying the "ZALOP effect" and all the working coming out of it. So thanks.

Comment by cheryl penn on February 22, 2011 at 5:25pm

Ok DVS, once again you have opened a whole new world to explore with your blog – thank you.   Further reading since  chatting about this has been very enlightening – as has your link.  I have read that Cage felt that “all music scores were coded instructions for action of one sort or another… that the bulk of Fluxus production consists of written scores for performances. These brief and cryptic texts are intended to be interpreted by anyone and even though many contain musical references, few would be mistaken for a traditional piece of music” (Jeffery Byrd).  This somehow all seems ‘postobvious’ – but that’s easy when someone is showing the way. Thank you.



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