Swiss composer Manfred Werder, with musicians Mustafa Walker and Andrew C. Smith, will engage in performances of his ongoing works 20160 and 20170. Werder’s project gathers language in the form of quotations, found nouns, and other elements, as he transcribes fragments onto a 10cm by 22m scroll with a pocket typewriter. Werder’s work is an extraction of language from its environment, and a practice of wandering through this language as he realizes it in performance.

Werder’s work defies all conventional expectations of a musical score. 20170 is a collection of quotations in Spanish and English from literature, philosophy, other people, private correspondence, and it comes with no specific instructions for its realization. Werder himself has a particular performance practice that grows out of music, but “realizations” of his work extend from lecture-performances to gallery showings of his scores to seemingly unrelated activities rooted in observation of the environment. There is no “right” or “wrong” realization of a piece, but rather Werder’s scores are an interpretive framework for his performance practice. Instead of thinking of these scores as instructions, we might think of them as epigraphs to a performance that is indeterminate.

“In Greek philosophy, what does it really mean, practice in terms of poesis? Poesis would be producing, and practice would be, in a certain way, performing.” (Werder, in conversation)

It’s sometimes difficult to find a “way in” to music like Manfred Werder’s, which carries with it a performance practice and history that is perhaps “hidden” from the listener. I recommend adventurous listeners take a moment to read my introduction to Language as a Wilderness, and an excerpt of my new interview with Manfred Werder, which we just posted on Medium.

About Language as a Wilderness

This event is part of the series Language as a Wilderness, co-presented by Indexical and Radius Gallery at the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz.

Language as a Wilderness is a five-week series of experimental music dealing with language extracted from its natural environment. It is co-presented by Indexical and Radius Gallery at the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz, from Jan. 12 through Feb. 9. For more upcoming performances, visit

Manfred Werder

Composer, performer, curator, lives in situ. Manfred Werder focuses on possibilities of rendering the practices regarding composition and field. His recent scores have featured either found sentences from poetry and philosophy, or found words from whatever sources. His performances, both indoors and outdoors, aim at letting appear the world’s natural abundance. Earlier works include stück 1998, a 4000 page score whose nonrecurring and intermittent performative realization has been ongoing since December 1997.

This event was funded in part by Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.

Indexical’s Santa Cruz concert series is made possible through generous support by Arts Council Santa Cruz.

Arts Council Santa Cruz