CTA – Sense and Sensibility

A Man in a Room, Gambling is an extraordinary work. Bryar’s music is hypnotic, and Muñoz’ parsing of the text, the sound of his voice and the timing of his delivery are inspiring. I wanted to revisit the text, however, because I thought I could introduce a narrative arc where none had existed.

Although Erdnase is widely admired for his turn of a phrase, precision and clarity in describing card cheating technique, the book is poorly organized and filled with errors – both technical and otherwise. The main problem, in my opinion, is that the author never had an editor. If he had one, the book would have been that much better, and would not be regarded as Euclidian as it has been in most afficandos’ eyes. There is a natural pedagogy to the work, but one that Erdnase failed to develop.

In 2001 I embarked on rewriting Erdnase – editing it, actually– to reflect this pedagogy: same words, different order. This book was to be the first of three volumes on the subject. Now, some 13 years later, the first volume is in the stages of final layout and will, hopefully, be released later this year.

Understanding the pedagogy gave me the idea of a narrative arc for Card Table Artifice. It is one of technique, each component building on the previous one, the cumulative effect being that of mystery and beauty, elegance and surprise – things that Bryar’s intuitively incorporated into his score.

My task in revising the text was made much easier by the initial work of Bryars and Muñoz. Each piece in the score, for example, is in three phases – the exposition, the development and the coda. I discovered in my re-examination of Erdnase that he also had those same three components, and I was able to transfer the structure in the book to the score.

Finally, when it came to the structure of the text, Muñoz did all of the heavy lifting. I studied his words, and the timing, and tried to mirror that structure, not only so that the words would dovetail nicely with the music, but also so that they could be delivered with the same sensibility – albeit in a different accent – as he did.

With the score and music in place, it was time to set the stage.

– DAVID BEN

Card Table Artifice

 

 

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