Deck for Dance and Electronically Processed Found Sounds

FoleyAs part of our respective research programs, TAMU Dance professors Bergeron and Armstrong and I won a Collaboration Grant from the IDHMC in support of developing feasible approaches to incorporating live media in contemporary dance performance.

While dance is an art form that is typically viewed live more than other disciplines, logistical challenges commonly leave dancers to adapt prerecorded music to their performances. TAMU’s PerfTech (Performance Technology) initiative develops methods to use technology in-and-as live performance without simply replacing traditional instruments with synthesized copies. With modern live technology techniques, we plan to merge the early twentieth century technique of Foley art for live radio broadcasts with the techniques of musique concrète (fixed media art music) developed since the late 1940s to develop approaches to building meaningful connections between dance and sound through common semiotic ground. Similarly, we explored incorporating digital imagery into this intermedia performance.

We developed this in a collaborative performance called Deck in four brief movements, each exploring a different sense of the word: “Hit the Deck,” “Wooden (Backyard) Deck,” “Decked Out,” and “Deck of Cards.” This work was accepted for performance at the Big Range Dance Festival 2012 in Houston as a juried submission. The equipment funded with the grant will be used to support future collaborations of this type among faculty and TAMU students.

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StillMotion

All source sounds have been recorded during an average day in the lives of different people. In performance, the sound clips are fractured, so that the treble, middle, and bass frequencies of the sound act as three facets of a flexible beat pattern that articulates time. As they are played, the sounds travel toward, past, and away from the observer independently, causing their speed and pitch to be warped in time and space. The result is a texture of fragmented scenes, woven together, from multiple and mobile points of view in time and space, presenting the sound events as ephemeral strands of instants in time. StillMotion explores the ordinary sublime: on the one hand the impossibility of recording the everyday (as soon as it is marked, it is “elevated” in some way), and the impossibility of recording a performance (as soon as it is recorded it is a frozen text).

StillMotion was originally created for a collaboration with guest choreographers Rosane Chamecki and Andrea Lerner, and the dance and visual arts departments of Texas Woman’s University. Photographs and sounds were taken of the dancers acting out an average day in their lives. The photos were used as a basis for the choreography, and the music, choreography and set design grew together organically. The performance (January 31, 2004) consisted of dance depicting functions or feelings captured in the photos, stylized versions of photos on scrims hanging within space (sometimes invading the dance space), and this music, from processed sounds of the “average day.”

This piece exists in the form of a custom software application. It may be run over a long time span as an aural installation, over a short time as a concert piece for improvising electronics, or from fixed media as a concert piece. Although carefully composed, the aleatoric elements of the piece ensure a unique performance each time.

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Harmonies (They Spin)

openingThe title is an anagram of “Riemann Hypothesis,” one of seven mathematical mysteries that are part of the Millennium Problem challenge (offering a $1 million prize for a solution). It suggests that there is an underlying order to the distribution of prime numbers, which otherwise seems to be unpredictable.

In a similar spirit, “Harmonies (They Spin)” conjectures an underlying order to the seemingly ungraspable or unreconcilable. The counterpoint of sound and image presents an interaction between the attainable and the elusive, the harmonious and the dissonant. Binary oppositions are established, including noisy versus pitched timbres and regular pulses versus freely sweeping gestures, to explore the stable and unstable qualities of each when juxtaposed in various ways, approaching or diverging from a common center.

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