KES Transactions on Innovation in Music

Publisher Future Technology Press
Vol. 1 No. 1 Special Edition - Innovation in Music 2013
Article TitleInterdependable: Case studies on improvisation, composition and choreography in contemporary dance.
Primary AuthorRobert Smith, University of South Wales
Other Author(s) Ben Challis
Pages 201 - 212
Article ID im13bk-018
Publication Date 17-May-15
AbstractThere is now a considerable history of interactive dance/music, spanning examples such as musical and dance interdependence in long-established forms such as Bharatha Nattyam, Morris and tap-dancing. There are also more recent occurrences such as Meredith Monk’s use of the same performers’ bodies to produce the music and the movement and the oft cited Cage and Cunningham’s Variations V where dancers’ movements triggered score elements via sensors, and so on. In our recent practice we have been exploring the use of custom built and off-the-shelf digital musical instruments to explore a range of relationships between performative musical gesture and sonic outcome such as might be useful in facilitating musical participation by people with special needs, and in improvised musical situations (i.e. in our own performances and those of our students). In the last couple of years, using similar technology and improvising/compositional strategies, we have created scores for dance pieces by the choreographer Sean Tuan John. In these we have used digital technology with a range of interfaces to explore the situation of improvising with dancers, working out rhythmic patterns in situ which aid the required dance movements, recording the musical ideas we generate in the exploratory improvisation sessions and then using these as the bases of sections of the finished score. This paper is a report on that process, strengths and weaknesses we have discovered in it, and an attempt to convey where we think the work might lead us. Reflecting on two case studies, firstly a score we created in spring 2013 for a show aimed at young children, and secondly a show we are currently working on, the first part of which is about to be premiered, the second part being an environmental installation piece on a small island in the Bristol Channel, we will show how these two different but related projects inform our current and, potentially, our future practice as part of a more structured approach to collaborative composition and performance-making. Presenting data from open discussions/interviews with Sean Tuan John and dancers from Bombastic Dance Company we reflect upon the experiences of dancers and choreographer working collaboratively within the compositional process, giving the ‘other side’ view of the compositional-chorographic axis. The current project, about to open, is called ‘Happiness Repeats Itself’ and has had us involved at the beginning of the devising and choreographic process. There is also to be a follow-on semi-installation work in the vaults under a Victorian shopping arcade in Cardiff where it is proposed that performers will be directly involved in triggering and manipulating sounds within the performance. Keywords: interactivity, interdependence, improvisation, composition, collaboration. References: Ferguson, J. R. (2013) Imagined Agency: Technology, Unpredictability and Ambiguity. In Contemporary Music Review, Vol 32, nos 2-3, pp 135-149. Abingdon, UK, Routledge. Peters, D. (2013) Haptic Illusions and Imagined Agency: Felt Resistances in Sonic Experience. In Contemporary Music Review, Vol 32, nos 2-3, pp 153-164. Abingdon, UK, Routledge. Towards a New Conceptual Framework for Digital Musical Instruments. Malloch, J., Birnbaum,D.,Sinyor, E. and Wanderley, M.: In: Proceedings of 9th International Conference on Digital Audio Effects (2006)

Assistive Technology and Performance Behaviours in Music Improvisation. Challis, B. P. and Smith, R. K. (2011) In Proceedings of ArtsIT 2011. ISBN: 978-1-936968-38-1 Inclusive Technology and Community Music. Challis, B.P. and Smith, R. K. (2008) In Proceedings of Accessible Design in the Digital World 2008.

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