Saturday, June 14, 2014

3rd MVT Perspective

Our piece has 5 movements, and in the third, I will get to improvise on modern cello in a French Baroque style. Before I discuss the “modern,” “French,” “improvised,” and “Baroque” parts of this statement, I’d like to mention that the different characters of the improvisation are communicated through me physically by Natalia in her gestures. In fact, the name of the third movement is “communication.” This past year Ken worked with Tommy DeFrantz on many pieces, which integrated the Microsoft Kinect. Because time was of the essence in this collaboration, Natalia and I developed a vocabulary for five pre-programmed event motions such that her motion cues to me change which part of the texture I am in. Using the Kinect she can hold on to recorded musical material and layer it. Thus, there is potential in the improvisation to create a five part texture by overlapping the different parts.

Now for discourse on “modern,” “French,” “improvised,” and “Baroque.” I choose to use the modern cello, because of the implications for performance practice. The modern instruments have a entirely different technique in Baroque music than the Baroque instruments. In largest philosophical difference is that Baroque instruments hold the execution of the gesture paramount in practice, and then consider intonation most important in performances. The modern technique focuses on intonation in the practice room, and the gesture in performance. Because Ken plays guitar with a bow in an English Baroque style (reminiscent of a consort) in a previous movement, I choose to play in a Baroque style to highlight that it is somehow more socially acceptable for a modern cello to play Baroque music than a guitar with a bow. I chose to play in the French style for this specific movement, because the dotted rhythms of Natalia’s heart beat from the first movement “signal.” Although the outer movements focus on music from the English Baroque in d minor, this middle movement uses French style in Bb major. Finally, the idea of improvisation in a Baroque style is something that academics may or may not find appropriate, but it is something that can be practiced, and it is something that adds a new level of performance artistry for performance musicians. 

musical connotations

body on sprung wooden floor, breath

1st movement:: signal
de-accelerating heartbeat; sensor

2nd movement:: body
bowing of electric guitar
English choral polyphony
Choir without words

electronic sample
chant from Salisbury antiphonal (14th c.)
4th melodic piece of the set
reimagining of the piece through Brian Ferneyhough

3rd movement:: connection
modern cello in a Baroque style

French Baroque style-
inégal= unequalness mirrors heartbeat
stately, courtly
more about sex and syncopation

4th movement:: resonance
viola da gamba and electric guitar

lament baseline
from Purcell; Dido and Aeneas
contrapuntal idea
1600-1750 Baroque in music
grotesque period in Montiverdi's composition after madrigal
Baroque=disfigured pearl
excess; grotesque; metal; saturation; distortion
building intensity through timbral complexity
dissonance by proxy

5th movement:: interface
Solo viola da gamba

Friday, June 13, 2014

When is performance practice?

When is performance practice? Is it modern? Is it postmodern? A cellist playing a modern piece, by a modern composer, and on a modern cello has a performance practice with a variety of different ideas than playing Bach on a modern cello or playing Bach on a baroque cello.

So what is postmodern performance practice? Today Natalia discussed the idea of postmodern choreography versus modern choreography. She explained that postmodern ideas center around the relationship of physiological responses in the performer, opposed to modernists ideas of conveying a narrative to an onlooker.

As a Classical musician, I have been trained to hide my own physiological responses, because they often conflict with the mood, character or atmosphere that the composer is attempting to dictate through the music. For example, in “Aria No. 10^10” in some opera by a Classical Period composer, there exists a beautiful aria with some soprano. The mood is relaxed and reflective. After playing for nine hours before this aria, my body is anything but relaxed and reflective, yet I must convey this feeling—I must show the narrative.

Postmodern performance practice begins with the body, then adds the instrument. Not the other way around. The type of physical actions required to make sounds are more important than the sounds themselves. Ken pointed out a few pieces of cello that center around this idea. Christopher Tye’s “Dum Transisset” is an example of a piece that reflects an emphasis on the finding new ways to understanding musical content through a deeper understanding of the physical act of playing the cello. An interesting question is how much knowledge a non-cellist must possess to understand the artistic intent of the composer or the beauty thus created?

Baroque performance practice centers on the idea that the correct gesture will render the appropriate sound, and although modern cello, for example, is taught atomistically, the technique is always secondary to the sound idea, opposite the idea in baroque performance practice. So both postmodern and baroque performance practice begin with physiological sensation, and they both assume that the correct sound ideal will be rendered by such.

When Ken and I improvise, we are thinking the realm of the sound ideal: Controlling harmony, melody, and rhythm are paramount. However we physically create the sounds doesn't matter. But how can we explore musical improvisation with a postmodern dancer? Instead of us creating a sound world for Natalia's movement, how can she create a physical world for our sound?

There are many challenges for this, because the language of music, created by our collective sound ideal, prohibits a direct connection between the physical motions she renders and the gestures Ken and I make in response. Is there a way tech can help? Are there rules we can discover to ameliorate this process? If musicians only think about the physical motion required to play, how can they control melody, harmony, and rhythm in a way that conforms to our sound ideal?

And finally, why is it that dance and movement, to me personally, seem so much freer than music does? I enjoy experiencing, as an outside participate, postmodern dance so much more than postmodern music and improvisation. And this is because I have an expectation of an inherited sound ideal, which I perhaps lack in dance, because I have no formal training in dance.

Ken's Preparatory Work for the Resonant Week

The silicone molds for the XthSense sensor. #DIYattitude

A couple of potential pieces to base the musical composition or improvisation upon.


MotionComposer Media Uploads

Robert Wecksler and the MotionComposer 'Techno' environment.

Jonathan in the MotionComposer with the 'Drums' environment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

improvisational methodologies

DAY TWO in Bull City!

I'm grateful to be spending this week in Durham, North Carolina at Ken and Gail's lovely townhouse, in order to push my artistic, aesthetic, and collaborative assumptions. Travel and displacement are always wonderful ways to inadvertently add new limits to a method of working. Boundaries in exploration, freedom in arenas previously compressed.

It has been a challenging and enlightening experience to work with artists whose expertise vary across "disciplines," as we navigate our own presumptions and question each other's interpretations. It is rare to have such respect amongst collaborators that this sort of inquiry is made possible--so I am grateful for the rigor of our discussions, the shared passion for this project and this something larger we are still navigating but for now, are calling art. It is through this constant dialogue over meals, in the car, over drinks on the porch, in the kitchen sipping tea, in the hallway of the music school, in the workroom that we are able to sift through what lies at the heart of all of our interests in this larger thing we're calling resonance

And as every collaboration is wont to have, we found today in the studio that our mechanisms for composing through our different mediums did not aways synchronize. The methods themselves were dissonant--which for me caused many more false starts than necessarily fluid inspiration--and consequently, was illuminating for me to learn about my own process. The structured methodological assumptions I can make building a cumulative dance score with trained dancers and actors did not hold in this circumstance. Nonetheless, it was helpful and instructional to navigate the ways in which we tried to articulate our needs and desires to one another--itself indicative of larger relationship challenges between any two bodies in search of connection, let alone resonance, and/or interface. Heading into day three, I am excited to create a cartography for mapping out our processes themselves in order that we may better begin to communicate across mediums. In an almost prophetic way, the form is mirroring its function in that we have yet to successfully complete an input and output circuit that is interpretable by each of our components. And yet, the joy lies in the rewiring...

new concepts learned:
-consonants and vowels articulated in a bow, clearer articulation in a gamba string than a cello
-latency as a primary limitation in performance technologies
-horn calls
-the ethos of rhythmic music; communal versus ego-centric affect
-muscles are always pulling

-how can methodologies help us to communicate? what is it to empathize with another's method of creating
-how to continually generate new responses to (seemingly) similar sounds
-how do our actions create an environment that the presence of the other person is always necessitated?
P.S. I should also add that I feel really grateful to have Tommy de Frantz as our occasional interlocutor as we find him in and around the studio, and also that he is allowing us to use his space, the Slippage Lab for Dance and Technology at Duke University. He also invited us to meet Robert Weschler of Palindrome Dance Project this morning who showed us the capacity of his motion capture system. All you need to know is Ken fought off a swarm of bees and a flash flood, all in one day. Tomorrow ADF kicks off! Huzzah!