Saturday, September 4, 2010

Study of Euterpe, music and the muse

Megan and I began this process several months ago. After microcosmic current, and the other performances that occurred in the spring, I needed time to decompress and process; I also needed to continue working. I will be eternally grateful to Megan for agreeing to show up in the studio with me. She (very gently, but strongly) demanded that I continue working on the creative process; in return for her time, patience, honestly, and understanding, I was responsible for creating a new work for her.

In this new work, I decided to attack a critique that has weaved in and out of the past three years.

I have received criticism that my past work is not always musical - or that some of my mentors do not understand how I use music. Let me break down two common ways of working with music: Complementary Sound and Movement Partnerships and Simultaneous Experience. I feel that Complementary Sound and Movement Partnerships can be best explained by Mr. George Balanchine. He said "See the music. Hear the dance." Many ballet companies perform his work and his collaborations with Igor Stravinsky. (The Houston Ballet has some clips of his work on YouTube if you're interested.) Likewise, Martha Graham's collaboration with Aaron Copland on Appalachian Spring is a strong example of Complementary Sound and Movement Partnerships. This relationship is one where the dance and the music are representative of each other. The choreographer may choose to follow the specific rhythm of the music. A dancer's jump on a high level may correspond with a high note in the music. A character may be associated with a specific instrument, like in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. (There is much more to the definition, but for that, I encourage you to investigate the work on your own.)

Merce Cunningham and John Cage are the most famous examples of Simultaneous Experience. Cage (a composer) and Cunningham (a choreographer) would produce concerts where the dancers would hear the music for the first time during the performance. Cage would create his music. Cunningham would create his dance. The two experiences would occur in the same space and time for the first time during performance. This type of work demonstrated the significance of chance in our everyday life. Sometimes beautiful "accidents" happened. Sometimes the work just existed. I personally think it is quite fascinating that Cage and Cunningham were successful is translating life chances to the stage in this very real and honest form.

In my work, I am interested in the way a musical piece sounds, in the way it vibrates in my body, and in the research that the artist did in its creation.

Study of Euterpe was/is a practice of Complementary Sound and Movement Partnerships. Rarely, do I begin a work with a predesignated piece of music. This was an exciting and painstaking challenge. Megan and I worked intensely in our rehearsals listening to the music, listening to my body, listening for the most honest response to Mr. Bucci's music.

Mr. Bucci plays the Hang. It is an incredibly haunting instrument and resembles a UFO. It is quite as well; the instrument creates a haunting resonance that seems to float and linger in my own kine-atmosphere, slightly above my field of vision. The piece I chose with which to work was Evolution. I was interested in this instrument and Mr. Bucci's work because of the many tones, sound levels, and harmonies that can be created. Similarly, I believe that a solo body can create a symphony of sound, energies, and dynamic qualities. Like the Hang cannot be performed without its musician, the space cannot exist without its dancer. I view the space as my instrument and my body as the musician, dictating and deciding the notes with information from the space.

In creating this Complementary Sound and Movement research, I listened to Evolution constantly. First, I just listened. Then, I tried to break the work apart - to discern its levels and repetitions. I listened to Evolution while I performed everyday activities (dishes, laundry, etc.) to allow the music to enter my subconscious. In this way, I could interact with the music on multiple levels. Evolution has a circular quality and accumulates. In the moment when I, as a listener, thought I had the pattern figured out, the music shifted in a surprise twist and dove into a new direction. Initially, I improvised with Evolution after it had entered my subconscious. Its twists and dives became familiar to me and in my own rehearsals and improvisations, I listened as my body repeated similar patterns. These patterns developed into Megan's vocabulary and together, we fleshed out and played with the polyrhythmic qualities of Mr. Bucci's music as it swelled in our bodies.

I've titled the work Study of Euterpe because Megan and I are just beginning to dive into the performance of the piece. This work, in its current stage, is still an exercise in Complementary Sound and Movement Partnerships. I am fortunate to have the time, the space, and the willingness of a dancer and friend to engage with this delicate research.

Euterpe is the Greek muse of music and lyric poetry, one of the nine muses of Apollo. Her name means "rejoicing" or "delight." It is appropriate to acknowledge her in this process.

I'm posting the piece in its workshop form. This is still an academic and physical investigation. We're still exploring. Thank you to Megan and Mr. Bucci for your inspiration.

A very special thank you to Nanette Hudson Joyce for her incredible lighting design and for the opportunity to exhume the process.