Hi Franc, Hilary, and Eilon,
Thanks for taking the time to address some questions regarding your workshop and the resultant performance.
I want to start our discussion on the topic of movement.
Watching this video, I find it fascinating how comfortable with your bodies you are! For example: your ability to remain unwaveringly still is almost frightfully paralyzing. It might be useful to unpack a few things happening here with respect to movement, comfort & speed.
Regardless of how comfortable with your bodies you three seem to be, there is still an unsettling awkwardness in the physical relationship between you and your ‘props’ (musical instruments). For me, this awkwardness is manifest physically, visually, and sonically. I am interested to notice that a dissonance between familiarity/training and speed of movement is emphasizing in unexpected ways (sometime erasing and sometime amplifying) the ‘awkwardness’ being identified here.
Further, in line with considerations of technique, during the workshop sessions Hilary made a remark about the relationship between technique, speed-of-movement and the skin-of-the-body/surface-of-the-instrument interface – commenting that when moving through the learned choreography at faster speeds, it feels as though one is being ‘pushed through’ or ‘swept up in’ the motion, rendering it more challenging to “remain [on the] surface …[to] actually get the richness of the sound.”
The following two videos illustrate the difference that even a slightly faster speed (or rate of movement) can have on the comfort of technique. The two videos are chronologically ordered, with the first video demonstrating you three running through the choreography at performance speed and the second video at faster speed.
original choreography at performance speed
original choreography faster than performance speed
I am curious to know how this relationship between familiarity/training and speed-of-movement is being sensed or identified. Does awkwardness seem to fit the definitive bill or does that fail to capture what your feeling during performance?
I was aware of wanting to make a sustained sound in slow motion but I didn’t have the bowing technique. The sound produced was the immediate feedback but there is also the awareness of not knowing how to make an appropriate adjustment – either to get closer to the sound I wanted to make or to repeat exactly what I had done before. In terms of the movement, I can sense that an angle or a line was out, that I needed to speed up/slow down in relation to the others or the score, and at each moment have options to select. Without the same level of knowledge about how to bow a stringed instrument, my options were much more limited and the choices more haphazard – I didn’t know what would work. Listening to the recording though, I’m happy with the sonic contribution I made, even the almost inaudible sounds. I’m also pleased with my discipline because, with an unfamiliar instrument with strings and a large soundbox that’s also quite delicately balanced, there are very few accidental sounds. I’m not sure if that answers the first part of the question, but lack of technique was the most important issue for me in relation to the slow motion. A secondary concern was the balance of the instrument and I’d put that down to a lack of familiarity.
Awkwardness is probably right. I felt that some of my actions were awkward – but, as I said above, I liked what I heard when I just listened to the audio. I’d be curious to see how an experienced double-basser would reproduce the sounds I actually made.
Familiarity with certain types of movement – in my case elongated reaches of the arms, with an energy-line running through the fingers; flexibility of the upper body enabling ease of flexion and extension; feeling the feet on the floor as a grounding mechanism for whole-body movement – all these meant that the corporeal enactments around the piano and piano stool were reasonably fluid and un-strained. What was interesting, as a dancer, was of course the sound correlatives. What sound quality/resonance was I able to make with and through the choreographed movements of the body/instrument nexus?
The sense of ‘awkwardness’ came in at times because of course I was not simply a body-in-space but a-body-trying-to-make-sound-and-sound-in-relation-to-others-in space. On one very simple level, I had to employ more force, a stronger weight, than my habituated/trained self uses - I am thinking in particular of the fingers when strumming the piano chords. I have never ‘weighted’ my fingers in that way before. As a fresh corporeal sensation it was both awkward and charged.
For me, the speed of movement in the slowed down sequences was experienced as an expanding of detail, an accumulation of smaller actions that filled in the time period between remembered positions. I had some sense here of temporal/spatial markers, that act like stepping-stones. In the fast sequence these “stepping-stones” where fewer and positioned closer together, making my journey from the beginning to the end of the sequence seem rapid and contained. When we were instructed to stretch the sequence out over a longer period the spaces between these “stones” opened out and in these spaces more stones arose helping me to find a fluid continuum of motion over these longer durations. This adding of detail also helped me in focusing my attention over these durations, so as not to mentally drift away, or lose my awareness of the other performers.
Watching back through the film, I am struck by the intensity of focus and some of the muscular tensions that emerge as we slow down the sequence. I’m not sure I would call this awkwardness, but we definitely appear to be working hard and at times straining to realise our scores and maintain a synchronized relationship at this speed.