Rehearsal No. 2

This was the second time we had all met together to work on the collaborative piece of performance we would shape. The last meeting was the end of May and it had been 4 weeks since our first tentative steps were taken. I had mused on the ideas and concept I’d initially brought in, themes of renewal, repair, of seascapes and heartbeats. I had wondered what elements of sound would bring these themes together to form a coherent whole. Whether the elements of sound, movement and performative actions would convey the right level of contemplation, intimacy and depth that I felt the themes had.

Leading up to our 2nd rehearsal in Leeds Beckett’s studio space I’d begun to think about the circle itself. Was it big enough for two people to perform in, did it show the interplay of relationships, the weaving in and out, was it a constraint? I added another circle into the sketches and thought perhaps that would add a further space to come in and out of. I envisaged Maria and Steph to perform in both those spaces yet what I’d not expected was that they would invite me in to use the space with them. We met outside the space today and talked outside in the park before trying to work it out in the space. It helped. We were all exhausted for differing life/work reasons and so sitting talking through ideas really helped take some pressure off over taxed minds in which to let ideas develop in time. So we talked of other circular spaces and when they suggested I draw one of the circles and fill it with salt with them it seemed natural to add a third circle into the final performing space.

Through our talking we got to map out the stages of the performance which had a structure as follows;

  1. The room is bare except for lines of tape on the floor. Audience will enter the space and find a seat. The first soundtrack will play while this is happening.
  2. We enter the space and begin to mark out our circles (3 in total) and to then fill in each circle. This may or may not have a mic input to external speaker.
  3. I leave the space and set up sound for later.
  4. Maria & Steph perform (on floor and walking along path) and meet at the edge.
  5. I trigger soundtrack for Maria & Steph to move in the final section.
  6. We all then take our section of tape and pull it off the floor to reveal marks underneath.
  7. We all leave the space.

We spent 4 hours today walking this through, shifting ideas back and forth – trying things out. Discarding some, retaining others. It’s an interesting dynamic to work in collaboration. I found it a process of both inputting then stepping back, testing ideas brought in, seeing if they worked. Trying to find the subtle sensitive balance between fulfilling their needs for the project, my needs for the project and what we were conveying, what the audience received.

It is however a slightly improvised piece and may shift on the day. We also decided that the space we performed in was also to be a working space and therefore we would have feet marks outside the circular forms, a laptop and string we used may be left lying around, marks of our process would be visible, there would be transparency.

 

 

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Quest

In a quest to find the sound of our heart, in an electromagnetic frequency sense I got in contact with two cardiologists through a friend working in the NHS.  Although for some time I’d been recording my own heartbeat through the use of a contact mic, the signal was low and the sounds are a reverberation through muscle, skin, tissues, bone. I was aware also of the use of the Doppler for recording foetal heartbeats. An echocardiogram uses a doppler to hear the whole heart cycle and to listen to each heart valve, the right rhythm indicative of a healthy heart. It is one of the most common tests for electrical activity. What I was trying to ascertain though was could a printed ecg heart wave rhythm be translated into different frequencies. When the sinus wave peaked did that correlate to a particular pitch? Could we hear the sound of our hearts in a different way?

I started to look into the shape of an ECG waveform:

ecg

positive deflection – when the electrical activity of the heart travels towards a lead.  negative deflection – when activity travels away from a lead.

The electrical activity of the heart flows in many directions at once – the wave on a ECG represents the average direction.

Height of a wave – amount of electricity flowing in that direction. A regular sinus rhythm 60 -100 beats per min (82bpm). Ultrasound – above 20Khz (20,000Hz).

Reflecting on ECG waveforms and recording my heartbeat gave me the rhythm translated as a sound wave. On further conversation with both cardiologists I discovered that the Doppler is velocity based and the signal will be different from the ECG, ie the doppler is listening to the speed of blood circulating around the heart, the ECG is recording the electrical signal. It’s the electrical signal I want to map the sound of. They suggested I need a physics expert and that’s where I’ve reached a stopping point. It may be that this can be translated into a bigger project, to begin mapping the body and it’s sonic capacity in different ways. To work in collaboration with a team. It may also be a non starter.

heartbeat wave

This mini research however and the notion of measuring velocity and thinking of volumes of liquid set me thinking of the capacity of the heart, it’s holding capacity, it’s significance as a vessel, or set of chambers, not only in a physical sense but in a metaphorical one.

A holding of expectation, a carrier of emotions, a signifier of feeling.

Heart Matters

heart

 

It is only really at this point in the final project Practice 2 module that I am beginning to pull together the floating fragments of my aims. To clarify what I am trying to achieve. I realise on reflection that doing the creative work brings together the why more organically. However, I have been stuck in my mind as usual trying to think it out instead of feel the way through.

Over the last couple of months time in the darkroom has gestated prints using sea salt both in cyanotype form and as photograms. It’s structure and luminosity have brought this mineral to light. It works well using light as a medium and will at some point be worked into the final program in the shape of some visual media.

I’ve turned to film also as an exploratory medium in trying to express some of the ideas I’m working with. In these exploratory months I’ve filmed the sea, the movement of waves in and out, a walk along the tideline and I’ve filmed people, people moving in an arts space, responding or not to the space and each other and where they find myself. For each of these mini films I’ve made some short soundscapes to accompany the way the visuals move. Most of these have been piano based and using few notes as per my minimalist practice of working.

There have been recurrent themes: sea, movement, salt, minerals, relationships between human and land/sea, relationships to each other.

More recently I have returned to an earlier recording method I had employed, that of recording body sounds to include that of the heart beat. There is a theme of heart, rhythm, electrical fields, bodily substances which are underlying this project. The embodied sound, the physicality/materiality of sound. I began to wonder how would an ecg reading translate to an audible signal.

Luckily I was put in contact with two cardiologists and was able to ask them some technical questions. They suggested using a doppler, yet this measures velocity not electrical activity. The process I am trying to get to may well be harder than first imagined. I perhaps need to speak with a physicist? Perhaps I can score the heart rhythms to create musical notes?

And now I have a harp in tow. My aim over the next few weeks is then to combine the heart beat sounds, with those of perhaps harp strings and add them to the recordings of the dancers moving across salt? (this should be in prep for the next two weeks all being well)…