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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Approaching Nocturne Film

Clare has released this final cut of the Approaching Nocturne event back in June at Studio 24. It is a good use of both soundtracks (mine and Ben’s) and shows both the dancers and the choir in performance. Also a good overview of the visual art. Although already critically reflected upon in Practice 1 I wanted to include a link to it here as I hadn’t previously got adequate footage of the event as on the day I was so concerned with sound EQ (note to self, remember to always have a filmmaker in with you!).

 

 

6 Music Live Radio

Today I witnessed a live BBC Radio production outside of a traditional radio studio. Based in Ferens Art Gallery, Hull and as part of the Art is Everywhere weekend in conjunction with the Turner Prize 2017 Maryanne Hobbs of 6 music broadcast inside the gallery space.

It was fascinating watching the set up. From a tech point of view she broadcast via a laptop and a mic which was so portable and which moved with her according to when she was interviewing guests or speaking to the audience. On a table next to her was an artist Sam Winston who was drawing in relation to the music she played…relevant in a how do we visualise sound/music way. There seems to be more of this theme around in contemporary music and art platforms currently. Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival ran a drawing in response to sound workshop during November.

On the opposing side to her desk was the sound/mixing desk and a small area for the string quartet playing plus two keyboards for Philip Selway.

The audience were allowed to roam in and out and producers and BBC staff moved around taking photographs.

I include it in research methods for the reason of analysing radio as performance. I loved the informal nature of the production. It combined watching performance, dialogue, live art with a broadcast. It made me think of using this format in a production and most certainly added to my interest in creating content for radio shows, perhaps in a sonic art way as the shows produced by Resonance FM. More recently I’ve listened to many Radio 3 and Radio 6 shows combining elements of word and sound in their shows, thematically linked to a specific set of ideas, genres, or concepts.

Radio also for me is one of the formats/mediums in which the ‘intimacy of sound’ can be harnessed. I find there is a particular resonance when the theme of the radio broadcast, the voice of the presenter and the particular time of day synergistically mould together to create a sonic world in which one can find oneself ‘in tune’ and spoken to directly. Almost on a one to one.  Or perhaps one can feel a part of something greater, when there’s an awareness of many listeners tuned in at the same time. This naturally is enhanced by social media’s role in being able to communicate directly with the DJ and therefore a community is created.

Radio as performance. One to consider. I was musing on the journey back home how to conduct a radio show as a soundwalk as a live event, not pre-recorded (aside from some of the music to be played)…is this possible?

 

Performance & Uncertainty

Today I attended the Performance & Uncertainty Symposium held at The Tetley in Leeds which heralded the opening of the Dora Garcia exhibition, ‘These books were alive; they spoke to me!’.

The speakers/performers included photographer Casey Orr, performer/videographer Harold Offeh, film/installation artist Corin Sworn, visual & performance artist Rana Hamadeh, artist & researcher Dora Garcia and artist/writer/lecturer Kiff Bamford of Leeds Beckett University.

The day was a combination of performances and speaker events. I caught both Rana Hamadeh’s sound-play and heard Dora Garcia speak. So my reflections are on both of these events.

I knew nothing of Rana Hamadeh’s previous work until now so I entered this performance with no previous experience of her work or preconceptions. It was an interesting set up and predominantly a sound piece, although she was clear to state that she specifically referred to the work as a ‘sound-play’ as it was intended to be a promenade performance where the audience moved around the space and there were  no areas to sit or ‘view’.

The set up from an audio/sound perspective was interesting. I counted 7 large speakers on stands all connected to amps, two vocal mic’s in different positions, one mic near the floor with a stack of metal chains next to it, one speaker facing the wall for a separate vocal channel and a laptop running Logic Pro on a mixing desk.

To be honest I found the whole performance really quite disturbing. The initial soundscape was deep, intense and loud. (earplugs were given out and I wore mine). Then Rana came into one of the vocal mice and began speaking although there was such a big level of intentional reverb effect on her vocals that the words were difficult to define and the delivery was gloomy and foreboding.

Intermittently the vocals stopped and and another soundscape brought in, then Kiff Bamford spoke a part on a different vocal mic, then it flipped back to more from Rana. I moved around the room often to get a sense of what was playing out. I noticed they also had a Zoom H4 on one speaker at the back recording the whole thing.

It was 50 minutes long and deeply intense. What was more interesting was watching how the audience responded to the space and the sound. I sensed a great uncomfortableness, a dislocation, people didn’t know really where to put themselves. Some had faces of bewilderment, others of intense concentration, some of misunderstanding, some of intellectual enquiry. Some found a spot and stayed there, others moved around often. I found myself wishing it was finished sooner because it was so so intense and foreboding but was hoping I’d discover at the end more about the work.

There was a short discussion after where Rana explained that she was in part re-enacting a Shi’ite ritual of a ceremony, Ashura, from the Sunni Muslims in Lebanon which involved ritual chanting and self flagellation.

I took the opportunity afterwards to speak with her briefly. I asked her what it was like for her to perform such a piece and more about the rituals and how they take place in Lebanon. She said for her it wasn’t too much to perform such a big piece, she was so used to it and that she wanted it to feel uncomfortable and disorientating. It was. It was made so much more disorientating given the multi channel use of speakers. She mentioned that previous performances had been done in rooms of much smaller proportions than the larger room we were in. I can only imagine the intense immersive-ness of that experience.

Dora Garcia spoke next. She was really interesting and spoke a lot about her work with performance and literature. She spoke of her alternative practices of performance, of combining audiences who have ‘inside’ information of the performance coupled with those who are not privy to such information. She spoke of exploring Argentinian art ‘happenings’ which were reported in the press but which never actually ‘happened’. And she spoke of her recent work drawn from theories by psychoanalysts Freud and Lacan and the relationships between repetition and memory.

It was an incredibly diverse afternoon. My thoughts are quite dense about the whole experience. Initially I want to document that I feel I have an issue with ‘accessibility’ in relation to sound used in an art sense. What I refer to is that to receive as an audience something which is quite deeply intense and disturbing such as Rana’s work is more difficult to relate to. On further reading of her concepts and themes (which I have done subsequently through her work with the Liverpool Biennale) I can ‘understand’ the work and it has context, relevance and meaning. Yet it was a difficult piece.

Through Dora’s talk I really had my eyes opened to the divergent practice in the contemporary art world. How so many artists are working in ways way beyond the ‘traditional’ and conventional worlds of both visual and performance traditions. It was refreshing and intriguing. I need to research further.

Poetry & Performance

Last night I went to see Hollie McNish who was speaking as part of the Ilkley Literature Festival. I was blown away. Not only by her choice of words but also by her bravery in speaking the unspeakable especially surrounding being a mother. I can imagine reading her prose and poems are powerful enough, but to hear her read them out in the rhythm she does so well was really powerful and moving.

I’d not known much about her work before. I’d seen one video about breastfeeding in public which was uncomfortable viewing purely because all of what she said was true and it was such a sad reflection on the state of our society and how women are viewed as mothers.

There were collective murmours in the audience of agreement, of those that had felt exactly those feelings, of solidarity and of relief that here was this young woman so powerfully voicing all of what we felt.

And it was a insight into the power of performance. Something about being in a  theatre setting (or in fact anywhere with a dialogue between a live person/s and an audience) gives strength to what is being communicated. It gives the space a special feeling and energy which is difficult to convey in a medium such as television. It reminded me why I love performance in all it’s different varieties. Music, dance, theatre, spoken word all have the power to connect us with each other and that is the key to the work I aim to immerse myself in during this MA journey.

photocredit: greenbelt.org.uk