CoLab: Day 2

So we’ve now had 2 days on our project and it’s proving delightfully varied. This morning we did some more making, getting our timer circuits ready to go into the cameras, and in the afternoon we started to work on ideas for our performance at the end of the week.

This has been a little vague to start with – because we’re still working on the instruments, we can’t tell exactly what the electronic sound part of the performance will be like, but we had John’s single assembled camera to work with and John, Neil and I used some of the disposable cameras to simulate the effect of the flashes on the stage.

Work in progress

We worked with the lights out in the studio to try to give more of a feel for what it’ll feel like onstage, although as the studio has a glass wall and mirrors all around and the stage will probably be pitch black it’s not quite the same!

We’ve decided that the instrumentalists will be onstage with the dancers and that they’ll be playing improvised sounds that relate to the electronic sounds, which start very low, below the threshold of hearing, gradually rise, then when the flash of the camera goes off, they jump up in pitch and continue to rise beyond the threshold of hearing. It’s great that we have a variety of instruments – tuba, clarinet, oboe and piano because it gives us a really good range to work with.

I’m not really sure yet what my role is or should be in the final performance. I had thought about bringing my flute on the first day, but it had sounded like instruments wouldn’t be needed. Today I was giving a little feedback on what the performers were doing but as John has such strong ideas for the piece, I feel a little redundant. Hoping this will become clearer as the week goes on.

The dancers started developing their own version of John’s Hug piece today. It’s coming along nicely and may end up being a part of our performance on Friday. We even took this out into the (very slippery!) foyer of Laban, which is a very interesting acoustic space for this type of thing – I was fascinated to hear how the asymmetrical architecture changed the sound as the dancers moved around the space.

Our first public performance!

Natalia and Stefania in our first public performance!

We also played with another of John’s instruments – another one made from a tin can, like the Sudophones, but this one is light-responsive and percussive. I don’t know what it’s called. It has a light-sensor on a long cable and responds to light by making the can rattle rather than by creating electronic sounds. Its battery is attached to a Matchbox car so it can move with the tin and it has a lovely enormous ostrich plume attached, which shakes in response to the can’s movement – a beautiful visual effect. I wanted to try it out on the slippery slope of the Laban foyer when we went out to perform Hug, but the one we had with us got knocked and I think John wanted to check it over before it was used again, so I didn’t get to do that.

Dancers love the feathers!

I’m actually quite liking being at Laban for this though. At first I felt a bit exiled, being so far from Trinity (10 minutes walk for a dancer but 20 minutes’ trek for an injured composer!) but the benefit of being in new surroundings is that it’s making me not just fall into old habits – at lunchtime I can’t just go off and sit with my friends like I usually do, can’t just go to the library, so it’s always about the project and keeping me focused. I think that’s a good thing.

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