Summing up Dirty Electronics

I’m writing this on Saturday because, seriously, who blogs at an after-party?? And blogging on 2 vodka, lime & tonics is not a sensible thing. So it’s a little late, but in the interests of coherence.

It was kind of a short working day yesterday, mainly so we didn’t wear ourselves out for the performance. All the making was finished on Thursday, so on Friday morning we musicians helped to put away all the detritus from the making and dismantled the tables so we could use the whole studio space, while the dancers warmed up. As the dancers were going to start with rehearsing Hug, we took our Sudophones and Merztins and made our way onto the actually-not-terribly-comfortable beanbag cushions outside the studio to work on Stealth. Neil contributed an excellent suggestion, which was to take advantage of the impression that a short loud sound sounds like a quiet sound so we shaped the piece so that the first sounds in the opening were shorter, but more open, gradually growing longer and playing more with the muting as they lengthen. I think this worked better in the larger space, ultimately, because the shorter, louder sounds carried better than the longer quieter ones.

We also finessed the ending and how we would use the space. We decided to be seated in the audience, on the ends of rows, so that it would feel like more of an intervention, as it did in the pub. We came up with a plan to all stand up at the point of “coming out of the closet”, then make our way to the stage for the end of the piece. Our videographer (VERY collaborative this session!) suggested that it might work better if we stood up individually rather than all together, so we ran with that, but with moving towards the stage at about the same time. And for the ending, we improved this by all improvising together once on the stage, with the bird whistles from the Merztins carrying on while the Sudophones started their wail upwards, dropping out to leave the Sudotins, which then dropped out one by one until it was just me holding the last wailing note.

I think that getting Stealth to work better has reinforced what I was thinking when the stuff I worked on on Wednesday didn’t really come off – Stealth really is all about gestures: start quiet and with wide spaces, build the improvisation, stand up and let the improv rip, end with group wails. The only part of that that’s to do with actual specific sounds is the ending, which uses an easy-to-get sound-feature of the Sudophones, unlike the sounds I was tinkering with before which required very specific hand positions and lightness of touch.

After that was sorted and the dancers had done with Hug, we ran through Still, the camera piece, until lunch, refining our moves, and specifically working on who was switching cameras on and off when. I volunteered to turn on the first camera because originally, Eleanore was doing that then moving across in the pitch dark to turn on camera no. 2, so this was an improvement. Plus it made me feel more useful! We also did a final run-through without the sound, which I captured on video (below) which was quite amusing as everyone tried to simulate the electronic rumbles and pings and the instrumentalists tried to replicate their instruments’ sounds!

(also, I very carefully plugged my camera into the wall on Thursday night so it would have a full battery for Friday – and then left it there. So Friday’s photos and vid are a bit lo-fi due to having had to resort to snapping with the iPad!)


After lunch we had a short session talking about the week and where we raised any questions we had, which didn’t go on for terribly long, after which there was mending and stretching and tuba-polishing and chat.

Dancers mend their static boxes

Liz polishes her tuba

At about 3, we sauntered off to check out some of the performances happening for other projects. It was like a mini Edinburgh Fringe out there! I saw a couple of dance performances, a project to do with role-reversal, in which the musicians danced and the dancers played instruments, and a 40-minute musical on the songs of Robbie Williams. Crazy!

We had a rehearsal in the hall at 5, where we set up the cameras, ironed out tech problems and got to run all the pieces once, which was very enlightening. “Dark” really was very dark indeed! After the rehearsal, John told me that Marie was going to switch off my camera so I wouldn’t have to come back on in the dark, which was probably sensible, but being unrehearsed it meant that that camera went off a good 5 minutes before it should have, so the end of the piece changed in the final performance, but I still think it worked well.

And I think the final performance went off really well! We all found seats on the ends of rows and started in with Stealth before the lights went down, while people were still talking, which was actually great. Theo actually came over to talk to me just after I’d started and I had to shoo him back to his seat! Heh 😀 Nobody fell down the stairs or tripped over a cable, and while there were some giggles when the first flashes went off for Still, they stopped pretty quickly. Hug also went down well, and I think John was right to have the order as it was – it was a lighter ending, which made the Death and the Maiden project which followed a bit less of a contrast than it might have been.

The rest of the concert was fabulous – Death and the Maiden (what I saw of it) and the WWI poetry piece were both great and the AfroBeat band were simply fantastic! I had no idea Cassie had such an amazing voice! And Alex too! A really great set to end on, then all the composers went off to the bar to chat and listen to the Brazilian band project, which started a little loungey, but pretty quickly was turning out some great sounds.

Really excited about what I might find at Trinity next week – I’m looking forward to seeing what else has been going on after my taster at Laban yesterday!

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