The 19th Step

a performance dialogue

Friday, September 12, 2008

"I love his work because every one of his pieces contains a model of the universe or an attribute of the universe...because his stories often take the outer form of some genre from popular literature, a form proved by long usage, which creates almost mythical structures"
Italo Calvino on Borges

Monday, May 5, 2008

The 19th Step and Virtual Worlds?

I've been with my avatar (a digital character) Fraser Fonda on Architecture Island in Second Life. We have used SL as a kind of studio and discussion space sometimes during the project. Working there made me think about different types of images existing there, the avatar, the digital model, the photograph, an animation. It reminded me that when Marcus talked about dimensions beyond the 3rd he said that the 4th wasn't just time as many of us think, but the dimension consisted of information, eg the stock market figures, or the temprature etc. A virtual world allows us to embed text and links to other webpages in the digital objects. At the moment this version of the 19th step dance floor in SL has the address of the 19th step webpage embedded as a rolling text, Marcus's mapping of the library of Babel is repeated and animated in a digtal model that cuts through the space, I could also add sound files, animate avatars to dance, give out note cards, and video extracts as well as holding live events in real time.

Friday, April 18, 2008

response to 9th April performance

from Simon Ellis

My experience was wonderfully dominated by the sonic. I felt part of - or immersed in - some huge rumbling organism, struggling for breath, reverberant, and inhabited by sibilant half sounds. This experience was quite different from any theoretical notion of the'finite but unbounded' ... the bounds of the conventional black box, its traditions of 'removal' from reality seemed at odds with an unbounded finity.

The mix of pre-recorded and live audio was deeply engaging.

I was often drawn to a notion of 'the unfinished' - of letters devoid of words, of partially completed sounds ... about mid way through the materials this sense of the 'incomplete' within the work felt quietly ecstatic.

Within the more formal conventions of the work - its location, use of light, crafted entrances and exits - I was excited by the presence of the 'unmanaged' ... when books fell, when one of the dancers dropped a book in the standing sequence, in the misshapen and subtly warped blackboards struggling to be aligned by the performers, in Marcus dealing with compass, ruler and ladder against a mobile blackboard.
The intrusion of these moments seemed to infect what was described as an oscillation between 'order and chaos' - as if I was occasionally reminded of just how much potential for the unplanned, the disordered there is in the act(s) of performance. These infections seemed to roughen the edges of the formal characteristics of the work (right down to their waistcoats etc).

This next thought is a little more uncertain - or incomplete. It has to do with embodiment, and with my memory of the act of solving mathematical equations at high school and university level, and now similar experiences in writing code. It represents a sort of collision between how 'mindful' those activities are, in which I
often approach a strong sense of the 'disembodied' ... they are experiences in which I find it hard to reconcile the dissolution of a mind-body split. And yet, seeing Marcus 'release' a solution onto the blackboard was extraordinary (his sense of embodiment was strongly contrasted with seeing the performer engage in that 'solving'conversation - she was so clearly writing something 'learned', not something 'experienced'). This tension - between states of (dis)embodiment - seems a difficult line to tread ... how much of the processes and conversations so clearly present in the development ought to be made transparent to viewers? (an old question I know but it seems to assume greate importance in a work 'about' mathematical concepts). At the same time, seeing Marcus write the solution disconcertingly reminded me of how Hollywood has portrayed the
'mathematical genius' (inevitably flawed) ... Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind ... it's as if there is a kind of romance in the depiction/representation of this activity that is utterly opaque to us mathematical mortals!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Music, mathematics and embodied knowledge.

For a musician looking at the relationship between mathematics and music is like, having lived in the world of shadows and reflections, to then turn around and examine the objects creating those shadows and reflections, and the light that connects the two worlds. When we compose, perform or listen to music, we are engaging with number and geometry on multiple levels, consciously and unconsciously. The mathematical ‘data’ in music is understood and interacted with as musical phenomena - from how we count metre or hear pitch to how we comprehend harmonic motion or structure a fugue - as musical gesture and form. The mathematical knowledge we acquire or apply in learning music – counting, calculating, transposing – is embodied knowledge that we approach from a musical perspective. It becomes intuitive to us as musicians - a part of the way we are ‘musical’ rather than the way we are ‘mathematical’.

If mathematics is embodied within musical phenomena then its transformation is via the body. Musical gesture and form must make sense physically, on a human scale, in order to be perceived as music (though the boundaries of this perception are continually being challenged and extended). The mathematics that is manifest in music has a relationship to the ways our body perceives the world: both in terms of immediate sonic phenomena – scale, harmony and duration – and structure on the level of musical gesture, phrase or sentence, as well as the architectural dimensions of form, proportion and symmetry.

I am interested to investigate the embodied knowledge I possess as a musician in terms of the mathematics that underpins it, in order to extend and intensify my understanding of music. Because of the essential connection through the body, interacting with mathematics ‘live’ through performance facilitates the transfer of knowledge on deeper somatic and sensory levels. Choreography and sculpture both serve to underline the vital link with the body and senses by building connections with the music and with each other as well as the mathematical content. In this way our access to embodied knowledge becomes multi-sensory and multidimensional.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The 19th Step Third and Final Research Performance at Laban

Yesterday, Saturday April 12th, The 19th Step research performance was performed at Laban in the Studio Theatre. This was last performance during this intensive development process.
The image below show the performers and Carol and Dorothy discussing notes at Laban. The image below shows the start of the performance experimenting with different projections which was accompanied by text read from the Aleph.

Some of the audience stayed after the performance for a post show discussion.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The 19th Step Second Research Performance at Boundstone College

Yesterday April 11th the 19th step research performance went to Boundstone College in Lancing, West Sussex. We had an after show discussion.
Setting up the space in the school hall. Kim up ladder sorting the lights.
Opening moments on the red curtains in Boundstone College hall.

During the performance Dylan and Marcus chalk hexagons on the blackboard dance floor.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The 19th Step First Research Performance

Wednesday 9th April the first public research performance of The 19th Step 7.30 took place at the Michaelis Theater Roehampton University, with a talk after discussing the process.

During the afternoon we had another dress rehearsal, and Oliver a professional photographer took images during and after, this pic shows him at work.

This image captures the opening moment of the the performance.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The 19th Step Development Day 13, run through, lighting and dressrehearsals

Yesterday the 19th step research performance began dress rehearsals, we also had a walk through so Mike could plot where the stage lights should be and tried out some ideas for costumes.
The musicians chalk on the mic blackboard which amplifies the sound of the drawing.
The three couples, Rose and Marcus create the hexagon inside the circle, Marina and Dylan trace the shape of the hexagon and trace circles in their dance movements as Sarah and Scott create musical hexagons and circles in their duet.
The trio Sarah on flute, Marina and Rose draw their made up alphabet shapes.
Scott, Marcus and Richard in an equation trio, Marcus caught mid circle.
The final moments Rose supporting two triangles constructed by the performers from the dance floor boards, an idea of the Aleph or a false Aleph? This clip from the 19th step research performance shows couples Scott and Sarah percussion and flute, Marina and Dylan dancing and Rose and Marcus drawing circles and hexagons, also trying out for some costume ideas and lighting cues.

This clip shows a part of the trio, Sarah, Rose and Marina performing the column books part of the research performance.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The 19th Step Development Day 12, run through

Today the performers had a run through of The 19th Step Research Performance
Richard and Dylans duet.
Dylan and Marina dance while Scott and Richard mark the chalk board which is amplified.
Sarah, Dylan, Rose and Marina sounds and following shape of hexagon
Marina traces the hexagon
Sarah on flute Marina and Rose trio

Friday, April 4, 2008

The 19th Step Development Day 11, exploring books and the idea of the Aleph

Carol and the dancers explored using the books, stacking, making a column of books and the Marina and Rose as columns. Trying out ideas for costumes.

Using a column of books as part of the Aleph idea, how to use the projections.

The clip below shows the dancers walking the shape of the hexgon with their books.