Laurie Grove Laban Centre, London. 21-02-2014
Trinity Laban's 2014 CoLab project. Concept by Eman Carbone, performed live at the Laurie Grove Laban Centre, London. 21-02-2014
Dancers & choreographers: Theo Spence, Mathilde Svedlund, Sara Røisland Torsvik, Sophie Tellings, Maude Zimmerli (and their recorded selves)
Musicians & composers: Eman Carbone - bass, Alvaro Siculiana - piano (and their recorded selves)
The main idea behind this project came to me during last year's CoLab. As a part-time Mmus student, I had the chance to watch a variety of other students' performances without being involved. I acknowledged that many projects included pre-recorded media within the performance, but I was wondering whether it could be possible to push the interaction with such material further more.
Therefore, I had the idea of a full interaction with pre-recorded visual and audio tracks, to generate a sort of meta-dimension otherwise unrealisable within a fully live performance. I have always been fascinated by the contrast of warm live performance and recorded manipulation, but also by the challenge of successfully merge theme in a harmonic and productive way, and by then I already knew that the next year I had to come up with this proposal.
When I saw that my proposal had been approved to be turned into a feasible project, I felt rather pleased that my initial vision got through and could turn into a real collaboration, rather than a self-referential concept. However, I noticed that some of the roles suggested, primarily a choreographer and a musical composer in charge of producing the performance material, were cut from the team. Instead of seeing it as a limitation, I saw it as an opportunity to readdress my initial modus operandi and cooperandi, as this proved to be a chance to better tune-in with one another and involve the right degree of improvisation required by this very complex interaction.
The exciting thing about our first meeting was that we all admired the concept and the idea behind it, yet we all had our own unique interpretation and vision of it, which could result in a too vast mole of themes and approaches to handle. We started from the staccato/legato theme and we started to work as two separate departments to build some music and dance material.
At this stage I had the feeling that the two terms were very common ground for musicians and it was easier for us to deal with them, compared to the dancers. Moreover, we as musician have more opportunities to record ourselves and play along recorded tracks (most of non-classical productions happen via multi-track recordings) and both Alvaro and I had some experience with that technique, not to mention that we already knew each other, personally and musically. It seemed that dance-wise, such task proved to be more challenging: both terms tend to have a more vague and synaesthetic value in motor activities. In addition to that, dancing and interacting with recorded visual material is far less usual and perhaps comfortable.
As a way to overcome such challenges, we all agreed that a more minimalistic start was needed, always bearing in mind that in the end we would have been doubled by our recorded selves. Starting with some limitations, such as allowing just fewer dancers to move at the same time, not only allowed to avoid a hardly controllable cluster, but also helped us to focus on more convincing performance ideas to build our CoLab on. A similar skimming process also happened for the music, forcing ourselves to play just a limited set of notes and rhythm figures.
As the starting ideas became organized in a time line of events and gradually evolved, another criticism emerged: Gwyn Pritchard (our music mentor) and I felt that we were a bit too shy to let ourselves go and explore the extremes that a strong staccato/legato contrast could trigger.
Such thought could have also come from my past learning experience in IAT-Gong, an art institute based in Genoa, which gave me the chance to get in touch with a number of traditional arts belonging to different cultures around the world, embracing music, dance and theatre. Even though this can be referred to an educational background, its involvement was mainly practical and in the form of hands-on workshops and laboratories. I think that my background allows me to approach and embrace cross-discipline tasks in a more personal, energetic and involved way, rather than feeling the urge to strictly rely on scholastic notions.
We somehow then all agreed that we could dare more. However, when I got the opportunity to not be involved in the music creation and fully observe the dance material without distractions, or even more to watch the playback of our recorded rehearsals, I pleasantly realized that an interesting and valuable effect emerged just by the way music and dance contrasted at times, not to mention that some of the editing applied to our video material allowed some simple yet effective spatial illusions which created a sense of uneasiness, disorientation and tension just by themselves.
A traditional Japanese dance called Butoh, which I had the chance to know thanks to the aforementioned workshops, came to my mind and some of its peculiar traits served to me as guidelines: we could create and transmit tension just with prolonged static yet dramatic states and postures, which then could resolve in temporary powerful releases of energy.
We also started to question such contrasts in an apparently never-ending cycle of tension and resolution, not only inherent in the relation between staccato and legato, but also in most of the aspects of composition in music.
These ideas played a very important role to determine the first part of the staged performance.
The more the performance got a convincing and self-sustaining shape, the more we allowed ourself to detach from the initial dualism of staccato and legato.
We decided not to explicitly mention such terms to the audience, since we agreed that their primary means were to achieve a common starting ground and to set the main character of the whole work.
I personally think that we let such dichotomy be expressed in a number of ways. Musically, we always allowed some interaction between the two elements, getting advantage of the recorded tracks: at times we agreed that the piano could play more staccato in relation to a legato double bass part and vice-versa, or even in relation to our same recorded instruments. We explored a variety of timbrical contrasts and the use of tense intervals such as the tritone. We made diminished and whole-tone scales interchange in apparently non resolving melodic patterns, then finally find their way into intervals belonging to the major scale, albeit in an unmistakeably modal, non-tonal outcome.
We built both the start and the end of the piece over a simple and pulsating repetition of the main reference note, a D2 played by the double bass in very contrasting ways – first plucked with a Bartok-pizzicato and recorded then bowed and played live - to give the whole work a structural sense yet to convey two antithetic states, as some of the tension presented at first resolved into its counterpart in the end.
For the last part of the whole piece, the double-bass also allowed me to play sustained, bowed notes with glissando to create a very legato musical effect, yet keeping a dynamic portamento which is constantly aiming to reach and embrace the intervals from both sides, reminiscent of Indian Raga singing techniques. I think such technique has a dramatic sonic effect, especially when juxtaposed with the fixed, tempered notes played by the piano.
To conclude, we all agreed that the outcome of this intense week spent working together has resulted to be way more satisfactory than we imagined. The marvellous thing about a CoLab, especially when it develops from your ideas, is that keeping the collaborative side of it very open and of uppermost importance allows to create something otherwise unimaginable before. We all had some sort of personal visions of the project in mind, yet the final performance we created could only happen from a shared experience, our potentials and even our technical limitations. Some of the challenges provided by a not fully adequate equipment and space became an urge to come up with original and inventive solutions. It has been a very formative and emotional process for all of us involved, we have all established a bond which goes beyond this task, we keep on seeing and contacting one another in our personal lives and we don't exclude to revise and re-propose this work again in the future.