Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Collaborating in a purely musical and dance environment proved to be somewhat difficult, yet the piece we created turned out to be a work that reflected both of our ideas about our specific topic.

We wanted to create a piece that reflects trees. I was sitting in my kitchen, watching the trees blowing in a strong wind, and I thought this could be recreated in an artistic way through dance and music. Young Sun was also able to see a way that she could interpret the movement of trees in a physical way.

We decided to work on our specific part of the project individually and come together after we had initial ideas. A problem occurred when we realized that we both thought of trees in a different way. I had a more violent image of the trees, whereas Young Sun seemed to have a wider view of how trees move—slowly, quickly, violently, calmly, etc. We worked out different tempi, movements, repetition of ideas in the music and dance, and finally came to an agreement of how to portray the trees.

It's interesting to note that working alone and then coming together with our separate ideas is something that I find most appealing, rather than composing and choreographing together. I have worked with lyricists in this manner—writing all of the lyrics and music at the same time—and I feel that we achieved much better results than if we had worked together on the first elements of the project. However, it was nice to work in the same location. While I believe that no place necessarily gets “creative juices” flowing in and of itself—for example, the Music Building is no more conducive to composing than say Espresso Royale—we both seemed to feed off each other while working in the same environment.

I completely disagree with the assertion that “many an immaculate musician would urge the total abolition of dance, for it only pollutes the dream. Or at best reserve it for entertainment”, a statement made in the article on collaboration. Perhaps this idea is perceived because in a dance performance, the audience is often focused on the physical performance rather than the music. Thus, musicians might feel slighted in that they are not given as much recognition as the dancers. However, musicians do not wish for the abolition of opera, musical theatre, and other such media where the physical instrumentalists play a perceived “secondary” role. I feel that this statement does not accurately reflect the desire of musicians. True artists—and this includes dancers, musicians, composers, visual artists, actors,and others—appreciate all art. They might not like it, and they might not attend another performance, but they should consider it.

All in all, collaborating on this project was truly rewarding. We shared and idea and created a joint work, one that I think reflects both of our intentions with this project.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Composition in TEEVE

Collaborating in the Tele-immersive Environment for EVErbody (or TEEVE ) opened up a whole world of new possibilities for both music and dance while also creating many challenges that the dancers and I had to overcome in order to create a piece.

TEEVE is an (environment) that allows one to explore movement that's not only physical, but also virtual. There are cameras placed around a small space; these transmit live images to two different screens--a 2D and a 3D. These images can also be sent to environments in other locations that have the same technology, such as the University of California at Berkely.

This environment provided a few sources of inspiration for me. I wanted to work with the actual drawbacks of the technology: the delay of the live picture, the splotchy quality of the image, and the emotions felt because of the constant crashes and restarts. I incorporated these aspects into my music via a few different techniques. The first idea I used was the delay. Most of the sounds I chose—the vibraphone notwithstanding—experience some sort of delay before the full sound is produced; for example, the warm synthesizer pad sound does not have a sharp attack. The second idea played with the splotchy quality of the image. Within each section, I created large, complete ideas, and I then added rests in random spots to reflect the missing sections of the objects (usually dancers) on screen. The third idea had to do with phrase structure. I composed a phrase that was a specific length, and throughout one part of the piece, I shortened, lengthened, subtracted notes, and changed pitches of the individual motifs. This particular section reflected the frustration we felt because of the system crashing or not working.

I also took inspiration from the movements that the dancers created. They wanted to work with the colors on the 2D screen and this terrain on the 3D screen. Using images created on the 2D screen, I decided to work with layers; the dancers would show different colored clothing by taking off the layers they were wearing and putting them back on, so I worked with layers in my piece. On the 3D screen, the dancers worked used the terrain image that was placed on the screen to create a picture that allowed them to seem to grow out of the ground; sometimes, it looked like they were swimming in the mountains and grass. I found a sound on my computer that imitates this “growing” and less real idea.

The collaborative process was somewhat stunted on this project, mostly because of the technology behaving poorly. We were not able to get much work done in the actual space, and this hindered out collaboration. However, when the technology was working, I was able to observe the dancers and hash some things out about length and form with them. Everyday, we learned new things about how to use the system, so the dance and music changed as we discovered these things. For example, we figured out a way to use the 3D screen with the terrain at the last meeting before we were scheduled to perform, so this was something I had to change in the music.

On the whole, working in TEEVE was a frustrating, yet rewarding experience. Because of the technology, we were not able to collaborate as much as I would have liked; however, I think with more time, we would have been able to hammer out more details and create a complete piece.