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.