This is the first event done within the scope of my research. Procession (Test #1) took place on the 19th of August at the ECU Mt Lawley Campus. Participants consisted of WAAPA composition students, as well as the core collaborators in this project. The main ideas I wanted to explore were: the use of props as part of the performance; the use of graphic scores to guide the improvisations; and autonomy among the ensemble’s interactions.
A ‘collage’ approach was followed in developing these scores; photographs of architectural shapes found at the ECU Mt Lawley campus were used to inform the score layout; thus, pictures of hand rails, ramps, staircases and brick work were used as ‘found objects’, assembled in collage to imbue the work with a sense of its locale. Once the scores were ready, I decided to make demo recordings playing the different instruments to be used: trumpet, percussion, and electric guitar. Demo recordings were done in order to ensure a degree of compositional control in the realisation, and to give players a better idea of the aesthetics I was after. These scores can be found on youtube.
Props were used for their imagery and sound qualities. I wanted to draw from the processions I had attended when I was young, where bearers would carry banners, religious icons or litters with elaborate flower designs, all these elements served to create a unity of mood. I designed a rectangular cover and attached ‘bells’ made of plastic pots and clay; the bells made a soft rattling noise that I wanted as a sonic backdrop. My intention was to create a ‘wearable’ outfit that connects people to sound and to each other. The bells were painted purple, and wool thread would hang from the edge of the cover, following a colour scheme of white, purple, red and cyan. These selection of colours was an attempt at creating a distinctive aesthetic for the performance. Another influence on the use of objects was John Zor’s ‘Theatre of Optics’, a series of performances he conducted in the mid-seventies were small objects would bethe focus of the performance, used by their physical shapes, ‘out of context-ness’ way of handling them, or by just being visual images that produce a sound, like Zorn wearing a suit made of springs and tin cans.
The aim of the excercise was to go for a walk around campus playing as moving ‘sound scultpture’, with the constant clang of plastic interacting with the broken sounds of woodwinds, strings, and voices. At intervals during the walk, I would signal to the group and conduct from the scores, but apart from that, I wanted to give control to the musicians to interact as ensemble, basing their improvisations upon the rattling of the objects. I was curious to bring ideas by Pauline Oliveros, whose works I had performed a few times. The focus on awareness of the environment, and ensemble sounds was singled out as strategies for developing the improvisations. Awareness and sensitivity of each other is the goal of some of Oliveros pieces, with music being ‘a by product’ of this activity.
This event was useful in identifying compositional deficiencies and limitations. A meditational approach to improvisation is beyond my expertise, despite having performed, and engaged with the music of Pauline Oliver's in the past. A workshop on ‘Deep Listening’ is beyond the scope of this project for now. Something I could try is to guide the focus of participants, this could be an instruction on the score. The score on the material derived from these. I found the score-cards to be effective, these were printed in A3 laminated color paper, and although I used only two on this occasion, I intend to design more of these as a way of triggering sound events during the performance. I imagine the the core ensemble of musicians playing an overarching score while people joining procession will be in charge of changing the series of events through the cards. The props had a mixed result as well, the big cover proved cumbersome as musicians were sometimes outside of it, and this lack of visibility meant that they could not follow my indications. On a positive side, the noises they create are appealing to me, it is a matter of finding props that are not so obtrusive. The main learning experience is the danger of the open instructions, which may become confusing or tiresome for the participants, therefore the need to try more specific material for the next procession
duration (seconds? minutes? note values?)
pitch (melodies? pitch ranges?)
textures (how many people will play at one time)
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!