Five Pieces For, With, About or Because of Dance (My year as Rambert Music Fellow #6)

The past year is impossible to summarise. I know that some of the hundreds of creative portals that have opened up for me will continue to materialise at different times, it would be strange to choose a few now and shut off all the rest. What I can highlight for now are those opportunities that solidified into performances or more tangible things: music and dance are transient, but there a few milestones that I will always remember from my year with Rambert. I’m hugely grateful to the PRS Foundation and the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation for making the fellowship possible, and of course every dancer and every member of staff at Rambert for making me so welcome and teaching me so much. For this written attempt at capturing even a glimpse of my myriad experiences this year, I’ve chosen to focus on the two pieces that I created with and for Rambert: Solo Matter and Imaginary Situations.

Solo Matter
An intense, challenging, inspiring, perspective-changing collaboration with choreographer Carolyn Bolton that led to a further collaboration with Mbulelo Ndabeni, who danced the solo at the National Theatre River Stage and worked with us in the second stage of the creative process. Mbulelo went on to perform Solo Matter again in September with N’da Dance at Richmix.

Carolyn and I met in February and instantly started fizzing with ideas – these inexplicably fizzled out in the studio and we were suddenly faced with a blank canvas. This was a good thing, as we were forced to improvise and some wonderful moments occurred that we couldn’t possibly have planned. The creative contributions of Edit Domoszlai were invaluable at this stage of R&D: the three of us experimented with various permutations of a duet around a table that used percussive sounds and their accompanying actions. The final piece, after five months of conversations and meetings and rehearsals and debates and friendship, barely resembled these initial images (although the table vanished and then morphed gradually into a bench) but those percussive noises formed the whole of my electronic track. What started as a few innocuous clicks, sweeps, taps and thuds became a manic, distorted, hyper-complex piece of musique concrète.[1] My computer still has approximately thirty different versions of this track and the choreography went through a similarly rigorous testing process: I think this piece is testament to the idea that an artwork is a map of decision-making that has taken place, in many ways consisting more of what has been left unsaid than of what has been said. Similarly here I am not attempting to describe the message, movement language or inspiration behind Carolyn’s captivatingly fresh, fearless and feverish choreography for Solo Matter as it is best experienced.

You can hear an excerpt of Solo Matter here.
And watch the trailer here.

Imaginary Situations
The title I gave to my 45-minute electronic track created for Julie Cunningham and Company’s your ten thousand eyes, an utterly intriguing piece of choreography that was partially created amongst the artefacts of the V&A and later remoulded and set against the London skyline on the roof of the Southbank centre.

Having been bewitched by several of Julie Cunningham’s shows, I was utterly delighted when she asked me to write something for her summer Southbank performance. It was a daunting task: Julie’s work is abstract yet exquisitely detailed, and I had never made 45 minutes of electronic music before.[2] Her approach was wonderfully open, as she invited me to make something that we could put together with the dance at the end. This was surprisingly successful, as I had space to observe her work and discuss concepts with her without being restricted in terms of structure or themes. I did take note of the context, pacing and mood however, and this created the piece for me, as it became an expression of how I felt while watching Julie’s work and while walking around the Southbank. The soundscape of that part of London fed into the track, although much of it was purely synthesized (created using my keyboard and computer software). A beautiful part of the end result was that each performance synched up with the track in different ways: sometimes a sound would catch the end of a gesture, sometimes a real-life train would pass simultaneously with a sampled one.

You can hear an excerpt of Imaginary Situations here.
And read an interview with Julie about her previous work To Be Me here.

Three Miniatures
After working with choreographers Peter Leung and Pierre Tappon in December, and subsequently visiting Dutch National Ballet in February for Positioning Ballet and Made in Amsterdam, I was invited back for a workshop with Het Balletorkest, conductor Matthew Rowe and composer Tarik O’Regan. This was in every way a brilliant learning experience as I had the opportunity to experiment with orchestration and to ‘live-compose’ with a symphony orchestra in front of me! You can read about Het Balletorkest here.

The Windhover
A setting of the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem that I wrote for the Hermes Experiment as part of Paul Hoskins’ Rambert Connects initiative for composers and choreographers. The fellowship is a way of facilitating composer-choreographer interaction, and Rambert Connects, along with Rambert’s mini residencies, was a part of that. You can find out about the Hermes Experiment here.

Citizens of Nowhere
A 12-month effort that started with Dane Hurst at the Cohan Collective… and ended with Dane Hurst, three dancers and seven RNCM musicians at Tête à Tête opera festival with ACE Grants for the Arts Funding and private sponsorship. It grew from a 3-minute miniature to a 40-minute opera-ballet. There’s just too much to begin to say about writing and producing it, so why not watch it here instead… 

New eyes & new ears?

[1] Music built from audio samples that become spliced, distorted, processed and multi-layered.
[2] It made sense to work with electronics again as, like the River Stage, this performance was outdoors.