In 2016 I was commissioned to collaborate on a dance piece entitled Fógraím/I Proclaim with dancer/choreographer Sibéal Davitt and writer Tristan Rosenstock for ‘Embodied at the GPO’. This was a series of six new dance solos by Irish-based female choreographers that were performed inside the GPO to mark the role played by Women the 1916 rising. The pieces were commissioned by An Post’s ‘GPO Witness History’ and the Dublin Dance Festival.
For this project I developed an interactive music performance system that fulfilled a number of important roles in the overall production. It captured sounds produced by the dance from a series of microphones placed around the stage. This audio was then processed live and inserted into the music. The audio signal was further analysed using FFT analysis and the amplitudes across different frequency bands were used to both drive and control different parameters of the musical piece. The system also allowed me to improvise musical elements live each night while incorporating further musical elements that had been composed prior to the performance. To further enrich the performance I developed a generative music component. This would would react to the audio signals from the mics and to the music I was performing live by generating musical materials (novel melodies and harmonic content) to reflect and support the dance at different points in a performance. The overall result is a vibrant and dynamic musical soundscape that reacts in real-time to the sounds created by the dancer.
Sound Design & Musical extracts from the performance:
In developing this system I used a participatory design methodology that allowed the choreographer and writer participate in the system design. We began this process three months before the initial rehearsals. This processes involved the team members getting together in the studio to work out some ideas. We used both the CoisCéim dance studio and the Dance Ireland studios. At the start of a session I would explore some questions: Given our vision for the overall production what should the role of the music performance system be? How should it integrate into the production? What should the music sound like aesthetically for the different sequences of the dance? I would then use rapid prototyping techniques to create a prototype system that we could test there and then in the session. Based on the feedback of the other team members I would either scrap an idea or flesh it out more fully. We had sessions where presented our production to the other performers who were taking part in the event and additional sessions where we showed our work to other choreographers and artists. These were invaluable in providing additional feedback for the overall production and provided especially useful information for my development process.
The performances ran from the 20th-22nd of April and sold out each night and was well received in the press. The production was well received in the press:
In 2017 I was commissioned to work on a second project that expanded on Fógraím/I Proclaim during a residency in Dance Ireland. The piece was entitled ‘Hear this Dance’. The team this time around included Sibéal Davitt covering choreography and dance, Niall Vallely on concertina and myself. The goal this time around was to expand on the system I created for the GPO shows to perform and new piece. This new system needed to support a second musician and expand on their performance. It also had to allow the dancer to record and loop her steps. These loops could then be used as musical materials in the piece. My updated system accounted for these new additions and also allowed me greater control over the musical content generated.
I used a similar participatory design process as before. I would present a prototype to my collaborators during a session and incorporate their feedback and ideas using rapid prototyping techniques. I gained more general audience feedback through public showings we did in June and September as well as more informal feedback sessions with colleagues and friends.
Dance, Technology, Fógraím / I Proclaim, Hear This Dance, Live Music, Embodied At The GPO, Generative Music.