>There was a Cunningham/Cage collaboration called Variations V in 1965,
>that didn't use a musical score. The performance space had a grid of
>'photo-electric cells', digitised images, that were controlled along
>with lighting and sound, by the dancers movement. They certainly were
>revolutionary! Does anyone no more about this performance?
Variations V was commissioned by the French-American Festival.
Cunningham choreographed the work. David Tudor worked with
John Cage to prepare the sound environment.
Although the dancers did not control the lighting,
or the images which were produced by projecting edited film,
the dancers did controlled the music interactively in two ways.
The first was a series of twelve poles, like antennae, placed over
the stage, each to have a sound radius of 4 feet. When a dancer came
into this radius a sound would result. Each antenna was to have a different
sound, and some had several. The poles were 5 feet
high and 1/ inch in diameter.
The second sound source was a series of photo-electric cells, designed
out by Billy Kluver of Bell Laboratiries, which sat on the base
of the twelve poles. The stage lights were focussed very precisely
so that they hit them, and when a dancer passed between the light
and the photocell, a sound would be triggered.
The dancers triggered the occurrence of the sound, by moving
in front of the photocell, and breaking the lightbeam that was
directed toward it, but the kind of sound, how long it might be, or the
possible repetition of it was controlled by the musicians,
who were at the various machines behind the dancers -- tape
recorders, oscillators, short-wave radios -- there were about
8 musicians on the platform, where the electronic equipment was
placed behind the dance area.
There was another element invloved in the piece, the use of film.
Behind the platform with the musicians was the large
Philharmonic Hall movie screen -- very large. Stan VanDerBeek
and his assitance Tom Dewitt had in the weeks ahead of this made
a number of reels of film of Merce and the company
dancing, doing moments of the piece. Stan came to the studio
one day when the company was rehearsing and without
disrupting the dancers at all, shot through and all around them.
Stan used these images, and other images, still shots, shots
from movies, a montage of contemporary scenes, automobiles,
a man in space, nature, buildings.
There were a number of non-dance activities that Merce
had the dancers do. He potted a plant, which was re-potted
by Carolyn Brown. The plant had a cartridge microphone
attached to it so that any quiver could produce sound. Barbara
Lloyd put a towel on her head which had a contact mocrophone
attached to it, and proceeded to stand on her head and was
moved gently back and forth by Gus Solomens, while
upside down. At the end of the piece Merce rode through
the space on a bicycle around the poles and the photo-cells,
and then exited.
these notes are excerpts taken from recently published book
"Merce Cunningham Fifty Years" by David Vaughan, $75US
hardcover published by Aperture Foundation
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