Re: choreographers and composers

Nick Rothwell (
12 Jan 1998 16:46:10 -0000

> In my experience dance performance is
> almost always accompanied by music - how many dance programmes or works have
> you seen without any music/sound?

Not that many: maybe 5%.

> It is far more widely accepted that a
> piece of music can be performed independently of any other art form or
> content than a piece of dance.

Perhaps, but I think this widely accepted view is false, and possibly
damaging to the genre. It penalises musical/sound scores which might
be so coupled to a particular dance piece of project that they do not
work in isolation: like the dance, in a lot of cases. It also means
that composers are discouraged from thinking in terms of tight
coupling between dance material and musical material: they are better
off working on music for isolated listening, rather than sit by the
phone and wait for a commission to roll in.

> most choreographers still
> apparently feel the need for some aural accompaniment to their dance most of
> the time, and therefore the intitiative for dance/music collaboration tends
> to come from the dance end - and also the funding.

True - but this leads to situations where choreographers who feel the need
to have music supporting their dance can commission scores; and yet,
musicians who do not merely want dancers to add aural accompaniment to
their scores, but who want to actively seek artistic collaboration
with choreographers - cannot commission dance.

(I think I detect a vicious circle here which matches with my
experience: the subsumed role of musical input into the
conceptualisation and development of a dance project leads to a
situation where a attempt by a musician to play an active role in
this process is regarded as dictatorial.)

> Thanks for your CD which I received through The Place Dance Services; I
> listened with interest and found some of the sound worlds you created very
> atmospheric. It would have been good to have included a longer piece to
> show how you develop musical structure over time.

[FX: leaps to soapbox.] A case in point, alas: the whole concept
behind LISTEN/MOVE, and the reason for its title, was for a two-disc
project culled from a variety of musical processes and systems
developed in past dance projects. LISTEN was to be a disc of
fully-developed, multitracked pieces for listening to. MOVE was to be
a disc of material from the same sources, deconstructed and remixed
for use in dance projects and workshops, with a track structure and
notes suited to this application. I was even in discussion with
various choreographers about the best way to build this structure.

I talked to the Scottish Arts Council on numerous occasions about the
project. The Dance department could not provide any support because I
am not a dancer. The Music department could not provide any support
because the SAC categorically will not support music for dance. The
result is the single CD in your possession.

I will probably start sounding less bitter about the process when I've
finally paid all the recording and production bills for the
project. In the meantime: yes, your appraisal of the CD itself is
quite accurate. Whenever I listen to it, I find it slightly fragmented
and lacking in development, although I'm still quite pleased with the
individual tracks. As you suggest, the important thing is the
development of musical structure, and this ties in intimately with
notions of process and all the control systems stuff, making it
difficult to bring across on a recording, especially one with half as
much material as originally planned.

On the other hand, if you're interested in discussing process or
developing ideas, do drop me a note or give me a call. And that's a
serious offer: when it comes down to it, the CD is essentially a
promotional token, and I'm always interested in exchanging ideas and
looking into possible collaborations.

         Nick Rothwell, CASSIEL        contemporary dance projects        music synthesis and control

years, passing by, VCO, VCF, and again, and again