First as a musician and second as a cellist playing the Ligeti Solo Cello Sonata,I desired the expressive power of bodies in motion through dance. Upon considering the inherently different natures of music and dance, I realised that I needed to create a score that everyone could read in order to establish even collaborative ground. This graphic score inspired the new music composition Lines for Gage, based on selected pages of the score. The team included cellist Gage Ehmann, choreographer Harriet Macauley, dancers PJ Hurst and Joel O'Donoghue, and composer Daniel Ehrlich.
The process of choreographing the Ligeti Solo Cello Sonata for two male dancers with live cello has revealed to me that much of what has driven this project both creatively and intellectually is my inclination toward analogy and its related constructs. Here, music : time : : dance : space. It is no coincidence that the first movement—lyrical and abstract—and the second movement—virtuosic and literal—reflect this relationship between space and time. Dialogo : space : : Capriccio : time. The basic format of the project reflects duality at some level; the graphic score produced for the choreographic interpretation of the music also inspired a musical interpretation.
By immediately implying binary oppositions, I risk the very reduction and limiting against which Simon Shaw-Miller cautions. In describing the construction 'image—music—text,' he explains:
What a study of hybridity can show us is that gray areas, those that lie between such
oppositions—the hyphens—are sites of rich and provocative activity. Indeed, such
compound and hybrid sites are more characteristic of the processes of making art in history
than are attempts to reduce practice to essentialist oppositions.
If it does anything, this project harnesses hybridity as creative potential. I hope to show that hybridity and constructs of analogy within the context of this project are mutually beneficial. Analogy will appear frequently to demonstrate the effectiveness of what seem purely conceptual connections in directing the creative process. If metaphors are mixed, this only emphasises the degree to which the elements of collaboration are inextricably linked.
The particular story that Ligeti chose toappropriate from Bartók—the Dialogo's inspiration of youthful infatuation, then love rejected—provides a good example of the potentially dubious context surrounding the piece. Because Ligeti modelled the Sonata on the two-movement form of the Bartók Violin Concerto, his choice of story both recalls theduality that interests him, and also subverts a biographical reading of the Solo Cello Sonata. While this context provides one lens through which to view this work, I would like to focus instead on the interactions between the distinct creative disciplines encompassed by this collaboration.
Consequently, I will now turn to the collaborative process, the linchpin of which is the graphic score I created as the interpretive 'common denominator' for communication with the choreographer. Because distinct images are only understood in proximity to one another, the creation of the graphic score introduced the spatial in the time-space relationship mentioned above. Musicologist Richard Leppert reminds us:
The way of seeing hence incorporates the way of hearing: the artist must produce
images in such a way that their meanings will be congruent with those produced by
sight and sound together in the lived experience of the original and intended viewer.
The viewers within this context were the creator and choreographer, and later in the progress of the project, the composer. The two perspectives represented—consistent with the duality of the Sonata—both met the original musical line with the physical line of movement, and also interpreted the geometric lines that constitute the graphic representation of the music through the musical lines of fresh composition. What had originally inspired the graphic score also emerged from it to influence the whole of the creative process: gesture, in all of its various manifestations. In addition to the visual gestures put forth by the graphic score, I provided the choreographer with video clips of technical gestures at the cello corresponding to specific excerpts of the Sonata. By employing the model of Simon Shaw-Miller, quoted above, gestural inputs and outputs together could be described as visual—technical—musical—physical. Again, the spaces between these different types of gestures are the '...sites of rich and provocative activity.' In seeking to understand these gestures and the relationships between them, I will present two mechanisms that facilitated this collaborative process: an investigation of the gestures themselves, perceived as resulting from the 'musical forces' proposed by Steve Larson, and the space between theses gestures in which sound and movement, music and choreography interact, represented by a discussion of synaesthesia.
Steve Larson's melodic and rhythmic inertia, gravity, and magnetism influenced the scientific nature of the ideas that emerged from conversations between cellist and choreographer (reinforcing those of the graphic score), and promoted movement motifs that explored the relationships between two musical forces acting simultaneously. The notion of synaesthesia—from its most common manifestation as audio-visual phenomenon to consideration as inter-sense, and by extension, inter-art analogy—proved a recurrent stimulus that challenged the objectives and implications of the project process and final outcome.
Exposition of abstract ideas in the graphic score finds grounding in the approaches of musical forces and synaesthesia, which stimulate collaborative creation. The general trajectory of discussion, then, traverses from conceptual to actual: description of images traces gesture through the graphic score, thereby revealing its interpretive rationale; musical forces and the principle of synaesthesia help to explain how gesture transforms from an abstract concept to a participant in the physical experience of creativity; gesture unifies the choreography and facilitates its fluidity; gesture emerges from the new composition through translation of selected pages of the graphic score.
Before delving into the graphic score, a general sense of perspective on music-dance collaboration begs a pertinent comparison to the convenient 20-year-old precedent: the Prelude and Sarabande from the Third Bach Solo Cello Suite, performed by Yo-Yo Ma, and choreographed by Mark Morris. The spatial arrangement of dancers, their paths of movement, and the lines created by individual bodies all reflect a Neoclassical aesthetic, which complements the Baroque dance suite. Geometric symmetry and movements in counterpoint are both archetypical examples of this aesthetic. Key to this interpretation is the placement of the cellist atop a pedestal. The immediate implication is that the cellist assumes the status of the deity to be worshipped, especially considering the bowing motions of the dancers in supplication before an altar. Another possibility is that this spectacle is Sound personified and consecrated.
Apart from the Neoclassical aesthetic, the distinguishing feature of this 1995 choreography is the way in which movement is precisely coordinated with various aspects of metre and rhythm. This 'mirroring' of movement and sound is the principle against which the current choreography reacts. The present collaboration seeks subtler manifestations of sound, and points of creative resistance where music and dance maintain independence. Collaborative malleability was afforded by the multiple potentialities of the graphic representation of the music.
He naturally seeks to apply the means of music to his own art. And from this results that modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of colour, for setting colour in motion, and so on.
The creation of the graphic score was guided by a dual purpose: to externalise my interpretation of the music, and to simplify the music for translation to movement. Differences in graphic representation between the Dialogo and Capriccio movements reflect opposite interpretive approaches, motivated in turn by the basic contrast of musical character. While the lyricism and harmonic shading of the Dialogo suggest the abstract, the virtuosic streaks of the Capriccio demand the literal realisation of line. Dialogo : shapes and gradients : : Capriccio : lines and vectors.
I deliberately chose large sheets (16" x 24") for the score, because this open canvas forced me to realise the music in bold shapes and vivid colours that defy the self-contained form of the Sonata in question. More important, these shapes combine with colours to objectify the musical gestures essential to the work.
Choice of colours in the score was largely subjective. Darker shades often correspond to lower registers, and brighter to higher. The primary colours feature prominently throughout, not only as emphatic descriptors, but also as background to foreground images, in order to convey the textural atmosphere of the given passage. This last example is just one way in which colours clarify and reinforce relationships within the music. Complementary, split-complementary, and triadic colours derived from general colour theory, as well as the particularly significant theory of Wassily Kandinsky, inform how colours interact with one another.
I will present the movements of the graphic score here in the order in which they were completed, so that a sense of the overall working process may supplement description of the images. The Capriccio required a sketch, time-consuming duplication to large format, and detailed application of colour. Some time after the sketch attempt of the Dialogo was abandoned due to its overly complicated architectural nature, I determined that a freer approach would better enable the abstraction I desired, and finished the Dialogo within a few days.
The Capriccio is read from left to right across sixteen pages, first along the horizontal top line until halfway through the piece, after which the notation continues along the bottom line. This layout of the score foremost emphasises the division of the Capriccio into two larger sections. The Dialogo is arranged according to the appearances of the main subject and its response that constitute the melodic material for the movement. Accordingly, the score follows a less-defined trajectory. The first page is a complete entity, while the following four pages feature horizontal lines read left to right down the page.
In panel I-C, the two larger sections of the Capriccio are indicated by arrow 1, which points to the top horizontal line, and by arrow 2, which shows where the score continues after the middle section of the piece (at the top of page 16). But more important than the division of the movement into two formal parts is the relationship between those sections, made explicit by the very first figure of the top line and its near-exact inversion in the bottom line. Here Ligeti seems to play with rhetorical convention. While in the first section an initial outburst is met with stern opposition, (that does not subside in the higher register of the fourth figure), the second section begins with a declamation answered by a complimentary response. The reaction has changed; the second time the music exhibits discipline. These initial statements are terminated by brackets, which signify silence in the music. The use of brackets in the score was inspired by their use in mathematics to denote absolute value. No matter how transient, silences must be observed. Indeed, silences in the Capriccio are always marked with brackets; spaces left between images represent perceived—rather than defined—flexibility within the music.
These first three pages of the score are dominated by the breathless pursuance of line, meant to evoke the volatility of a racing pulse. Near exhaustion, straight-line vectors mark the insistence—damn the interval—with which the musical line penetrates downward through the registers of the cello. The spiral is denouement; with every turn and every shade darker, the energy of the line dissipates.
In the second section, the loss of energy is both more gradual and more discreet. The
ostinato reiterates in three registers of the cello, each higher and quieter. These echoes into the stratosphere recall the rhetorical nature of the initial statements on the first page of the graphic score. Argument in the foreground introduces; perspectives gaining in distance transition. The graphic score shows how the fragments of the ostinato that chip off literally transform into the bubbling alternations that lead to familiar material.
The middle portion of the score (panel II-C) presents the contrast of modal melody that undergoes textural transformation. Detached, upended slurs support the thread of sound that travels through the watery medium of primary colour. After, amorphous note shapes whose layers move within tell just as much as the spaces between them. The bottom line features pizzicato as the springboard for the high fluttering trill; simple semicircles disperse the resonance of the open strings.
In panel III-C, the violent energy of the bow stroke conjures the slashing of claws. The second half of the top line is a good example of a colour scheme based on the split-complimentary relationship. This colour scheme both emphasises the ascent of the bass-line by arpeggio pairs linked by whole-tone, and highlights the modal centrepiece of the progression. In the latter half of the piece, the graphic score shows how patterns in the music are related through compression of interval. To indulge in cliché: the harmonic minor mode evokes the gradually sloping contour and arid colouring of a dune.
These final three pages (panel IV-C) are the most diverse of the Capriccio. Muted colours hung by fluorescent green thread—all surrounded by grey—transmit the strangeness of inversion in the music. It is a familiar gesture only in shape; now it is foreign and other. This meandering is confronted by arpeggios, first cutting from the top in confident strokes of primary colour that then succumb to their frenzied mirror image. The music fights for breath between the arpeggios, and frantically gasps before the vertiginous break with sanity. Debilitating streaks of yellow and blue displace the red and yellow flecks of anger. Icarus flies too close to the sun, and plummets to his violent end on the jagged rocks that jut from the sea.
At bottom the ricochet molecule decays to silence blue then green, which yet has the potential for motion. Seizing on this potential, the line springs forth into the persistent hemiola that stretches, and then contracts, right up to the blue and yellow stalemate. Silence yields to the final two gestures of the Capriccio: the jump onto the vault and the rebound, flame to the sky.
It is telling that the majority of the Capriccio pencil sketch was darkened with pen before paint was applied; the Dialogo saw no such outlining. While the Capriccio top and its bottom alter-images show the overall linear progression of the music, the Dialogo shows the musical transition of perspective. The background of the Dialogo first page (panel 1D) immediately differentiates it from the Capriccio score, and sets a precedent for the first movement: relationships between corresponding elements are of greater significance than the elements themselves. As counterpoint gradually tinges the lyrical melodies, the graphic score transitions from representation of a unified space to sequential representation.
Single secondary-colour sponge strokes at the corners and centre of the first page represent the pizzicato-glissando chords; their placement reflects how these chords frame the main melodic interest of the movement. The choice of brackets for the first melodic subject follows a rationale both visual and semiotic. While I desired a simple shape that could visually enact the growth and dissipation of the musical phrase, I also required a universally recognisable sign system that could expand and contract as necessary to accommodate harmonic and/or contrapuntal embellishment of that melodic subject over the course of the movement. Brackets make explicit the logic of musical syntax: where statements begin and end (or how they are left incomplete, begun afresh, and elided together). The visual effect of this shape is intensified by the juxtaposition of blue and yellow, which highlights the fundamental half-tone conflictin the melody between the second and third scale degrees.
Space contained within these brackets visually contrasts with space between the independent melodic shapes that represent the three subsections of the answer to the first subject. Each of these independent shapes serves as a template for the brush strokes that later accrue, providing the volume for the portrayal of harmonic activity within. Taking the subject and its answer together, all three primary colours are represented. Following the juxtaposition of blue and yellow, red serves as the basis of the answer colour group, which progresses from brighter to darker.
Panel II-D introduces the threads of harmony that begin to join the melodic subsections of the answer together. Each different harmony corresponds to a different segment of thread. The first red subsection in particular literally shows how harmony affects the listener's perception of musical colour, as the red shows through pastel shades. These threads of harmony compare to the vertical harmonic pillars and the literal interlocking of stretto found on panel III-D. Where the stretto voices overlap, their colours bleed together.
Interaction of shape and colour produces an anomaly in the middle figure of the top line (panel III-D). This is the only instance in the whole movement in which one melodic element imitates the distinct figuration of another element. The four-semiquaver figure associated with the third melodic subsection of the answer assumes a significantly different contour for inclusion in the context of the second melodic subject (hence the shape of the third in the colour of the second). This occurrence in the graphic score proves that inner emotional intent may persevere, even as its outward projection changes. Emotion : colour : : motion : shape. In the final line of the score, strokes of pizzicato-glissando alternate with worlds of resonance that issue from the low D.
Beyond establishing the means of music-dance communication, the completed graphic score enhanced my understanding of the music by directly challenging my overly analytical yet 'blind' interpretation. And by drawing me to an investigation of synaesthesia, the graphic score helped to generate the trajectory (also informed by the counterpart of musical forces) that culminated in collaboration.
Mapping Musical Forces
Sound and image often rely on one another to evoke meaning that is not bound to either medium. What for Richard Leppert became the meaning of the artwork, only in the 'lived experience' of the viewer, becomes for Steve Larson the meaning of the music, only through our 'embodied intuitive understanding' of the physical forces of gravity, magnetism, and inertia. Music appeals to the visual to describe gesture. Larson appropriates the definition of Robert Hatton, for whom musical gesture is the 'significant, energetic shaping of sound through time'. This definition of gesture preserves a sense of movement in concordance with the theory of musical forces, which enables the direct translation of music to dance.
The conclusion derived from Hatton's assertion is twofold. First, musical gesture negotiates between the space defined by the shape of sound and the time through which it travels; music has spatial implications. Furthermore, if this shaping results from musical forces, then this definition suggests that musical gravity, magnetism, and inertia create musical gesture.
Following a brief explanation of each musical force and its respective implications, I will use the Capriccio movement of the Ligeti Solo Sonata to demonstrate how these forces act relative to one another and in combination, from the macro scale of the entire movement to the micro scale of a single gesture. An understanding of the function of musical forces within the Capriccio will afford an appreciation of the role of articulation—in cooperation with musical forces—in heightening the experience of musical gesture. Last to consider is the practicality of an instrumental technique that responds to forces identified within the music, and how this further externalisation of musical forces recasts movement.
First, to clarify: musical gravity is the tendency of the music to fall in pitch or to lengthen in duration of note values; musical magnetism is the tendency of music towards tonal and/or metric stability; musical inertia is the tendency of music to continue in the current direction of motion, and/or with the same note values, (or to stay at rest). This application of physical forces to musical motion has basic implications: gravity causes descending passing motion; magnetism causes motion to 'neighbour tones'; inertia causes ascending passing motion.
Musical forces demystify the virtuosic Capriccio. The intricacy of this movement results from the sheer speed of nearly identical patterns, and rapid shifts among a rich variety of textures. The way in which physical forces act on the instrument is brought to the fore through the placement of the cello in the centre of the dance as a participant in the interaction of forces, acting on bodies and instrument alike. As there exist hierarchies of physical forces, so there also exist hierarchies of musical forces: the governing forces of the movement are inertia, the original mover, and gravity, ruler of formal resolution; the middle operational level is maintained by magnetism; the local level constitutes three distinct gestures concerning important junctures within the music. There is rarely ever a moment in which one force acts solely, even at the micro level. This simply means that generalisations about musical forces may only be made in light of their relativity to one another.
The persistence of semiquavers—regardless of texture—immediately impresses the eye. This perpetual motion is the result of inertia, which is, Larson reminds, 'stronger than gravity and more pervasive than magnetism'. During the continual ascent that begins on the third stave, inertia must repeatedly overcome gravity to reach the next-highest register. It is important to note that at any given moment in the piece, whatever other force may be present, it is acting in conjunction with inertia. Indeed, the force of inertia carries the music through its many and varied textures. From detaché, arguably the most inertia-driven, through to bariolage, which establishes magnetic pivot-points, and then to tremolo, with an all-but-static bow: over the course of the first page, the music loses inertia, and in so doing creates much of the character of the movement.
Another large-scale feature is the gravitational field of the Capriccio. The first section of the piece begins and ends on G; when it reaches the G in the upper range of the cello, gravity forces the line downward into the next section. This is consistent with how Larson perceives gravity affecting global trajectories, and the 'strength' of pattern completion and frequency (this last observation is especially pertinent to the Capriccio). The very first two statements of the Capriccio illustrate Larson's observation, and the extent to which gravity may effect even the individual gesture.
Within these larger sections, the following characteristics establish a middle hierarchical level. Magnetism repels turns around semitones, and initiates alternations (commonly of a major third or semitone) that are then continued by inertia.
At the smallest level of detail, Larson identifies three 'graceful melodic gestures...[that balance] musical forces'. A different force primarily creates each of these three gestures. Magnetism causes the 'circling around a point of approaching repose,' (mm. 223-244), as the ostinato pivots and the interval closes around G-sharp. Inertia carries the music through the elision (mm. 110-116) of the arpeggiated plunge caused by gravity, and the quaver vacillation resulting from magnetism. Gravity slows the music at the end of the first inertial build as it changes direction (mm. 33-40). In this particular case, Ligeti has signalled his awareness of musical forces with the marking poco allarg. . . .a tempo as gravity momentarily gains the advantage.
A basic knowledge about the interaction of musical forces within the Capriccio reveals how articulation—namely the slur, which helps to transfer between textures throughout the movement—intensifies the perception of musical force. In the very first gesture, the slur connecting the first two semiquavers literally strengthens the magnetic repulsion from the G, thereby heightening the feeling of inertia that carries the gesture back to G. Although this gesture starts and ends on G, the slur renders it asymmetric, as can plainly be seen when the gesture is performed starting down-bow and ending up-bow. The preliminary conclusions reached as a result of Robert Hatton's assertion have been proven: here gesture is both heard and seen, blurring the distinction between space and time; musical forces, in this case augmented by articulation, create gesture.
The theory of musical forces proposed by Larson provides a dynamic yet universally relatable interpretive model. Because instrumental technique exploits physical laws to realise music, these musical forces can often literally (and quite naturally) translate to technical directives. For example, to achieve the effect of musical inertia, the bow requires inertia of its own, brought about by horizontal impetus. It is the cello that unifies the total audio-visual effect of the performance. The performance, in turn, reveals to the audience that musical and physical forces are one and the same. In the panel discussion, the choreographer related her use of gravity to primal movement. The downward spiral of the music pulls the dancers down to the floor; the repeated attempts of the music to overcome gravity repeats circular sequences of the dance as they build to climatic jumps and lifts. And so the impression of the performance dissolves the boundaries between music and dance.
The Hybridity of Synaesthesia
Now focus shifts from the physical externalisation to the visual externalisation of music. The completion of the graphic score necessitated inquiry into an intuitive reaction to its shapes and forms based upon colour. By way of introduction, an exploration of audio-visual synaesthesia further emphasises the importance of articulation. This account compares to that of Ligeti himself, who documented his own synaesthetic experience. The context that situates these perspectives both prompted the use of language to derive creative directives from the principle of synaesthesia, before it challenged that very language as problematic.
But my foray into synaesthesia was simple enough. My friend, Emily Camras, experiences synaesthesia. Conveniently, she is also a cellist who plays the Ligeti Solo Sonata. And the first time I met the choreographer for the project, she insisted on colour to enliven the graphic score of the music. So I asked Emily if she would consider colouring the Sonata in whatever way she wished.
Before I approached Emily, I had naïvely tried to listen to the Capriccio in a 'different way,' assigning a colour to each of ten smaller sections. It was to no avail. While at times I could articulate the quality of colour, (bright : dark : : warm : soft), each listening of the brilliant movement produced different, yet equally-plausible colours. What I desired is still elusive: an 'authentic' way to determine colour for the images of the graphic score.
Emily admitted that this was the first time she has taken the opportunity (not to mention been asked specifically) to demonstrate her visual perception of music. This is a page from the coloured Capriccio she sent me:
Here to begin are a few initial observations and reactions. Colours are based upon pitch-class; register has no bearing on this consistent colour association. And so the overall visual impression is one of objectivity centred on order and frequency, rather than a subjective one conveying emotion or an interpretation as such.
But even at first mention of the Ligeti Solo Sonata, Emily had responded eagerly, saying that she loved the Sonata because of its colours. She later explained that what matters to her most is not the colours of the notes themselves, (which remain consistent from piece to piece), but the contexts in which these colour-notes function. In the case of the Ligeti Solo Sonata, of interest to Emily are the different tonal centres and the relationships between them that the colours show. Above all, this colouring of the Capriccio emphasises the high rate of change within the music.
In conversation with Emily, we quickly reached the understanding that for her, synaesthesia is a systematic association. She remembered first connecting colours with numbers and letters. When Emily learned the musical alphabet, these associations transferred directly to note-names, and indirectly to the sounds they represented. It is significant that in this case, sound was not a factor in the original discovery and/or establishment of audio-visual synaesthesia.
What gradually became clear, and potentially more revealing, is that once this audio-visual connection solidified, colours would change their intensity to reflect the quality of the heard sound. Accidentals took on different shades. Emily specifically mentioned that the articulation of the notes affects the intensity of the colours she sees. It has been seen how articulation strengthens the effects of musical forces to create musical gesture. Articulation now reemerges to influence the power of colour in the visual perception of music. Although synaesthesia was originally a system for Emily, it has evolved into a highly qualitative one.
But relating colour to other properties does not necessarily constitute synaesthetic perception. Ligeti speaks about his compositional process, revealing a strong connection between music and visual associations:
Certainly I have an aversion to everything that is demonstratively programmatic and illustrative. But that does not mean that I am against music that calls forth associations; on the contrary, sounds and musical coherence always arouse in me ideas of consistency and colour of visible and recognisable form. And vice-versa: I constantly combine colour, form, texture, and abstract concepts with musical ideas. This explains the presence of so many non-musical elements in my compositions.
Ligeti's spontaneous reaction echoes Schoenberg's statement on art (below). Here, Ligeti expresses the transiency of sensory experience for both creator and perceiver. He both differentiates the instant synthesis of perception from the progress of narrative trajectory, and underlines the fluidity of synaesthetic perception—arising from its immediacy—that promotes creativity. And more explicitly: 'Well, of course, I do have associations. I am inclined to synaesthetic perception. I associate sounds with colours and shapes.' The surprise in this remark is that not only colour, but shape as well, is a product of synaesthetic perception.
Before any conclusions are drawn, these case studies require situation in a broader cognitive/linguistic/philosophical context. These above accounts categorically draw from experiences of chromesthesia (in which the heard induces the seen). The synaesthetes who report this variety are in the majority, a phenomenon most likely resulting from the proximity of the primary visual cortex in the back occipital lobe to the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe of the brain. Emily's chromesthesia finds its echo in the first documented account of synaesthesia (19th c.) from the albino Ludwig Sachs. Sachs reported the appearance of coloured spots corresponding to vowels, consonants, names, and numbers. This account reinforces Emily's systematised association. Ligeti's synaesthesia, which involves shape, requires further investigation.
It is ironic that the language used to describe synaesthesia and its linguistic expression (primarily in literature) is inherently flawed, a mere representation of experience. The expression of synaesthesia in literature is just as telling of the general frustration with the inadequacy of language as it is telling of the cognitive tendencies that synaesthesia suggests. Especially with regard to sound, the findings of linguist Stephen Ullmann are illuminating. From the writings of twelve nineteenth-century poets, (French, British, and American) Ullmann discovered 'tendencies among distinct patterns in usage' of synaesthetic metaphor. From overall trends to the appearance of specific combinations: metaphors move from the lower differentiated (those interrelated senses of smell and taste) to the differentiated senses, (hearing and sight), and from differentiated to touch sensations; auditory sensations require the most comparison to other senses; of these auditory sensations, tactile sounds constitute the majority.
This consensus that touch is the 'ultimate' sense—at least in terms of linguistic metaphor (already a complex relationship)—led me to derive kinaesthetic and/or physical sensations from the music to serve as directives for its embodiment. While their nature shared similarities with the images of the graphic score, these sensations often called upon the very experience of playing the piece. They were feelings not necessarily felt, but certainly thought, albeit subconsciously.
Any conclusion based on the synaesthetic implications of language and its constructs is quite different from a conclusion examining that language itself. The contest of philosophies that Simon Shaw-Miller provides by way of example literally shows synaesthesia to be an unstable concept, supported only by the flimsy foundation of language. Responding to John Locke's hypothesis that different senses gave rise to different ideas, William Molyneux identified the lack of cross-communication between the senses. In what became known as 'Molyneux's problem,' the blind man who has only learned the form of a cube through his sense of touch is miraculously endowed with sight, if ever through this latter sense he could recognise a cube. While Locke answers this question, ironically, by presenting the falsehood of perceived synaesthetic experience, Michel Serres critiques the very premise of Molyneux's problem by reaching to the source of confusion: language. Because geometric shapes such as the cube are produced by language, and not by experience, the fact that the blind man now sees is irrelevant. His sight fails to help him understand an abstract concept that only truly exists in and through language. The conclusion, that the existence of the cube depends upon the language that identifies it, explains Ligeti's claim that he associates sounds with shapes. Shapes may constitute just as much a part of synaesthetic perception as any other abstract concept produced by language.
The learned nature of language and its crude attribution to the abstract recall the arguably detrimental outcomes of Enlightenment thinking and the Scientific Revolution. Although this use of language, as noted above, can be revealing, language more often corrupts an already fluidly functioning system of sense perception. According to Merleau-Ponty:
Synaesthetic perception is the rule [author's emphasis], and we are unaware of it only because scientific knowledge shifts the centre of gravity of experience, so that we have unlearned how to see, hear, and generally speaking, feel, in order to deduce, from our bodily organisation and the world as the physicist conceives it, what we are to see, hear, and feel.
His vocabulary and syntax blatantly underline Merleau-Ponty's message about an existence science-saturated and disorienting. Shaw-Miller understands that 'For Merleau-Ponty, synaesthesia is not a blending of the senses previously separated, but the unification of a primordial sense that is only analysed and divided through habitual reflection.' Any synaesthesia identified today is but a vestige of the robust 'primordial sense' that has largely been lost through the devolving influence of language and the critical thought in which it functions.
It is not the mixing of the senses, though, that proves useful for my purposes; it is the space between the senses where creativity flourishes. I propose that the extension of synaesthesia—from an inter-sense to an inter-art analogy—is the prerequisite for understanding the interaction between the arts. But because analogy is a linguistic construct, it is also inherently inadequate, and does not account for the experience in reality of two things occurring simultaneously. First the analogy, then the hybrid model:
sound : music : : sight : dance
This juxtaposition shows how hybridity breaks down the rational sequence of elements to encompass the whole interaction, regardless of the order of its parts. Through juxtaposition, the attendant realisations are two: succession in the analogy transforms to instantaneousness in the hybrid model; the attempted connections ('is to') in the analogy become acknowledgements of space between ('with') in the hybrid model. The first realisation is that synaesthesia prises immediacy, which is manifested in the dance through simultaneous music and movement. The same privileging of immediacy could be claimed of the graphic score, as Schoenberg articulates:
In other words, art does not then represent merely the objects or the occasions that make impressions, but above all these impressions themselves, ultimately without reference to their What, When, and How. Inference of the original, external object is here perhaps of
only secondary importance due to its lack of immediacy.
In addition to emphasising the immediacy of impression, Schoenberg reveals the trajectory of art's focus from external to internal, from the objects themselves to the spaces between them and theemotional impressions they make. This was the second realisation that the above juxtaposition afforded. External : internal : : objects : spaces between. The paradox of synaesthesia is that even as one sense defines another, and by extension one art defines another, the same principle also models the disconnect between senses, and by extension, the space between art forms. Indeed, it is impossible to fully integrate the different arts, but this was never the aim. Synaesthesia preserves inexpressibility while offering a new perspective.
Perceiving distinct elements draws attention to the literal space between objects (the physical bodies of cellist and dancers) or between communication modes (music and movement). These various kinds of embodiment invite a sympathetic, synaesthetic response from the viewer. While different bodies and different modes of communication naturally distinguish themselves from one another, gesture (intrinsic to each) unifies artistic affect. Here no language is necessary. When experienced together, each art form presents essentially the same gesture. This is what Simon Shaw-Miller sees as the continuity of arts concepts, 'For it is useful to consider the difference between music and the visual arts as a matter of degree, not of kind'. In the words of Kandinsky, '...the same internal tone may be achieved by the different arts; each art will bring to this general tone its own special characteristics, thereby adding to it a richness and a power which no one art form could achieve'.
Cogitations on Collaboration
I originally approached the theory of musical forces with the intention of directly transferring the forces identified as acting upon the music to the forces that the dancers would respond to with physical motion. As the hybridity fundamental to the concept of synaesthesia can attest, and as the choreographic process made me aware, the forces themselves are less significant than the interactions between them. The process of choreographing the Sonata and the new composition underlined the extent to which working with physical bodies is both bound by and reflects the hierarchical interactions of physical forces. The levels of hierarchical interaction between bodies within the dance space include: the relationship between the dancers, the kinds of movement that typify the dance, the paths of movement that define the spatial structure of the dance, the discreet motions within those trajectories, the specific intersections of sound and movement, and finally the coalescing agent of gesture.
Prior to the rehearsal period, several collaborative parameters had been set. Risk was a conscious choice and a creative decision, first invoked through the creation of the graphic score as the basis of music-dance correspondence, implicit in the participation of the cello in the dance, manifested in the complexity of the Capriccio choreography, and at the fore in the Lines for Gage structured improvisation. The choreographed Capriccio (in order of chronological development) utilises duet contact work, individual floor work, and task-derived gesture. Gesture unifies the extremes and respective visual planes of floor work and contact work. The Lines for Gage dance improvisation also constitutes three parts that roughly align with the three sections of Dan's piece, each section corresponding in turn to one of three graphic score pages that Dan chose to interpret. Where the choreography of the Ligeti Solo Sonata simulated risk, the improvisatory nature of this final part of the event presents actual risk. When one started to fall, the other was unprepared to catch. The choreographed Lines for Gage explores bodies seated in dialogue, then falling to the Earth, and finally climbing to the Heavens.
By exaggerating the differences between the two movements of the Sonata in their respective graphic representations, I was already testing the fluidity of the collaborative relationship. These differences previously discussed, between the visual representations of the Dialogo and Capriccio,called upon very different intuitive reactions and creative responses.
The process of choreographing for cello (here I refer to performer, instrument, and music played together) and two dancers afforded the opportunity to probe not only the relationship between cello and dance, but ultimately that between sound and sight. There is never complete reconciliation between cello and dance (reconciliation the ruling aesthetic, as seen earlier, of the Mark Morris choreography). Now the cello becomes a part of the dance, instead of its governing force. More than silence, it is the absence of movement that triggers this interaction, either from cellist to dancer or dancer to cellist. The relationships forged allow the work to exist in the liminal space between realising the fundamental ideas already imbedded in the music, and 'mirroring' or pairing musical and physical movement. In the Capriccio,the circular arrangement of dancers around the cello makes visibly clear Cage's observation that 'The interesting thing about the ears is that you can hear things behind you.' In this case, the audience is hearing with their sight. Sound both mediates between the energies of two dancers at opposing attitudes, and is the medium through which the dance is literally 'seen'.
Choreographic vision prioritised creating a scheme for the final event over presenting self-contained movements or pieces. Even before the completion of the new composition, the choreographer was intent upon building this progression, which flows from the Ligeti Dialogo to Capriccio, and after the panel discussion, finishes with Lines for Gage. Here the hybrid model from the discussion of synaesthesia may conveniently be employed. The overall trajectory: solos—duet—structured improvisation, whether interspersed solos, duet climaxes linked bysimultaneous motion, or structured three-part improvisation facilitated by prop; dancer relationships from coincidental—conflicting—interdependent; movement from walking and sliding—running and jumping—standing, falling, and climbing; paths of movement from linear—circular. In the Dialogo, thearc of movement mirrors along the diagonal tangent of sound created by the cello. Ephemeral melodies come and go as the dancers interchange in and out of the space. By contrast, in the Capriccio, the optical effect could be perceived as planetary, machine-like, or atomic. To use this last analogy, it is as though the dancers create an electron cloud of movement around the nucleus of the cello. The perpetual motion of the music (itself a result of inertia) constantly moves the dancers. Visually, too, while the cello alternately appears to generate motion, it also seems to hold the dancers in that motion. And while the dancers' paths of movement may appear random, they are, in fact, intricately interwoven. Just as the energy spent in playing each outburst is regained through the charged silence that follows it, the dancers' flurry of motion finds fresh impetus in the collisions between them both.
The duet—comprised of two male dancers—presented its own resistances, the challenge of which further spurred choreographic development. Finding the 'soft edge' when meeting the floor was counterbalanced by contact work that utilised pivoting and colliding. This dichotomy between the soft edge and contact work is of course more deep-seated, extending beyond the choreographic lexicon to the respective approaches of the dancers themselves. One proved fluid and flexible, the other articulate and strong. This observation may remind listeners (and readers) of the archetypal distinction evident in the music of the Sonata. Dialogo : Apollonian : : Capriccio : Dionysian.
That this dynamic duet was motivated by risk becomes apparent in the complex and choreographically rich Capriccio. It was here at the end of the work that the visceral feeling of the music decisively determined the process of working backward, for both painting and choreography. The literal images that I began sketching (that correspond to points in the score at which the musical forces are readily observable) found expression in the direct contact between dancers. The predominance of contact lift work in the choreography, in turn, reflects the highly physical nature of gestures at the cello.
The recycling and exchanging of movement motifs early became another prevailing characteristic of this choreographic process. In the Capriccio, the process of choreography creation parallels the generation of musical material. Identical movements are reordered and reconfigured for different contexts, just as the musical melody is reborn through various textures. Simply, movement : context : : music : texture. Largely due to this reusing and trading of physical movements, the essence of the work is visible in every moment; ideas are evenly distributed throughout. Structural integrity evident in the dance reflects the complex inner workings of the Sonata. This integrity is exemplified by the tremolo passage of the Capriccio.
The choreographer referred to this subsection as 'underground,' an interpretation explained by the appearance of the passage within the graphic score. Clouds of colour move through a 'tunnel' of primary colours. But the movement of the dancers in this passage implies more than this everyday allusion would suggest. It is instead a primal re-enactment. Two bodies grapple apelike with the floor; when a body falls, we see how it reacts to what it meets.
Here the evocation of the primal belies the complex implications of the composite audio-visual affect. While moving on the semi-circle, one dancer moves on straight-line paths; the other traces the path of an arc. This specific dichotomy highlights the differences between episodic materials that alternate throughout the whole of the Capriccio. These differences are made explicit in the graphic score through the use of curt lines abruptly met on the one hand, and smooth contours that move fluidly across the page on the other. Furthermore, the discreet motions of the dancers within these paths demonstrate movement within a trajectory, similar to the activity of watercolour in each of the nebulous shapes that together show the direction of the music. The movements themselves do not reflect the shape of the melody. Rather, it is the structure and its component parts of interest here: a melody repeated and then answered, reflected by three physical tropes within their respective trajectories. In addition, two dancers moving around the cello could form a three-part exchange that is, in fact, proposed by the music. Finally, what is temporally sequential in the music—presentation of a melody and its near-inverse response—becomes spatially simultaneous in the visual counterpoint between the two dancers. The whole and its parts are presented in a moment.
Specific intersections of sound and movement imbedded in the performance provide further creative rationale for experiencing music and dance together. At poignant moments, sound and motion join to suspend the perception of time. The tri-tone outburst and its resolution in the Capriccio reprise of the Dialogo achieve this effect. In a handstand freeze framing the bass eruption, the legs of the dancer straighten as the melody resolves at the zenith of the dissonant arpeggiated chord. The continuation of the dance requires the resolution of the music, making visible the mutual dependence between movement and sound.
It was the personal nature of the dancers' gestures that enabled their integration as one of the last 'layers' of the choreographic process. Learned away from the dance, these gestures were the only element of the choreography exclusively created by the dancers. The dance now became their domain. The personal import of gesture is matched only by its creative function. The fact that gesture synthesises elements of the entire choreographic scheme proves Ferneyhough's assertion that 'Notation expresses the ideology of its own process of creation.' Just as performative gestures at the cello inspired specific images of the graphic score, so these visual gestures motivated the movement tasks and their emotive results.
I would like to remain loyal to the process of this project, which has presented some form of duality with every new development and investigation. After my reading for the project was complete (or so I thought), and a few days before the final performance event, I was alerted to an article written by Lawrence Kramer: 'Music, Metaphor, and Metaphysics'. Besides alluring with alliteration, this article reinforced my approach to collaboration specifically, and to musical meaning in general. It was first as a musician that I desired the physical extension of musical line through dance, and so the motivation to find meaning within the music is a fitting end.
Kramer presents the stalemate familiar to recent musicological discourse: any discussion of music either skims its surface or overanalyses it. Between these two extremes, though, may be found an 'ideal interpretive distance,' which is the proximity of interpretation to its object. Kramer approaches musical meaning from the ideal interpretive distance between metaphor and metaphysics. Key to this position is that musical meaning does not pre-exist, to be 'brought out' in performance, but rather is created in and through the particular circumstances of performance.
With musical forces and synaesthesia, I framed the ideal interpretive distance for this project. Synaesthesia and musical forces : metaphor and metaphysics : : space between : ideal interpretive distance. The process of collaboration has creatively proven these two approaches. Kramer advocat
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About The Author
Fresh from my RAM graduate degree, I am excited to begin offering Cello, General Music, and Theory lessons in the New Year. I'm emboldened to teach, share, and explore following my most recent project in cross-arts collaboration, which focused on the intersection of music, visual art, a.... Read More