A rehearsal video from May 31, 2017, showing an excerpt from the second section of the dance as a work in progress. Using videos we were able to see some of what Nikki was setting. Because both of us were dancing or at least “on stage”, it was impossible to know what the overall look and pattern of the dance were. This reminds me that Joe Goode works in a studio without mirrors. Since his choreography is collaborative with his dancers, it means that each dancer has a perspective of the piece, but no one sees the piece as a whole. The dancers are dancing to each other, rather than to an audience.
The rehearsal took place in a studio in south London. In the background the traffic noises blend with the recordings, creating a soundscape combining country and city.
Nikki (right) and I rehearsing.
Nikki and I are in Dartington in the southwest of England, and will be presenting a 20-minute dance-poem for the “In Other Tongues” conference. The piece continues what we have worked on off and on for a few years, in between my return to California, and the illnesses of Nikki’s family and an uprooting of her home. The composition of the piece began with a series of short poems that I wrote in the Dartmoor area. I rearranged them to make four separate poems of poem fragments, which were recorded by sound engineer and composer Adria Otte. To this verbal line we added percussion and field recordings from the area and elsewhere, creating four movements with different meditative backgrounds. Among the field recordings were ocean and bird sounds from south Devon by Philip Goddard, rain, and birdcalls from Devon. The percussion included bells and shakers. I performed these in true Cornelius Cardew Choir random fashion. We had to adjust the levels of these sounds to give them more presence. Since I had opted to perform outside, the recordings and the ambient sounds would overlap. Although I liked the idea of parts of the recording “disappearing” into the natural sounds of the garden I also wanted them to hold their presence. After finishing the first three parts, I was at a loss of what do for the closing part. Piano improvisations kept coming to mind. Looking through her sound files Adria found a short piano improv by Julia Moon that she had recorded several years ago. She dropped it into the mix and it fit perfectly. The music for the piece, which is titled “Passing Moments”, was complete. The entire set can be found on SoundCloud here.
The first thing Nikki and I had to agree on in this collaboration was how and where poetry and dance intersect as art forms. What necessary property do they share in common?
Where the two art forms intersect is in the dimension of music. Both dance and poetry need some form of musicality as the basis of their emotional and physical realisation. Accept that axiom and the next question is: Which aspect of musicality is not only inherent but also necessary in both forms?
There are a number of components to music, and a quick search lists them as melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and form. All of these have analogs within poetry and dance, but only two are shared as absolutes: rhythm and form. And of those two, form has almost no immediate meaning or relevance. So …
The one thing Nikki and I agreed upon from the very beginning was that we would approach the intersection of dance and poetry from rhythm. Other things, like form and melody, would follow in the future.