Choir Lab Initial Meeting

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On Friday, the third of December, we held a meeting at the MDW Rennweg campus to discuss various directions of research into the smooth spaces of choir conducting. We also updated each other on the current work in progress. Due to illness, the general Corona-madness and different locations, we held a hybrid meeting: Johannes Hiemetsberger (representative for choir conducting), Hanne Pilgrim (representative for eurhythmics), Adrian Artacho (composer) and Leonhard Horstmeyer (complexity scientist) were present in person and Sarah (via zoom).

The discussion was ignited by an overview of the various strands of the “conducting spaces” project, given by Hanne, and then revolved around the following topics roughly in that order: 1) Staging and embodiment of the voices in the choir. 2) Where does the spatial analogy come from in polyphonic music? Was it intended as a spatial figure? 3) polyphonic idea translated into space 4) Many ways to open up space in choir conducting, e.g: movement, crescendo, pitch. 5) Difference between togetherness and coincidence 6) The choir as a micro-society. Here’s a more detailed summary.

Hanne presented the evolution of the “conducting spaces” project and recounted that the initial seed of the project was Hans-Christian’s suggestion to Johannes and Hanne that the freshly started project on smooth spaces could be a good context for a performance with the choir and a virtual glove at the Ars Technica in Linz. Then came the idea with “Lux Aeterna” by Ligeti as the choir piece. The performance was well received and pictures, sound and video material was amongst the outputs. Subsequently we discussed the project in the light of “smooth spaces” during our “Lux Aeterna Lab” in mid October. We talked about time quantities and space qualities (zeitliche Quantitäten und räumliche Qualitäten) with reference to Julian Caskel. The translation of the 16- voices choir piece into a midi format sparked the idea of the embodiment and visualization of one of the most demanding tasks for a Lux-Aeterna recital: The cue or “when do I start singing”? One could view the following as a first proposition in the iterative process of studying the spatial content of the piece, namely: “The cues are the clues to the spatial listening experience”. Approaching this proposition, we used the midi scores and the virtual gloves to embody cues.

Johannes then talked about the staging of a piece by Henry Purcell in a cathedral where the question of the cue was dealt with by having the singers enter when their voices start.

We talked about polyphonic music and the difficulty to use it effectively. Put into one phrase: One starts from the first voice, adds another and thereafter it just becomes loud. This again rings bells of the number three being special for interactions. We mentioned the translation of a score image (Notenbild) into movement.

Johannes reflects on the theme of visualizing polyphonic music by touching on a theme that seems important to him, namely the communication and frictions of the choir voices. Is there equality in a choir piece, say in a fuge? In homophonic music is there also agreement amongst the voices? Does a vertical “accord” yield an “accord” (agreement) between the singers, too? Keyword: Hierarchies, friction, counterpoint.

Johannes talks about a Salzburgian choir conductor called Rupert Huber, who accompanies the “Rundfunkchöre” (radio choirs) in Germany. According to Johannes Huber coined or propagated the term “Wirkungssingen” in response to the dilution of the effect in singing. The content and effect of a word was enhanced by singing, whereas oftentimes now the word itself is not reconcilable anymore and thus lost its meaning.

Was there ever any intention of spatiality in the concept of polyphonic music? People often speak of a vertical spatial experience with homophonic music “building on top of each other” and a horizontal spatial experience with polyphonic music. But why is that? Where does that come from? Is it culturally entrenched? Maybe it comes from the Gregorian heritage of lines that makes polyphonic music horizontal? Each line has a certain independence. Johannes mentioned a few examples where the space itself has been co-composed (mitkomponiert) and includes Bruckner into that list. He mentions the “Generalpausentakt”.

Adrian adds thoughts about the conductor-centricity. The choir is directed at the conductor. But the movement is not. Why not compose a piece where the polyphonic aspect is spatially implemented. A piece where no space is privileged over any other?

Johannes talks about vertical music (i.e. homophonic music) requiring a point in time, always. In Ligetis micropolyphonic music there is very little vertical rooting, where things come together in a single point in time. What if the music were completely liberated of the vertical rooting? Hanne points out that the onset of the tenors is such a point in time where things come together and align vertically. Johannes agrees that there is this point, where it rips open (aufreißen).

Hanne also raises the point that oftentimes people would think that a rise in pitch would trigger a rising movement, too. However, Hanne also observes her students collapsing on a rising pitch. So the original translation does not include the effect (german: “Wirken”).

Johannes mentions that there are a lot of ways to open things up. One may use an opening gesture to signal larger movement, or one may indicate a crescendo or a higher pitch. Hanne mentions Arnie Cox with the title “Music and Embodied Cognition – Listening, Feeling and Thinkin”. Hanne explains the performance at the workshop, given by Adrian and Hanne, where participants were embodying the Lux Aeterna scores with Laban efforts.

Adrian has the idea to include a flow chart with senders and receivers indicating who has produced what and for whom it was interesting. Adrian suggests the polyphonic structure of spaciness. (“Räumlichkeit”). In this context he then explains the “share, care, dare” performance: During a zoom meeting all participants were given the freedom to produce any sort of spoken output with the only constraint being that at a pre-defined moment participants would use one of the words “share”, “care” or “dare” (the theme of the workshop). These moments were the only ones notated and composed beforehand. From the documenter’s understanding they were composed in such as way as to overlap in time for most or all participants. The result was a quasi-polyphonic structure for most of the time except at certain times there was some form of “accord” or agreement. Adrian mentions the ssimilarity but also distinction with respect to “sound painting”. Following this idea Adrian suggests that the choir is in movement but without a centristic position. Johannes asks what the idea had been behind the simultaneous cues of the “share”,”care” and “dare” words. Hanne and Adrian mentioned the consensus on one theme as far as the documenters writings can tell. This led Johannes to make a remark about the tantalizing distinction between consensus, coincidence and coercion (translated freely by the documenter). Do the performers agree because they want to, they feel like it, they are overwhelmed to do so or maybe because they are urged by following a dictated cue?

Hanne asks what the gain would be for us? She also notes that in saying so she intentionally plays the advocatus diaboli. Should the choir be decentralized? Johannes: Decentralized Self-organisation opens spaces. Why do we consider a block in the choir as one. Somehow in the choir one is accustomed to a homogeneous block, one seeks it. The surplus value can either originate in co- mmonality (deutsch: “Gemeinsamkeit”) or co-ercion (deutsch: “Zwang”). Johannes mentions the piece ASLSP (“As slow as possible”) by John Cage in which years pass by until the next chord is played. This nourishes the anticipatory joy of an impending get-together. But is this meeting point a duty, is it wanted, is it desired, is it a ritual? Adrian remarks that it may be a suggestion for a get- together rather than a coercion. Johannes recounts another recital in the body of a cathedral in which each segment/room had a different form of agreement. The first was infused with fragmented sounds, the second one exhibited an interplay of tempi. The third one was not captured by the documenter. It had a great effect and participants of the performance could make a lot of choices with regard to how and when they would enter into the respective spaces.

Hanne rebases the discussion. Our focus thus far has been to study spatial aspects of choir conducting and possible experiments. However, also due to Rose’s input we could refocus on our nullspaces and use that focus as the entrypoint to our research. The concept of nullspaces are an important part of the proposed research and according to its agenda the first part. Finding nullspaces of the respective disciplines would correspond to the quest for a zero-point, an intersection set of possible practices in that discipline. Hanne remarks that we have slid into the project sideways and thereby midway via the “conducting spaces” project. However, we should not loose focus on the nullspaces and in fact this project has the great benefit of allowing us the sink more properly into the entrypoint, namely that of the nullspaces.

For instance, one may argue that the nullspace of physics is the harmonic oscillator. It is not the nullspace of practicing physics and due to the breadth of research in physics the intersection set of practices might be quite little. Nevertheless the harmonic oscillator is very basal to most of physics. In its purest form the harmonic oscillator represents the phenomenon that occurs when any deviation from the status quo yields a force opposing that deviation proportional to the elongation. The resulting dynamics shows an oscillating behaviour, where deviations are always penalized by opposing forces but equilibrium is ideally never reached. The pendulum is a real world example that is fairly close to a harmonic oscillator. Most things in physics do behave in a similar manner, from light to water and sound waves to particles themselves. It also lends itself to a very clean analytical description and indeed entire mathematical frameworks have been build to conform to this canonical phenomenon. Much of what is called modern physics stems from coupling together these harmonic oscillators. Already the simplest of such couplings, namely the double pendulum, gives rise to a vast phenomenology with chaotic regimes and arguably aesthetically pleasing trajectories.

We then went on to discuss some modalities of the next choir lab. Sarah was interested in joining the project and we had some talks about what would work best for her. Some people prefer a contract others a payment slip. Regarding the lab Johannes was saying that he would wish from the team some questions directed at the discipline of choir.conducting. What does the team wish from the lab. We reiterated some of the points mentioned earlier.

Hanne mentioned that the choir as a voice of the people, i.e. the peoples’ voice, was very appealing. This again triggered some discussion of the parallels between the choir and a micro-society. Johannes remarks that the life of an Alt-singer is so difficult. She lives inside a quint and always need to demarcate herself from the adjacent singers, whereas the sopran has all that freedom to spread along multiple octaves. Johannes also mentions Dieter Schnebel in this context. The documenter has noted the name “Kontrapunktus 1” for the mentioned piece, which he was not able to find. Instead he found the piece “Zwischenstück Nr. 1”. Johannes says that Dieter Schnebel takes excerpts from the well-tempered Clavier (deutsch: “Wohltemperiertes Klavier”) and distributes the individual lines to multiple performers. The name “The best of all worlds” comes up. Leo mentions Voltair’s Candide.

During our discussions the idea of a composition of polyphonic spatialness for the choir came up around Adrians inputs. He also said that it would be a nice challenge to make such a composition. One that he’d be keen to take on. Talking about composition and interpretation we also discussed feedback culture and especially Adrian’s draft on the cycle of creation and feedback in composing. We also remarked the discrepancy between the feedback given to the interpret and that given to the composer. Hanne recommended the book “Der leere Raum” by Peter Brook.

We concluded this part of the meeting with a search for a good date to have the choir lab. The constraining factors were the Corona-measures and availability questions. A preliminary date was suggested for the first of February form 9am till 4pm.

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Discussion on the modalities of the reading group

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Hanne and Leo meet to discuss iteration process for the hand gesture study.

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Lux Aeterna Experimental Lab

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Meeting with Anna Leon (TQW) to discuss the PEEK project

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Meeting on Movement in the Large Movement Room with Maria and Leo

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Lux Aeterna Lab

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Developing Ideas -- Maria and Leo

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Meeting with Rose, Hanne and Leo at the Cafe Prückel

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Reflections on the Discussion between Leo and Rose at the abpu

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Discussions about the work and relevance of Gerhard Dirmoser for our project. He works on systematization of diagrammatic representations, which he outlines in "Diagrammatik - Reader".

One of the questions that are recurrent in our discussions is: "Kann jeder diese Erfahrung machen?" This question addresses the experiential dimension of the performer and how it is shaped by training and by practise. Rose talks about the "body or movement archive". Are practitioners the sum or list of their archived experiences? Is a discipline the intersection or lowest common denominator of all its practitioners?

We discussed the use of sender, recipient and noise channel in communicating experiences.

In physical experiments it is usually (or arguably never) possible to access the quality or quantity of interest. E.g. the expansion rate of the universe is inferred by the red shift of the spectrum of various light sources. The experience of a performer cannot be interrogated by a question, but indirectly through her or his interaction with the surrounding. An important example of this would be to understand the shape of a body not by measuring its characteristics, but by letting ants crawl over it and by recording the behaviour of the ants (which is indirectly a consequence of the curvature of the body).

We discussed the idea of concatenations of yes-no-questions to reveal something about an experiential state. How far can one get by this procedure? Would a complex experience have more or less of such questions. Rose and I have been brain storming about various options here.

The question was raised whether the space ("Raum") can be null. Historically the space in the dances was usually considered null.

What would be a great outcome of the project. If other practitioners can take this atlas, and use it for their own purposes. When we can manage to illustrate the method of capturing smoothness by a sequence of snapshots via a multitude of communication channels. But what do we mean by smoothness, what kind of snapshots do we want?

Another topic we discussed were decentralized communication protocols, where communication and interactions happens only on peer-to-peer basis and a larger functionality emerges. Rose was saying that a Syrian artist has created a performance in which each actor just had local or nearestneighbour interaction rules and only when every actor follows them would a macroscopic pattern emerge whereby everyone appeared to follow one person.

We discussed the idea of the atlas as the collection of maps that aim to capture an amorphous thing that cannot be described directly, such as a smooth space. Do we want to capture smooth spaces? Which kind of smooth spaces? Those that Deleuze and Guattari were introducing? Or those that we believe we experience in certain performances? We discussed using a canonical reference point as a canvas. So that each practise describes what smoothness means there? Or do we want to have various scores (Partituren)? There were some arguments in favour of having one such score. Manet also painted the same church in various lights, thus maybe creating an atlas of impressions, rather than an atlas of the church.

We discussed to which extend this figure of 'producing an atlas of charts' as a method for the artistic practices would be worth pursuing as an output in written form. The same holds for the figure of null spaces. What would be needed to pursue this writing. Maybe some examples. It would even make sense to start drafting a text, which Leo would like to start with at some point soon

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Posted by: Leonhard Horstmeyer


Damian's Lecture on Movement Notation

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Damian held a great lecture on the histoy of dance notations and a classification by Ann Hutchinson Guest. For me one of the most notable insights was the diversity in the choice of representation. Some systems used existing symbolic systems such as words (alphabet) or musical scores, others focussed on the physical track that was drawn in space, others made little figures, and again others abstracted symbols. Some were used only within a very specific setting (Louis XIV) or specific school. What I found interesting in one of the scores that was reminiscent of a musical score, was the use of a key. Damian told us that unlike the musical keys, the dance keys stated the departure posture for the dance. Does one need a key for a dance score? What would be the requirements for a key? Does the initial posture have similar significance for the following dance as does the musical notation?

A question that was raised during the discussion was: What generates the expression? Intentions etc. But maybe anecdotal narratives? Or the actual physical steps? It was furthermore interesting to see the progression from notating the steps or actions to notating the movements.

We also learned that notations were used as markatable trademarks throughout the history.

Another question that was brought up and which I would paraphrase here: Literacy has played an important role in emancipating the individual from the preachings of teachers and interpreters of holy scriptures. Would literacy in dance notations empower dancers in a similar manner? Literacy also used to be a privilege. Is it a similar case here?

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Discussion with Geraldine Cox about movement, dance and foundational concepts of physics

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Glover Testing with Adrian, Hanne, Johannes and Leo

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Urheberrecht Diskussion

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