Whitespace

A participatory movement/sound piece which relates a performance space to the space of the page, thereby exploring the space completely over the course of the performance. Sound is used to highlight aspects of the performance area. This is a work in progress.

More about this piece

Paper

Paper, performed by Sarah James
Paper, performed by Sarah James at Bastard Assignments: New Teeth 4. Photo by Dimitri Djuric

Paper for cello and video works with sounds suggested by interactions with paper – drawing, erasing, cutting, crumpling, and allowing paper to uncrumple itself – sometimes imitating the sound that would be made, sometimes translating those sounds into more ‘musical’ versions. The piece uses a video score, which is also projected for the audience to see. However, the audience also sees additional material after the cellist has finished playing, allowing for a closer observation of the visuals without the distraction of sound and for the possibility of the audience being able to recreate the sounds associated with the imagery in their imaginations.

The visuals show the composer interacting with paper and follow an increasingly detailed trajectory – from wide-angle shots showing the composer’s workspace down to very close-up footage revealing the texture of the paper used and playing with focus.

There are clear correlations of sound to visuals throughout the piece with sonic/technique relationships sometimes tying together visually disparate imagery.

Paper makes much use of extended techniques and while simple in form poses challenges for the performer of timing and theatrical awareness to pull together the performance and the video so that the cellist onstage is a critical visual element in the piece.

Paper from Bastard Assignments on Vimeo.

Manifesto

Manifesto was devised as an audiovisual piece developed using Max/MSP. It was the product of the very last weeks of my Master of Fine Arts research project, At the Borders of Music, Art and Text: Exploring an interdisciplinary approach to composition and incorporates several key concepts from that research:

  • The use of ‘amateur’ activity within my professional practice
  • The use of limitations
  • Embracing chance
  • Visual material as music

The ‘amateur’ activity includes using myself as the performer, using multiple layers of improvisation, working with video as well as audio, and – in particular – my decision to create this piece using Max/MSP, a programme with a famously steep learning curve, and to have the piece begun and completed in the last six weeks of my degree.

This last idea was a little too ambitious – tackling a project like this while finalising a major work for my portfolio (Crossing Dartmoor), writing a 10,000-word dissertation and doing all the bits and pieces that finishing up a major project entails. But the work has in the end been completed within about six weeks’ total work… spread over about 18 months.

The first three audio sections (Rhythm/Delays, Slurps/Granularisation, and Sung tones/Pitch processes) were completed and submitted with the project, with the fourth audio section (Sssssssshhhhhhh/Feedback) and the two video pieces (Paper River, and Dirty Lines) being created a few months later, within the framework of Creative Pact 2014.

Each piece worked with limited material created by me (one audio file of vocal/body-percussion improvisation, or one or two video files) and a limited range of processes. A time limit was set for creating each patch, which was then used to improvise up to 10 versions of the section, with the one that worked best being chosen for the final assemblage.

My original plan had been to create a Max patch which would pull all the sections together and assemble a final version on the fly according to a set of rules which would define parameters for the random selection of sections and their start/end points and durations. Quite a lot of work was achieved on this, and I am immensely grateful for the assistance of Max/MSP guru Justin Capps who helped me out when I got stuck. However, this just didn’t work out how I’d hoped it would, so ultimately I compiled a finished version using Logic and Final Cut Express, but using the initial rules and determining the timing of changeover point using random numbers generated in a spreadsheet. Start/end points were determined by visual adjustments in Logic, rather than by aural selection, with minor clean-up being applied to smooth transitions.

This work is a response to my 2014 Credo.

 

HearSee

HearSee is an ongoing series of experimental video compositions which explore memory and the use of amateur skills within professional practice