Feature
Observations from Quinta on the marriage of music and dance
24 May 2017

An excerpt from the full blog post '"I got gaps, you got gaps, we fill each other's gaps" which can be read on Rambert's website here.

During a recent Rambert run at London’s Sadler’s Wells, as I sat in the dressing room amidst empty instrument cases and opening-night chocolates, my eye was drawn to the monitor screen which broadcasts a view of the stage as a guide for those waiting to go on. The sound was turned down but as the minutes passed I became completely absorbed.

I had seen the particular piece a few times before as an audience member, but experiencing it in this way felt entirely new, and seemed to both open up and focus the way I saw it. Though the fact that the dancers were hearing the music as they danced felt important in their performance of the piece, the movements were free of the specifics of that music. And I liked that I couldn’t hear it. I felt I was experiencing the dance somehow on its own terms. I was immediately energised by thoughts of new kinds of audio score, of silent discos and ‘silent scores’, of dance pieces which stole the music from the audience, or which conveyed it only partially.

As well as this, I was struck anew by how very powerful music is in influencing the mood and structure of visual information, such that removing it changes so much. I remembered a participatory film workshop I’d run about musical soundtracking, where I’d replaced the original soundtrack to a film clip with various other types of music and sound. Some of the replacement soundtracks felt natural, providing a conventional kind of emotional cueing, others felt entirely disconnected and nonsensical, and others again felt they opened up new kinds of connection, were unexpected and intriguing.

Modern dance scores tend not, thankfully, to be as literal as the average mainstream Hollywood film score since the scope of the dance/music relationship is perhaps broader, and composers are perhaps less hamstrung into generating musical sound-a-likes. Contemporary dance music amounts to art music, so, in a way, anything goes, as long as it bears artistic integrity. It can express tension, resistance, perversity as well as story-telling and relationship, and much more besides. But nevertheless, there is something there to unpick, something about the way the two sit together, how and why they do, whether they fit and whether they work and how you perceive it when they don’t.

 

Read the rest on Rambert's website.

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