Zubin Kanga: Sounding Bodies: Embodiment and Gesture in the Collaborative Creation and Realisation of works for Piano and Electronics 28:12
- Saison 2015-2016 > TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music
- Oct. 8, 2015
- Program note: TCPM 2015
- Zubin Kanga (conférencier)
This paper examines works for piano and electronics that use technology to expand and subvert the body and pianistic technique of the pianist. It draws upon the fledgling research field of auto-ethnographic examination of composer-performer collaboration and builds upon the author’s doctoral thesis, Inside The Collaborative Process: Realising New Works for Solo Piano, which examined collaborations between the author and 30 composer on new piano works to track and analyse the catalysts and pressures that affect the process, such as differences of age and seniority, the goal of virtuosity, the use of graphic notation and the cumulative effects of long-term collaborations. However, new approaches to gesture have been only fleetingly explored in these case studies, and the use of electronics was not explored at all – this paper is thus a vital keystone in both fields.
As a study of composer-performer collaboration, work also builds upon the work in this field of Östersjö (2008), Roche (2012), Hayden/Windsor (2007), Clarke/Cook/Harrison/Thomas (2005), Heyde/Fitch (2007), Heyde/Bayley (2014), Clarke/Doffman/Lim (2013) and Hooper (2013) who all use ethnographic (or autoethnographic) documentation of collaborations as a research tool. The author examines the process of creating or realising each of these works, allowing the formation of new approaches to gesture through multimedia to be observed, tracked and analysed. This type of examination will allow the role of the performer in creating, refining and controlling the innovative gestural aspects of the work to be revealed. It also allows the author to test the effects on the collaboration process of these interactions between body and technology.
The three new works are by Belgian, Australian and British composers, with two of the works written specifically for the author (a concert pianist). Each explores and subverts the relationship between the pianist’s body and the instrument but each does so using different musical and technological means. The process of creative collaboration was documented (through filming of workshops, collection of sketch materials and interviews) creating a body of data that can be analysed and compared. By studying a group of similar cases, trends and strategies can be tracked across multiple cases, allowing the specific interaction between technology and collaborative process to be assessed.
Dark Twin (2015) by Australian composer, Julian Day, utilises a tape part to create the effect of a pianist accompanied by a distorted doppelgänger. The perception of the relationship between the pianist’s sound and physicality is gradually altered and subverted, creating the illusion of a complex interaction between pianist and technology. In Piano Hero (2012) by Belgian composer, Stefan Prins, the performer uses a keyboard to control a video avatar of a pianist, creating gestural complexity from the contrast between the live performer’s gesture and the resultant ‘performing’ video. Although this work was not composed for the author, the gestural aspects of the work still required workshopping, with discussions focussing on the managing the many different roles that gesture plays in the work. British composer, Patrick Nunn’s Morphosis (2014) uses 3D sensors, attached the pianist’s hands to control the electronics (programmed with Max). The movements of the pianist are not choreographed, yet the specific parameters of control programmed into the electronics part create a 3D landscape for the pianist to explore. In addition, Nunn sets up different parameters for each section, creating a game for both performer and audience of continuously attempting to discover the limits of control.
These works all require explore new approaches to the interaction between performative gesture and electronics and all require many stages of collaborative creativity and experimentation. In addition, considerable creative input is required from the performer at all stages from the process, in calibrating the electronics parts, exploring the constraints and controls of both the notation and the electronics as well as choreographing movements around the piano. In some cases, the electronics and choreography are tailored to the pianist’s natural gestural approach to the piano, and in others, the electronics and choreography are made to challenge the technique of the pianist in a prime example of resistance as a creative tool (a term coined by Sennett (2008) and explored further in Heyde/Callis/Kanga/Sham (2014)). The process of collaborative creation of works for piano and electronics has not been examined before, and the insights of this comparative exploration will be of significant importance to both the field of the study of new approaches to gesture, the research into new approaches to composition for the piano as well as the field of study of composer-performer collaboration.