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Proposal for a Dance Performance: Self-narrating Through Graphic Media and Notations

Abstract

Proposal for a Dance Performance is an artwork for music ensemble and PowerPoint. This work aims to transform -through the use of self-referential narration- dance notation, emails, program notes and technical rides, into performing instances. The paper puts the above artwork in a dialogue with works by Hanns Eisler, Alfred Schnittke and Johannes Kreidler, which use music notation as a conceptual visual tool. Furthermore, this paper discusses the role of music as a character in a play, a technique found in Samuel Becket’s work. This combination of narration and notation is being proposed as a transdisciplinary methodology for breaking fixed notions of artistic practice.
Ioannis Panagiotou
PhD, Music Creative Practice
University of Edinburgh
Proposal
for a Dance
Performance:
Self-narrating
Through
Graphic Media
and Notations
Abstract
Proposal for a Dance Performance is an artwork for music ensemble
and PowerPoint. This work aims to transform—through the
use of self-referential narration—dance notation, emails,
program notes and technical rides, into performing instances.
The paper places the artwork in a dialogue with works by
Hanns Eisler, Alfred Johannes and Johannes Kreidler, which
use music notation as a conceptual visual tool. Furthermore,
this paper discusses the role of music as a character in a play, a
technique found in Samuel Becket’s work. This combination of
narration and notation is being proposed as a transdisciplinary
methodology for breaking xed notions of artistic practice.
Proposal for a Dance Performance
Ioannis Panagiotou
Recommended Music to acompany this article
74 Proposal for a Dance Performance Ioannis Panagiotou
I wanted to make a composition for dance, but I couldn’t nd any
dancers, so I decided to create a work which would give musicality
and motion to the paperwork that is lifeless but essential for
transforming my idea into reality. The performance considers issues
of narration, perception, and the ephemerality of my failure.
Proposal for a Dance Performance
Performed by the Edinburgh Contemporary
(Rush Hour) Ensemble and conducted by
prof. Peter Nelson.
John Konsolakis, clarinet
Richard Blaquière, piano
Andrew Taheny, violin
Georgina Finlayson, violin
Daniel Safford, viola
Justyna Jablonska-Edmonds, cello
Russell Wimbish, double bass
Venue: Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh as part of
Dialogues Festival 2019.
Proposal for a Dance
Performance: Self-
Narrating Through
Graphic Media and
Notations
75 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
[1] Berndt Heller.
‘The Reconstruction
of Eisler’s Film Music:
“Opus III”, “Regen”
and “The Circus”’.
Historical Journal
of Film, Radio, and
Television 18, no. 4
(1998): 550.
Notation and Boundaries
Wanting to create a connection with contemporary art, my
starting point is lm, one of the most multimedia forms of
art. I analyse the relation between the visual and the audio
elements, the music and the music score, and the ways they
have been combined by dierent artists in dierent contexts,
in order to break the boundaries between them.
One of the problems that some of the rst modernist music
composers tried to solve in Hollywood’s lm industry was the
supposed superiority of the visual. Hanns Eisler, in his work
Fourteen Ways to Describe Rain, built conceptual and non-linear
relationships between his music and the lm. Wind-rippled
water surfaces (bars 67-68) are represented as trills in Eisler’s
music score where they create a visual result inspired by the
scene.[1] The way the lm inspires Eisler’s music aects his
music score ontologically; the music notation is not only an
instruction for an instrumental performance to take place but
also it becomes a score-artwork with visual output.
Figure 1 Hanns Eisler: Fourteen ways to describe Rain
Pictured modied by (Eisler 1960)
76 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
[2] Alex Ross. ‘At the
Grave of Schnittke’.
Alex Ross: The Rest
Is Noise. Accessed 24
March 2021. https://
www.therestisnoise.
com/2004/09/
at_the_grave_of.html.
[3] Johannes Kreidler,
‘Sheet Music’. Accessed
24 March 2021. http://
www.sheetmusic-
kreidler.com.
[4] Sandris Murins.
‘Johannes Kreidler:
multimedia music’.
(2020). Accessed 24
March 2021. https://
medium.com/25-
composers/johannes-
kreidler-multimedia-
music-6063150b975d.
An example of this turn in the ontology of music scores is the
gravestone of Alfred Schnittke (Fig. 2), A very loud silence (rest),
where the composer asks for a very loud (f) silence (rest),
prolonged by an extra beat or two (the fermata overhead).[2] He
uses the music notation system as a graphic medium to tell a
story about his future subsistence. Johannes Kreidler, in his series
of works Sheet Music (Fig. 3), also uses music notation as a visual
material like Schnittke’s gravestone (Canvases version), and also
as a medium that can perform itself (video version).[3] Kreidler
approaches his art as media art; today, boundaries between art
genres are dissolving.[4]
Figure 2 Alfred Schnittke’s gravestone.
Figure 3 Johannes Kreidler: part of Sheet Music series.
77 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
[5] Nina Eidsheim.
Sensing Sound: Singing
and Listening as
Vibrational Practice.
(Durham: Duke
University Press, 2015).
[6] Billy Collins,
“TED Radio Hour,”
National Public Radio,
June 1, 2012, Accessed
24 March 2021.
http://www.npr.org/
templates/transcript/
transcript.php?storyId
=153699514.
[7] Beckett, Samuel.
Collected Shorter Plays.
(London: Faber and
Faber, 2006).
[8] Kelley, Paul. ‘Drama
and/as the Pursuit of
Narrative: Cascando
and Inferno XXIV’.
Samuel Beckett Today/
Aujourd’hui 13, no. 1
(2003): 153.
Nina Sun Eidsheim describes sound as a thick event which is
better understood by vibrational practices and which appears
as a form of radical materiality.[5] This thick event cannot be
divided into parts, as we tend to do when we describe and teach
sound (pitch, tempi etc.) in academia. Billy Collins says: ‘we do
not teach the pleasure of rhythm, the pleasure of sound, the
pleasure of metaphor because these topics seem unteachable;
this is why the emphasis lays on the meaning of the poem’.[6]
Following Eidsheim’s concept, music notation— being a part of
the world of sound, and understood as a graphic medium—can
also provide pleasure and metaphors, and can reveal stories as in
Kreidler’s and Schnittke’s examples.
Self-referentialism
An important inuence in my work is the use of self-referential
narration by Samuel Beckett in his radio work Cascando.[7] In this
work, the author gave a very specic role to the music by giving
instructions about its cues and duration in his script. In Cascando
Beckett describes the process of the creation of the work in an
abstract way by dividing the author’s personality into three.
Beckett reveals the self-referential nature of this work in one
of his letters saying ‘[i]t is an unimportant work, but the best I
have to oer. It does I suppose show in a way what passes for my
mind and what passes for my work’.[8] Three characters, each
an alter ego of the other, try to tell the story of a person called
Woburn, who never appears in the play. The play is not about
Woburn, but about the writer’s creative process.
The characters are: The Opener, the logical one who controls
the play; The Voice, the most emotional part of the author
who tries to narrate the story; and Music, a more metaphysical
character that is like the sea in which the play oats. In the sea
metaphor, I believe that self-referential narration works like a
boat that guides the play and reveals the mechanism behind the
work.
78 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
[9] Shlomowitz,
Matthew. n.d. ‘Real
World Sound in
Relational Music’.
Accessed 24 March
2021. https://
www.shlom.
com/?p=relational.
This combination of narration and other media equally
provided a sense of novelty. The play didn’t seem like opera,
where music is the most important part, nor like cinema or
theatre, where the script seems more important than the
music. In this case, music makes an equal dialogue with all the
characters and media of the play.
Ontology of Notation, Self-referentialism,
and Hierarchy
In this section, I explore the combination of the dierent
components I described above through my work Proposal for a
Dance Performance. The work was premiered at the Reid Concert
Hall as part of Dialogues Festival 2019, performed by Rush
Hour Ensemble and conducted by prof. Peter Nelson.
I decided to create a transdisciplinary concert video and music
work which would give musicality and motion to paperwork
that is lifeless but essential for transforming my idea into reality.
In addition to this, I used emails, programme notes, technical
riders, a smoke video, and dance notation—through the use of
‘BAD aesthetic’—as part of my video projection. For Matthew
Shlomowitz, BAD aesthetic is the idea that the concept and the
means which are being used for creating an artwork—a Power
Point le in case of my work—could create a ‘bad’ but charming
musical practice.[9] In my artistic practice, ‘BAD aesthetic’
is the output of a work which is led by conceptual and not
aesthetical parameters. In my work, the concept and narrative
are responsible for the aesthetic elements. For example, not
being able to nd dancers and not having drawing skills, I ended
up creating the bad looking stick gure dance notation, which
appears in the video projection of my work. Hence, I did not
try to improve the aesthetic of these visuals and I let my concept
decide their quality. This aesthetic provides me tools—such as
humour—for nding and highlighting artistry in failure and the
process of artistic creation.
79 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
80 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
These elements, being approached as graphic media, are being
combined in order to tell a story about a dance performance
which is happening at the moment live on the stage, will happen
in the future, or happens in an imaginary world and time. All
these graphics, presented on a Power Point presentation, become
living, digital matter which can perform and tell a story. The
emails, the programme notes, and the technical rider, being
projected behind the live musicians, become alive through Power
Point’s animations. Additionally, dance notation, in GIF format,
starts moving and performing, while at the same time it provides
instructions for a dance performance to take place.
As in Eidsheim’s concept, and the works by Eisler, Kreidler and
Schnittke, dance notation extends its ontology, and becomes a
live presence which co-creates stories and metaphors. Notation
is usually approached as a set of instructions, but in this case
it becomes an active part of my artwork. Hence, a multiple
ontology of text and dance notation is being created. This
change in the ontology of the materials I use creates a change
in the understanding of elds such as animation, dance, theatre,
and music, and blurs the borders between them. This leads me
to use equally all of the materials of my artistic palette.
The artwork refers to itself, through a video projected live on
stage by me. The video explains the compositional process and
the relationship between all the materials I used. The use of
self-referential narration is the key element in this work, as it
gives me the opportunity to explain the existential reason for
each of the types of media I use, and the connection between
them. Talking about the compositional process, and showing
all the struggles I experienced in order to set this work on
stage, leads me to break the hierarchy between these media.
For example, although the work takes place in a concert hall, it
is not being approached as a musical piece because music is a
character in the story I narrate—as in Cascando—which has an
equal importance to the video’s graphics. The instructions in the
projection explain when the music starts, and that the musicians
should wear black pajamas. Music exists because emails,
graphics, and dance notation exist too. Self-referentialism
81 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
creates a story world where all the dierent materials are
necessary not only for their simultaneous existence but also for
the existence of the artwork itself. This story world also includes
the performance venue, by talking about it in the projected
emails, and moving—through narration—the audience’s spot
of focus, repetitively, from the video to the concert hall and the
musicians.
Conclusion
This paper aimed to highlight the transdisciplinary, artistic,
methodological, and conceptual aspects of my work, Proposal
for a Dance Performance, which combines graphics and notations
with self-referential narration, and sets it in dialogue with
contemporary art. The methodology behind this work changes
the ontology of dierent materials, breaking and blurring
the borders between the disciplines and extending my artistic
palette. The use of notation as a performance, rather than a set
of instructions is in need of further artistic exploration. This can
lead to breaking boundaries not only between dierent forms of
art, but also between the artwork and the creation process.
82
Bibliography
Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
Beckett, Samuel. Collected Shorter Plays. (London: Faber and
Faber, 2006).
Collins, Billy “TED Radio Hour,” National Public Radio,
June 1, 2012, Accessed 24 March 2021. http://www.npr.org/
templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId =153699514.
Eidsheim, Nina Sun. Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as
Vibrational Practice. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015).
Eisler, Hanns. Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben :
Variationen für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine/Viola, Violoncello
und Klavier, opus 70. Leipzig: Edition Peters, 1960.
Heller, Berndt. ‘The Reconstruction of Eisler’s Film Music:
“Opus III”, “Regen” and “The Circus”’. Historical Journal of
Film, Radio, and Television 18, no. 4 (1998): 541–59.
Kelley, Paul. ‘Drama and/as the Pursuit of Narrative: Cascando
and Inferno XXIV’. Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui 13, no.
1 (2003): 153-165.
Kreidler, Johannes, ‘Sheet Music’. Accessed 24 March 2021.
http://www.sheetmusic-kreidler.com.
Murins, Sandris. ‘Johannes Kreidler: multimedia
music’. 2020. https://medium.com/25-composers/
johannes-kreidler-multimedia-music-6063150b975d.
Panagiotou, Ioannis. Proposal for a Dance Performance. Music,
projection. (2019). https://www.ioannispanagiotou.com/watch.
83 Ioannis Panagiotou
Proposal for a Dance Performance
Ross, Alex. ‘At the Grave of Schnittke’. Alex Ross: The Rest Is
Noise. Accessed 24 March 2021. https://www.therestisnoise.
com/2004/09/at_the_grave_of.html.
Shlomowitz, Matthew. n.d. ‘Real World Sound in Relational
Music’. Accessed 24 March 2021. https://www.shlom.
com/?p=relational.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
This article explores Beckett's radio play Cascando in terms of its dramatization of the pursuit of narrative. Through a comparison with canto XXIV of Dante's Inferno, in which Virgil exhorts the exhausted pilgrim-poet to continue on his journey to the seventh bolgia or circle, I propose a reading of the play as offering insight into Beckett's own notions of artistic creativity.
  • Samuel Beckett
Beckett, Samuel. Collected Shorter Plays. (London: Faber and Faber, 2006).
Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben : Variationen für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine/Viola, Violoncello und Klavier, opus 70
  • Hanns Eisler
Eisler, Hanns. Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben : Variationen für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine/Viola, Violoncello und Klavier, opus 70. Leipzig: Edition Peters, 1960.
Johannes Kreidler: multimedia music
  • Sandris Murins
Murins, Sandris. 'Johannes Kreidler: multimedia music'. 2020. https://medium.com/25-composers/ johannes-kreidler-multimedia-music-6063150b975d.
At the Grave of Schnittke'. Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
  • Alex Ross
Ross, Alex. 'At the Grave of Schnittke'. Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise. Accessed 24 March 2021. https://www.therestisnoise. com/2004/09/at_the_grave_of.html.
Real World Sound in Relational Music
  • Matthew N Shlomowitz
Shlomowitz, Matthew. n.d. 'Real World Sound in Relational Music'. Accessed 24 March 2021. https://www.shlom. com/?p=relational.