for solo cello | 8′
music for live dance devised with MeshDance
James Whittle, NSCD Community Dance Platform, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds, 16th March 2019
In May 2018 I was invited to collaborate with MeshDance’s WeAre group as a composer-cellist, visiting half of their sessions each term. Our aim was to develop non-verbal communication with the group through exploring the use of music to aid movement memory, develop. In practice, I accompanied warm-ups, improvised for free movement improvisation, and set response games relating different aspects of sound to movement.
The WeAre project led first to making a dance film, TELLTALE, which was shot on location in Leeds Central Library and filmed and edited by Rad Miller, then to a live performance version, for which MeshDance Miniatures was completed.
When we first met, the group showed me a sequence of 14 actions they had choreographed in response to 14 ‘action’ words – pick, push, open, drop. I performed their actions on the cello to create 14 unique sound fragments. These are seen/heard at the beginning of the live performance version. Thereafter, the music explores up to 5 fragments in each section (these are the dance sections with my titles italicised):
introduction: taking action
transition 1: brushes
duet 1: chops and locks
transition 2: drops, whispers
duet 2 & 3: friends (mESHDAnCE)
While the group practised the full 14-action sequence and a select 5-action sequence choreographed by one group member, I improvised with the corresponding sound-fragments to see how they could work together. Rehearsal recordings allowed reflection and changes between sessions. Sections began to evolve, where freer improvisations gave a different perspective to developing the original material. Once a structure was settled, I composed/notated the score—fleshing out moments and writing in specific musical cues—then tweaked it in the rehearsal room.