Tobacco Road Dance Productions: In Concert 2017

Very excited to once again be working on a soundscape for Tobacco Road Dance Production’s 2017 concert. Last year, Jody Cassell used iBoD‘s recording some kinda waltz for her Tobacco Road Dance performance I’mPossible. Jody both performed the piece and presented a dance film. This year I am working on a soundscape for Jade Poteat’s company.

A bit more about Tobacco Road Dance Productions: For the last three years, this company has brought together dancers and choreographers in a community process that is usually relegated to “the Academy”. This excerpt from their mission statement sums it up well:

Tobacco Road Dance Productions produces, supports, and encourages local dance in North Carolina’s Triangle region. Our annual concert provides area choreographers the opportunity to present their work in a fully produced and marketed performance. Each presenting choreographer works with a team of professionals to evaluate and improve their dance-making and writing skills. We provide networking and mentorship opportunities for emerging choreographers and dancers by involving established professionals in the adjudication and feedback process. Tobacco Road Dance Productions develops greater quality in local dance by engaging participants of all experience levels throughout the entire creative process. The presentation of a shared show creates performance opportunities that might otherwise reach beyond individuals’ financial and audience outreach capabilities and provides further incentive for young artists to remain in our growing artist community.

This is community alchemy – when we take what is right here, right now and create opportunities for as many artists as possible. Having witnessed much of the process last year through Jody’s involvement, it is an incredibly powerful and growthful experience. If you want to invest in the future – here is a good place to start: http://www.tobaccoroaddance.org

Unlike last year, I am coming into the process a bit later, attending my first rehearsal with Jade Poteat’s group in January. I met the dancers and witnessed what they have thus far created. I was inspired and impressed. They are working with the broad theme of “identity”. Jade’s dancers executed her choreography of movement tableaus of identity- with all the oddity, mimicry, earnestness and attitude that come with “identifying”.

We talked about soundscape, and Jade suggested each dancer have an identifying theme or motif. These could clash and harmonize and intermingle. And we agreed that the scape should move in and out of stretches of ambient silence. Jade had the idea of including the dancer’s voices in the soundscape. Part of the group’s process was to talk about dance, identity and what it all means to each of them. Jade recorded these interviews and gave me access to the interview files. I analyzed each dancer’s voice, locating the central tonality and common pitches within their inflection patterns. By isolating multiple moments of Dr. Diana Deutsch’s Speech-to-Song Illusion in each dancer’s voice (see http://wp.me/p4dp9b-e2  for an explanation of this phenomenon), I began sculpting a soundscape out of these lilting bits of speech. In order to capitalize on the melodic content, I created an Audio Effects rack that distorted the speech and amplified the harmonics.  The human voice is extremely personal, and a deep root of identity. Allowing their voices to be included in the soundtrack requires a great deal of vulnerability and self-acceptance on the part of the dancers.

Several weeks later, I have created a dozen sound sketches around Speech-to-Song Illusions in the dancer’s interviews. Some sketches have multiple voices as an underpinning, some have an individual voice as the harmonic and/or rhythmic driver of the sketch. Then I have interwoven some strings, piano, drums and vibes to create a melodic framework for the voices. Here are examples with multiple voices:

Here are sketches with one voice:

Jade has selected the sketches she wants to use and asked me to build some clear 8 count rhythms into a couple of them. And she has recorded herself and the dancers reading Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, which will end the piece. At tomorrow’s rehearsal we will record the soundtrack along with the dance to get the timings of the sound and silence.

Now we have a soundtrack for the dance. I am doing the final mix and mastering passes to the audio. (Interestingly, the opening of the piece is a pulsating current of the dancers’ processed voices, while the end is their distinct voices articulating the poem.) So excited to hear this piece filling the theatre while the dancers execute Jade’s evocative choreography.  Please come see/hear I am Deliberate – part of Tobacco Road Dance Productions: In Concert 2017.

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