E-Motions (what about gesture?)

My MFA thesis project involving an exploration of the idea of musical gesture as a computational tool.

Musicians:
Andrew Anderson – Piano
Anthony Caulkins – Guitar
Michele Cheng – Piano
Oliver Dobrian – Drums
Elizabeth Erickson – Live Electronics
Molly Jones – Soprano Saxophone
Anna Savery – Violin/Live Visuals
Richard Savery – Baritone Saxophone/Flute/Bass Clarinet
Borey Shin – Synthesizer/Accordion
Jordan Watson – Guitar

Dancers:
Simon Harrison
Sky Schmidt

Production:
Benjamin Scheff – Sound Design
Darrin Wade – Lighting Design

Program notes

Flares –  a rock-based exploration of the contrasting relationship between aggressive rock gestures, containing a high degree of rhythmic energy but remaining relatively dynamically static, with softer lyrical gestures, containing great dynamic variation. Throughout this work, these types of gestures interact, combine, and contrast in various ways.

Hold It – a work exploring different types of gestural material written in a multi-voice counterpoint. The counterpoint of this pieces extends outside of the musical realm into dance whose gestural material is added to the contrapuntal texture of the work. With the two-voice piano part and two dancers, the complete structure of this work is a ‘four-voice’ texture of gestural interaction.

Marble – a piece that explores the notion of breath as gesture. Each of the long tones held by the musicians undergoes a great deal of dynamic and textural contrast, creating slow moving harmonic changes throughout the duration of the work. Interactive lighting behind the performers serves to illustrate the gestural contour of the long tones, as well as the harmonic relationships among musical voices.

E-Motions – a four-part improvisation, combining guitar, computer, and two dancers, all interacting with each other in a perpetual feedback loop. The improvisation of this piece is based on a predetermined collection of gestures which each performer explores in their own way, while being constantly informed by other performers on stage. This is the most extreme piece on the program, in terms of open boundaries on the gestural exploration.  The test is to see if general gestural information can be used to create a satisfying artistic experience.

Another Blank – nothing but a blues tune. This is an etude in substituting gesture for harmony. Another Blank is an experiment in using gestural information to illustrate a well known and important African American musical form. The specific gestures employed in this piece are informed by the expressive content that makes the blues such an evocative language, such as bends, moans, walking bass lines against syncopated rhythms, etc.

E-Scape – explores a similar idea to Another Blank in that it presents a basic chord progression in the form of a gestural progression. The material for this work was inspired by images of downtown Los Angeles, which is projected onto the performers while they play. The combination of the “gesture chord progression” and the changing imagery is designed to test the ability of musical gesture to express similar ideas as more traditional harmony in music.

A Bit Here and There – much like Flares, A Bit Here and There is another rock based exploration of open gestural improvisations contrasted by heavy rock grooves, built on asymmetrical rhythmic patterns, which change in proportion over the course of the piece. Throughout this work, there are various ensemble textures derived from subsets of the whole group, that are explored in order to bring out different combinations of gestural material.

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