Working with co-creators
attention - creation - perception
Because sonic expression is relative to all elements on site, and is only spatial when all agents are present, I usually hold workshops on site to develop together how to shape and co-create spatial sonic expression.
What I mainly do when giving workshops is to enable re-sensitisation - to sense more, both inwards and outwards. I cultivate an awakening of the senses that have been dormant as a way to investigate with all our senses and to let them guide our creative process. This sensing is not to be mistaken with feelings and emotions. It is an inquiry that uses the minuteness of our senses to find precision.
To respects one’s encounter with the space is one of the first things to learn in a collaboration with me. When I enter spaces with a caring, respectful, and curious attention, I get the impression that the space opens up to me. I listen into the space and into its innate potential for sonic interaction. (see listen into in the dictionary)
Sound is a vehicle to explore the performance space and helps to playfully engage with the others that are present and to explore self-expression and self-reflection. But first, we need to listen. What is present in the space? How does the space react to our quiet presence? Can we hear the immediate surrounding? How does my body react to the space? What areas does my attention get drawn to? How does it feel to share the space? In a multimodal sensing we react to the air, the light, the temperature. Listening can take place on many levels. It is a reaching out with our aural sense but also with the other senses. It is an active receiving that notices those impressions that can only be registered by ways of listening carefully with the whole body.
During our first meetings, when I don’t know the participants yet, I introduce listening exercises, physical awareness tasks and sound games. One of these games is the Sound-Ball Game. Standing in a circle, one person has the sound-ball. The ball is materialized with the help of one’s hands and a vocal expression. The form of the ball is expressed through sound as the ball is formed in the hands. The ball can range from tiny to huge. It can be heavy or light, soft or hard, or more flexible like chewing gum, anything goes. The sonic expression and the way it is thrown towards another person reveals its characteristics further. As in any other ball game, eye contact before throwing is helpful here. The person who catches the sound ball accepts the sound as the ball reaches their hands and receives it with an according sound. The ball is then shaped with the hands and voice anew, before it is passed on.
I also initiate improvisations where acoustic phenomena are explored individually in a space. The sound and the space can herein be brought into an active transformative dialogue affecting and altering both sound and space. When I expand these improvisations into group improvisations, we widen the experience of transformation into an understanding of the relational experience of spatial sonic phenomena. When, for example, we hear one sound and then add another sound, it alters the perception of the sound that we heard first. Our experience of these sounds becomes relational and, in this co-presence or in the temporal progression of the sounds, we experience characteristics of the individual sounds that we did not notice before. These exercises playfully connect us to each other and allow for us to tune in to each other and to the space. The exercises show rather than tell what we will work with. In this process I also learn more about the participants individually and as a group. I am interested to learn more about what they care about, where their curiosities intersect, what sonic expressions they feel comfortable with and how much they are used to engaging their body as a facilitator for sonic expression.
Sharing thoughts in the group is an important part of this process. Finishing a task or a meeting with a round of feedback where we share our experiences has high priority. This feedback-round is a mirroring of experiences and an expansion of one’s own experience through the experience of the others, which becomes a pool of shared experience and knowledge. Together with the participants, I share a common intention towards a theme which can be local or universal. This perspective guides our search. As the participants grow more familiar with my methods of embodied spatial listening and sounding, the explorations become more specific. This can, for example, lead to a narrowing of the focus, a deepening of an investigation or the stretching of a relational aspect. Through listening, the placing of sounds and performers, changing positions and through movement, spatial sonic potentials are explored individually and in combination. Observing these inter- and intra-actions guides my suggestions for practical tasks and the musical explorations in the creation of an open work. Here, interaction is the understanding of cause and effect between entities within the explorations. As important, however, is the deeper search, the search through intra-action, where the ability of the entities involved emerges from within their interdependence. As Karen Barad suggests, “relata-within-phenomena emerge through specific intra-actions” (Barad, 2003, p.815). The result becomes an open work in accordance with Umberto Eco’s definition, where the artist leaves elements of the work – in my case performance – open to the audience and to chance (Eco, 1989).
Usually, it is said that the director is the first audience for a piece. In many ways this is also true in the creative processes I initiate. But due to the strong emphasis on listening with the whole body it is also important that all participants join me in taking on the role of the audience. The awareness towards the space, the feeling of being surrounded by its architecture, the sensing of the sonic reaction of the architecture and the presence of the performers creating the sounds all around, teaches the performers a great deal about what is important for the guidance of a free-moving audience inside a spatial musical performance. In our feedback rounds during the workshop days, the relation to the audience is a reappearing topic. We are aware that the microcosm we are creating exists to allow for individual and communal exploration by strangers. The aim is to create an environment for the audience that allows for an open and explorative mind.