These practices were ways for the ensemble to dare experimenting with text in new ways, and for performers less accustomed to performing text to get comfortable with speaking in front of an audience, without having to learn methods and techniques from acting practices. The point with this kind of text work is the immediate reaction in the performer, the effort and labour of listening and speaking simultaneously, which again hinders an interpretation of the words. However, these masses of text still brought a topic or a theme into the compositional frame, which we did not look for. We needed to cut up the words, split them and create distance between them to hear them anew.
Eventually specific texts tend to find their own way into the work. As mentioned above, some words from one of the very early improvisations (see the video ‘Interdisciplinary fumbling’) words of inside/outside, in/out emerged and stayed with us throughout the work. It was difficult to figure out how the text should be spoken and from where in the room. It matters whether a text is delivered from the front of the stage or the back, standing or seated. To get the words more integrated as a part of the musical composition, Tanja suggested I make a rap-like sequence. I have never created a rap before, and I am not sure I succeeded this time. However, the ‘rap’ we ended up using was fun and offered me a new experience in working with words with a musical approach. In rap the words have a percussive function, they are an instrument. With the idea of a ‘rap’ I could explore the rhythm of words and focus on the musical rhythm in a series of words instead of worrying about whether they made any sense. In this way words more easily integrate into the overall musical composition, fluctuating between audibility and dissolving into the other sounds in the space. For the audience this demands an acceptance of not always hearing the words, a letting go of understanding, and a diving into a complex sound scape. It is undeniable, however, that words carry meaning and quickly frame the other sounds; and so it was in this case. There is much more potential to explore letting the words dissolve into the soundscape as such through chopping up words, balancing between meaning and non-meaning.
It is unclear whether Ensemble Studies should be framed as a concert or a performance piece. Perhaps it does not matter, and perhaps it can be framed according to the context in which it is performed. Josh Spear points to the importance of the framing as an indicator for audiences on how to hear, see or interpret a work (Spear 2022). Spear develops this into a ‘framing method’ used in devising processes, and Tanja Orning points to this in her text. When theatre was influenced by performance art, beginning in the 1960s, the concept of ‘performance – theatre’ emerged. I don’t know whether ‘performance art – music’ is a term, but it seems to me that much of what is referred to as The New Discipline (Walshe 2016) in the music field is influenced by performance art perhaps more than theatre and dance as disciplines. I claim this because contemporary music is far from working with illusion, fiction or make believe which is one of the traditional traits of theatre and ballet.
Performance art makes a claim to authenticity, meaning that it is neither fiction nor abstraction but focuses on the physicality of the staged activity. The influence of performance on theatre and dance from the 1970s (alongside the developments of ‘deconstruction’ and ‘post-modern’ as central philosophical terms) urged forth the concepts of ‘real-time’ and ‘real-space’ as opposed to fictional time and space. This is what characterizes The New Discipline as well. When it comes to modes of performing, it also corresponds better to the performance art tradition than to acting or even dance methodologies. This does not mean however, that musicians and composers cannot benefit and learn from some of these performing methods, but they need to be merged with and adjusted to the reality of music performance. Musicians are accustomed to performing the activity of playing their instrument with a concentrated focus on sound. All attention needs to be given to listening and to the relationship between performing body and instrument. This relationship changes with The New Discipline, where the body and identity of the performer become part of the situation to a greater extent. In performance art it is the activity, the doing of text, sound, movement that matters – it is what we call ‘action based’. Interpretation becomes something that happens in the moment, in relation to whatever plays into the situation, and depends rather on a sense of rhythm and composition. Marvin Carlson writes about performance: ‘Since the emphasis is upon the performance and on how the body or self is articulated through performance, the individual body remains at the center of such presentations’ (Carlson 2016, p. 75). The question is then how one can work with the body as another instrument into the composition. On this matter, there is a lot to learn from contemporary dance, which is also action-based in real time and real space.
In my work I understand dramaturgy as a form of compositional practice, which in a post-dramatic paradigm, deals with the entire space as a compositional frame: sounds, words, space, movement, light, visuals etc. I depart from a position of listening and looking at what takes place in the rehearsal space. This triggers sensorial and bodily reactions, which set in motion physical energetic rhythms that create images, connections, thoughts and ideas. Theatre pedagogue Jacques Lecoq, with whom I have studied, said:
The dynamics underlying my teaching are those of the relationship between rhythm, space, and force. These laws of movement have to be understood on the basis of the human body in motion: balance, imbalance, opposition, alternation, compensation, action and reaction. These laws may all be discovered on the body of a spectator as well as in that of an actor. (Lecoq, 2002, p. 21)
In Ensemble Studies we obviously worked on sound: the relationship between the sounds of the cello, the Hardanger fiddle, the sound of jumping feet on the ground, words or the sound of the amplified markers on the sheet of paper. There are different rhythmical patterns that intertwine between those sounds. However, we also worked on the movements between us, and on how the movements rhythmically activated the room. Movements have rhythm, even when they don’t make sound, and it is a rhythm that can be perceived visually and kinaesthetically. An example is the section where the cello and Hardanger fiddle player are in the front of the stage, while the dancer and dramaturg are moving legs and arms seated at the back. There is a tension and opposition in the space between those four bodies, created also because of the distance and placement of them in the space. The movers work on balance and imbalance, and the musicians on action and reaction.