The development processes of the two pieces were accompanied during the entire period from their inception to their final form by psychologist and second author Patrick Neff. This was done through observation, participation, and conversation and resulted in the following paragraphs.
Before this project, the trombone player had never consciously integrated and refined movement and gesturality in his practice. Although, limited by his instrument – both hands are needed to hold and manipulate the trombone and this constricts the movement of the upper body to a fixed posture – the performer is motivated and inspired to explore new possibilities of movement. With the motivation and inspiration to explore the boundaries of movement and gestures in trombone playing in an interactive setting, the performer seems at a turning point of his gestural performance practice. He explores the space through movements of the instrument with its implicit directionality: he uses it to sound out the room by sending and receiving impulses and textured sounds. Furthermore he investigates aspects of temporality and anticipation through different movement velocities and by (mis-)matching sound with motion. With this (mind-)set, the performer therefore begins the personal process of establishing a new practice. His focus of attention shifts from bodily awareness and control to awareness of sound and space: the bodily postures, movements, and directed trombone sounds are now used for artistic expression and performance flow. This two-tiered process is iterated over the development process of the piece.
The dancer-performer in Moving Music, on the other hand, brings a lifelong practice of gestural improvisational dance and reports an intrinsic motivation aimed at the fulfilment of her ‘urge to move’ and ‘perfectionism in action not thought’. Contrary to the instrumentalist, there is no ‘mediating’ instrument present and the body is in direct contact with the space. The movements and sounds are felt to belong to the same field; the performer is capable of dwelling in this intimate and immersed state, which seems to be a prerequisite for exploring, integrating, and generating new expressive movements. The development process of the piece went through a ‘basic set’ of movements, and parameters such as velocity and density were defined. These were used as ‘stains of the body’ – a personal mode or (mind)set of the dancer-performer that helps her practice. Through this, the performer is able to focus on the interaction with sound and space, which is particularly important in this setting since she actively triggers and modulates the sounds.
In the development of both pieces the disposition of a performative state is observed in which the artistic processes and content can grow under ideal circumstances. This state, while being established and applied slightly differently in each piece, is in turn also key to both performances. In the trombone piece, it enables the performer to directly interact with the space and probe it by continuously reinterpreting the material, and provides the audience with multilayered perceptions and expectations. The dance piece is different in two aspects of the performance: First, the performer is not static; she is not forced to stay in one place. Therefore, she is capable of exploring the physical space as well as the sound-space with her own body by going to different ‘topographical’ locations. The room and body can be seen as the ‘instrument’ where the sound is produced through the interaction of the two. Second, the dancer does not need to handle an actual instrument and its associated cultural codes. Reduced to the ‘mere’ body and corporeality, the performed gestures, postures, and sequences do not need to overcome strong sociocultural tropes as is the case in the trombone piece. In turn, the trombone piece, with its constant challenging of standardised perceptions, may be more accessible to the audience through the violations of corresponding expectations. In the dance piece this dimension is missing and the audience is faced with a wider and less known array of movement and sound possibilities.
After analysing the development processes of the pieces, the evolution of a narrative or discourse within the ‘actual’ performance of the two pieces exhibits parallels. Both pieces start with a silent set-up, an empty ‘stage’, and a single visible performer: a clean slate. Both pieces slowly and continuously explore single movements and their interaction with sound and space, gradually evolving into patterns of greater complexity. The observer is able to grasp all the discoveries of the performer as the tempo and focus of the build-up is gradual. In both pieces the transition to different states or ‘stains’ is marked by pauses or transitions. In the dance piece, the exploration of different ‘parameters’ becomes central, whereas in the trombone piece qualities and speeds change. In each piece, densities and tensions increase and tend towards a climax; boundaries are crossed and extremes are attained – in both performances this is reminiscent of random natural life processes and dramatic primitives. A ‘human’ scream, detached from the instrument and the other sound materials of the performance, marks the culmination point of the trombone piece, whereas the ‘catastrophic’ collapse of the dancer at the end of the piece is interpreted in the same way. Both performances fade out smoothly and end as cryptically as they began.
Part of understanding the different positions present in the artists-and-observer constellation is to draw parallels in the perception processes between the inner and the outer points of views and perspectives: the involved artists and the observing psychologist, respectively. The intention is to crack open the ‘black box’ of the artistic development processes, even if only a tiny bit. The participation of psychologist Patrick Neff as a – possibly biased – ‘outside’ observer enables the extraction of information about patterns and modes of operation that are usually hidden in the blind spot of an individual artist’s practice.
From the point of view of the actively engaged artists, the parallels and commonalities between the two workflows can be seen everywhere, as is noted at other points in this exposition. Parallels can be seen in the iterated methods that are applied in the disciplines of both dance and music; they include compositional strategies and structural decisions about the form of the pieces. Seen from the inside, even when dealing with two disciplines that do not share all their fundamental principles, the commonalities exceed the differences. This insight is based on working with both disciplines over an extended period.
From an outside perspective, it is noteworthy that we are only interested in similarities between the pieces that were not the result of structural and procedural influences of the research project. Nevertheless, the co-creations are linked; even if parallels, mirroring, and identical aspects between the pieces are constantly discovered while observing the process, the momentum of reciprocal influence remains a ‘black box’ and is only resolved with specific information obtained from the performers involved in both pieces.