Reflection on processes of art making is an integral part of any artist’s method. It serves to guide and sharpen, differentiate, and refine the works created. Organising it in such a way that it extends the primary artwork with additional elements is what distinguishes ‘artistic practice’ from research that communicates beyond the work’s original environment. The performing arts produce no tangible and lasting objects. The ‘actual’ (Schechner 1988) is contained in a performer’s effort and expression and is translated into an experience for the audience. The primary ‘actual’ is gone as soon as the performance is over. The main strategy used to mitigate the fleeting, evanescent nature of the art objects is to collect all possible forms of traces, both from the development process and the actualisation, in the hope that through these surrogate objects, single, detached aspects of the primary work might resonate and produce inklings that still relate to the original experience. Through an archaeology of the immediate past of performance, the processes, concepts, and methods used after performance take on a new signification. Physical artefacts, texts, sketches, notes, discussions, audio and video-recordings, and photographs are all examples of traces that might foster the emergence of a new identity of the work, in a new, second order form (Schwab 2014).
Composing at the edge of a known style with the influence of outside concepts demands that one engage in processes of speculation, experimentation, and loose ways of fixing structural, interactive, or sonic ideas. The use of sketches as external representations is an essential means of ‘coming to grips with’ or apprehending the various forces and elements involved in the processes (Nakakoji, Tanaka, and Fallman 2006).
Paper-based sketches such as drawings, diagrams, maps, and collections of key terms are generated before, during, and after the development process in the collaborative working sessions. These graphical arrangements provide a support for metaphorical, visual thinking (Arnheim 1980), by using structures in the visual domain to think and communicate about the organisation of materials and processes. Sketches maintain a fleeting, ephemeral quality until the ideas they contain have been experienced, evaluated, and deemed worthy of keeping.
Non-paper sketches are based on the same principles of exploratory experimentation. A typical sketch of this kind is a ‘what-if’ scenario during a working session, where a new notion or idea surfaces, and the collaboration partners agree to test it without prior structural, technical, or conceptual preparation. Thus, trial and error is used to generate an experience on the basis of which it becomes possible to evaluate the effectiveness of certain interaction strategies, formal constructions, or sound ideas (Edmonds, Bilda, and Muller 2009).
The core of this method is the dialogical process, which is characterised by a collaborative compositional development. Beginning with communication through language-based exploration of visual sketches, the dialogue continues through explorations of materials, interaction patterns, and sound transformation processes. The loop is closed after the performance of a sketch, of an intermediate state of the work, or an actual performance in concert. These pre-, intra-, and post-experimentation dialogues result in common ‘agreements’, which take the place of a score.
In this context ‘corporeality’ can only be addressed by looking at the potential and impact of performing with the body. Whereas for the dancer the action of creating expressive forms with the body is part of the core discipline, the same cannot be said of the trombone player. Conversely, having the dancer follow musical rather than kinaesthetic and movement principles for the creation of forms and structures pushes her into a new territory. The resulting imbalance has an affective impact, first for the performers, who become aware of the corporeal presence in a less than habitual way, second through kinaesthetic, non-verbal channels for the audience who are confronted with unfamiliar performance styles.