Video 2b: Double Vortex

Video 1c: new islands

Video 1d: new islands

Video 2a: Double Vortex II

Video 2c: Double Vortex

Video 3a: Moving Music

Video 6b: sonozones

Video 6d: sonozones

Video 1a: new islands

Video 1b: new islands

Video 5a: trans-form

Video 6a: sonozones


Performing with Bodies and Technology

Intersecting is the act of uncovering the overlap between categories within a project or across projects. The following topics are overlapping strongly within the projects:

– Anticipation–Memory (protention/retention), Memory/Traces/Disappearance; in the following projects: `Double Vortex', `Moving Music', `trans-form';
– Hyper-Awareness/Meta-Awareness, Hyper-reflection; in the following projects: `new islands', `Moving Music', `sonozones'.

• For details on the topic of Anticipation refer to Chapter 3: Enaction: Original Conception: Anticipation and Chapter 3: Improvisation: Memory, Past and Future: Anticipation.

Situating Anticipation and Memory

The key topics of anticipation and memory appear in three domains: in Phenomenology and Enaction, anticipation and memory form the basis of time perception, along the protention--retention axis around the `specious' present (Varela 1999), and the enacting of experience and acquired skills (Hutto et al. 2013). In Improvisation, memory has two scopes, within a single performance and across the practice and the culture at large. From the first mark set into the space of an improvisation, memory is attached and anticipation derived. Depending on the perspective, seen either from the performer's or the public's vantage point, they function differently. The former experiences memory in terms of resonance and recognition, and anticipation in the sensing of the arrival of junction points, and impulse generation for upcoming actions. For the audience, memory serves to tie together in loose connections the chain of events, and build through repetition, either in immediately repeated actions or reappearance across several sections, a sense of coherence. Anticipation in improvisation occurs mainly on the pre-reflective, non-verbal level of the impulse.  For the performer, this can be a `giving in to the impulse', whereas for the audience the same effect permits the anticipation of an upcoming impulse for new actions. The following example sequences are collected from the viewpoint of the spectator (specifically of the videos), however, since I carry this out as the main artistic stake-holder as well as the person doing this investigation, the selection process is biased by first-hand memories of each performance.

Each of the three pieces shows Anticipation moments and its effects on perception.

In `Double Vortex', anticipation occurs in relation to the previously built tension. In Video 2a at 04:54, after the initial sounding movement to the edge of the rotation field, there is anticipation for a release, that happens with a fast swinging motion and noise burst. In Video 2b at 11:18, the physical swinging impulses generate through their tension an anticipation of further movements. In Video 2c at 03:10, after a silent section and stop, the timing for the following action can be anticipated.

In `Moving Music', anticipation is tied to phrase durations, spatial placements and gaze, and the impulse for new movement after a stop. In Video 3a between 01:55 and 02:15, the phrase durations and rest points generate a sense of tension and build an anticipation for the next impulse. In Video 3a at 06:50, the gaze guides and builds tension through body-sound links, that generate temporal anticipation about the beginning of the next phrase. In Video 3a between 10:19 and 10:42, the rest position on the floor, with sparse sound reactions expectation builds and generates an anticipation of a coming rise of dynamics and gestural fullness, which finally occurs from 11:00 onwards.

In `trans-form', anticipation is influenced by the scenographic use of lights and its relationship to the body. In Video 5a at 04:14, the intervals of sound impulses and the restrained movements of the dancer build tension that results in immediate anticipation of the next movement impulse. In Video 5a between 09:42 and 10:39, the strongly tied rhythmical link between sound and image generate an anticipatory tension for changes in posture, rather than movements. In Video 5a, between 11:24 and 12:50, the entry of the body into the playing field brings up the body-silhouettes and the projections thus brightens up the entire scene. This establishes an anticipatory tension with a release and immediate denial, building further anticipation. In Video 5a, in its final sequence from 13:15 until 14:25, the kinaesthetic empathy with the body caught in light and the increase in tension generates the anticipation for the break off moment, the duration and timing of which, as a release, has a natural feel, which is a direct effect of the arising anticipation.

• For details on the topic of Memory refer to sections Chapter 3: Enaction: Sensorimotor Enaction, Chapter 3: Improvisation: Awareness during Music Performance, and Chapter 3: Affordances.

When considering the same pieces under the aspect of memory, similar relationships becomes visible.

In `Double Vortex', memory occurs in relation to prior established actions and inter-relationships between sound and movement. In Video 2a from 12:21 to 12:30, the swinging of the trombone into the feedback field of the speaker evokes the memory of a similar action at 07:00. In this instance, the sound is generated differently but the overall impression is similar. In Video 2b, the action at 11:16 triggers the memory of similar, silent, non-sounding actions at 03:34 and 05:04. In Video 2c, between 02:31 and 03:10 (and again later at 03:45 to 04:21), a kinaesthetic memory resonates in the slow, silent, diagonal movement, it is a sonic and corporeal memory of the preceding intense playing of the sustained and powerful sounds; this carries over into the tense silence, building until the stop at 03:10, where the next sound gets anticipated. The electronic system's function as a memory machine also becomes apparent; in Video 2a at 13:25, in the left-over sound, and in Video 2c at 08:43 - 08:56, where the trombone player is only moving and not producing any sound directly, only by triggering Machine Learning patterns.

In `Moving Music', the effect of memory is generated by explicit repetitions and the exploratory attitude of the dancer, and in the re-appearance of movement and sound materials across the longer arc of the piece. In Video 3a from 00:31 to 00:43, repetition is prevalent, triggering a short-term recognition. The repeated element of arm-movement returns from 01:14 to 01:30, as well as at 03:28 with an altered meaning. The placement of the body on the floor, visible in Video 3a at 09:15, triggers memories of sound-place links that were evoked at 04:45 already. Finally, reappearance of the beginning phrases trigger memories, when in Video 3a at 13:37, the steps and arm-movements from the first section return in a much denser accumulation of sounds and movements.

In order to find the effects of memory in `trans-form', it is important to keep in mind the role of projected shapes and lights and the submission of the body to the scenographic situations. In Video 5a from 02:02 until 02:16, and again from 08:31 until 09:12, the scene depends on visual memory and the memory of the body's continuous presence in the field. The lights as well as the speed and dynamics of movement stress the visual perception of the body, in particular through the rapidly changing patterns and contrast between light and dark. Perception of the body is fragmentary and memory is crucial to experiencing the scene as a whole. In Video 5a from 06:00 to 06:45, the repetition of the play of shadows and size changes generates visual after-images and kinaesthetic memory effects, contributing to the expressive impact of the scene.


Both anticipation and memory play across time and are related to temporal elements of performed actions or phrases. The rest-states around the phrase arcs show clearly points of anticipation, since these are form-building points in the evolution of each performance. The subdivisions into units that are effected by these points help to put into memory and to later recall units with similar content, dynamic or phrasing. The feeling of anticipation is active on smaller time-scales as well. On a basic level, anticipation acts on perceiving a motion's energy curve and is related to movement articulation and co-articulated movement segments. In this narrower band and lower level of cognition memory is more central for the performer than the audience. The kinaesthetic trace of a prior movement forms a corporeal (or sonic) memory that can become part of later impulses for similar actions that get triggered on a pre-reflective level.

• For details on the topics of Hyper-Awareness and Hyper-Reflection refer to sections Chapter 2: Approaches: Reflective Processes and Chapter 3: Improvisation: Awareness.

Situating Awareness and Reflection
The topic of hyper-awareness (Leigh Foster 2003) and hyper-reflection (Kozel 2007) is effective in the domain of improvisation. In Improvisation, awareness plays a central role, as is the case in any performance, where the performer as well as the audience enter into a concentrated state of attention. Hyper-awareness for the performer means having a particularly focused and at the same time multilayered perception of the situation. For the audience, this can only be perceived indirectly, for example in the body's tension, the performer's facial expression and gaze, and in the tension and reactivity that the performer displays. However, there is no clear marker or indicator for this state, as will become evident through the following observations. Hyper-reflection denotes the state of simultaneous performing and generating of reflective insights. These examples are again viewed from the standpoint of the spectator of the videos. The selection of the specific sequences depends on reported inner states as well as interpretations about awareness-states derived from watching the performer's behaviour and expressions.

Hyper-Awareness and Hyper-Reflection
Each of the pieces uncovers aspects of Hyper-Awareness in the performers and in isolated instances makes the issue of Hyper-Reflection visible.

In `new islands', the basic attitude is one of balancing between listening and doing. From the start, the exposed situation generates in the musician a heightened awareness of the specific state of performing. In Video 1a at 04:05, the transition from doing into perceiving is visible, in the state of listening to the resonance and expecting the systems evolution in a state of focused awareness. In Video 1a at 06:45, the arrival of a new layer of sound (the traffic noise) brings a shift in awareness from the own actions to the added sonic layers, necessitating the negotiation of both layers, and thus increasing the hyper-awareness. In Video 1b, between 02:40 and 02:48, the balance between listening and acting shows the hyper-awareness of the performer. In Video 1b at 05:10, we see minimal actions and a concentrated waiting for the rise of tension through reduced events. In Video 1c at 01:15, how the gaze moves outwards, then inwards, signals a shift in awareness, a fluctuation in the compression of the inner state experienced by the performer. In Video 1d, from 12:15 to 12:44, the breathing actions are generating presence and make visible the increase in awareness and tension.
In `Double Vortex', the main source for tension is an emphasis on the corporeal presence of the performer and the task to perform movements, in addition to specific playing techniques on the trombone. The different versions of the piece exhibit significant differences in those moments that function according to this principle. The changes are evolutionary; the three versions span an entire year and two distinct working cycles. In Video 2a, from 00:17 to 03:49, the entire opening section consists of an extremely slow rotation movement---the instruction is `as slow as possible'---that is accompanied by a light swaying or leaning tension. The task in itself generates a significantly increased self-awareness of the body, the situation, the movements, and time. In Video 2a, from 10:46 to 11:50, as in the previous section, the slow and silent diagonal movement shows a focus by the performer on spatial perception and, in the transition at 11:14, an awareness of dynamics and motion. In Video 2a at 13:25, the ending stance and holding of tension puts the focus on awareness and perception, in this case of the resonating ending sound. In Video 2b, between 07:22 and 08:00, the postural and positional clarity shows focused awareness. In Video 2c, the silent movements from 01:12 to 01:37, from 02:32 to 03:10, and from 03:46 to 04:22, demonstrate through the slow movements in response to sound activity that tension and release as well as slowing down increases awareness when shifting the focus. In Video 2c, the sequences from 04:40 to 08:06 show a blending of sound and body actions that put a focus on the body and an increased burden on the performer, who negotiates the multiple layers with the aid of increased concentration, focus, and awareness.

In `Moving Music', the rapid decelerations and changes of intensity demonstrate hyper-awareness and control by the performer. What is not visible, but should be kept in mind, is the presence of second performer off-stage who manipulates sound-characteristics and reaction patterns of the electronic system. The dancer is not only negotiating the interaction with a responsive digital sound system but also with the decisions and intentions of another person. In Video 3a at 00:40, the resting point and gaze indicate a deliberate awareness and control over temporal and dynamic durations. At 08:59 as well as 10:22, the transitions away from the rest-state and into a new position on the floor, also visible at 12:22, shows deliberate awareness and shaping of stops, starts, and the beginning and ending of dynamic arcs. These observations indicate a mastery of a type of awareness that occurs on a meta-level, above the immediate task, and concerns the shaping of time and durations over the span of the entire piece. In general, increased awareness and focus of the dancer become most evident to the audience during the slowing-down moments.

In `trans-form', the situational constraints, which are the result of the scenographic use of lights and demarkation of space through projections, generate a different type of context within which to perceive hyper-awareness. Again, there are two additional performers present at the edge of the stage, who influence the media of sound and light/image. In Video 5a, from 00:18 to 01:29, the dancer is negotiating a narrow strip of light. The conscious engagement and the deliberate movement into and out of the light shows control over the situation by the dancer; the manner in which the movements are made rhythmical and engage the space show an awareness beyond the body that is encompassing the visual and spatial aspects of the situation. In Video 5a, from 04:43 to 05:54, the scenographic situation is subjecting the body to an oppressively structured space imposed by the lights. The awareness of the delicate balance between movements by the body and the lights increases the focus and generates a heightened awareness of the situation both for the performer(s) and public.

In `sonozones', both performative and contemplative states exist. In each of the documented situations, the presence of the camera generates a kind of performance moment with an abstract public. Distinguishing the awareness level and the moments of hyper-reflection in these situations is challenging. In Video 6a, from 00:16 onwards, the slow, deliberate pace and the demonstrative activity of listening through a cone while walking up the street indicates focused awareness. In Video 6a at 2:15, stopping to listen signals interest and awareness. In Video 6a at 03:08, the expectation and searching movements indicate concentrated, dedicated attention. Throughout this performative intervention in the urban space, self-consciousness about the unusual action forms part of the perceptual field. After these intervention activities, a heightened state of awareness for the type of focused listening emerges without the use of cones. The unfiltered but primed change in the state of perception points to hyper-awareness as well as a performative reflection during the doing. In Video 6b, around 00:31, the listening posture indicates concentration, but not necessarily an awareness of a performative intervention, yet. In Video 6b, from 01:18 to 01:25, the attitude changes and a subtle aspect of performative awareness and hyper-awareness becomes readable in the posture of the artist. In Video 6d, from 00:06 to 00:20, clear attention is given to listening by the sound-artist. An awareness of the situation and a heightened focus is perceivable in the attitude and body-language.

The experience of hyper-awareness or hyper-reflection is private and difficult to discern from a video. To perceive from an outside viewpoint the telling elements of hyper-reflection, that is, the presence of thinking as well as perception, is difficult. In an actual performance, subtle bodily cues are perceived and kinaesthetic resonances emerge that do not exist when watching a video. Nevertheless, through signals in posture and seeing the control of overarching aspects by the performer, the presence of an awareness on a heightened level can be deduced. All the performances, including the interventions in the public domain, exhibit a concentrated state of presence and awareness that is noticeably. From the inside perspective in the flow of performing, these hyper- or meta-states emerge, fluctuate and are perceived. To go back after the fact to identify these moments from a video, however, is difficult, unless an effort is undertaken to capture traces of this state immediately after the performance.


all materials © 2011–2017 by Jan Schacher