Thursday, 12 February 2009

Iron In The Soul

Proposal for Choreographic Research Project
Iron In The Soul

A Performance in Three Parts featuring Transitions contemporary dance company, Trinity College musicians and flamenco artists from Flamenco Express.
An examination of the relationship between and boundaries of Science, Myth and Art, employing the essential role of the element Iron in the development of life and culture as an artistic device.

That the dichotomy between science and art is a cultural artefact and not a useful truth. This is dramatised in the myth of Pythagoras and the anvil, in which the ability to codify music is the natural result of a scientific reality (rhythm/vibration) as expressed in a technological artefact.
(see appendix)

1. From Chaos to Rhythm (est. 15 mins)
• Representing everything before the emergence of life.
The transition in the early universe from radiation to matter. The emergence of matter from chaos to be represented by emergence of coherent rhythms and polyrhythms from cacophony.
Musicians and dancers would be expected to workshop this concept under direction. A range of percussive techniques to be used, including physical sounds.

• The desired effect on the audience should be to create a sense of emerging intelligence and life, dwarfed in turn by the Time involved to create it; also to examine ideas of co-operation in the midst of confusion.

• The key musical workshop for this section would involve a free-rhythm experiment to discover how coherent rhythms emerge in an undirected environment when the members of the workshop are not given any initial time signature or tempo, but are allowed to settle into a natural rhythm. The objective being to ascertain which overall group-rhythm would emerge, and how. From a narrative standpoint, the ideal outcome would be for the resulting rhythm to be that of the human heartbeat, forming a neat link to the human phase of Time.

• Choreographic Notes
Without pre-empting the collaborative process, dancers will be used to create sound from movement, developing into a pattern harmonious with the flamenco rhythm to follow in section 2.

2. Humanity & Art & Science (est. 15 mins)
The Anvil and Martinete.
• Representing Humanity and the birth of Art and Science in a single sound.
The first strike of the anvil dramatically introduces this section, which uses flamenco because of its unique exploitation of the Anvil (of Pythagoras) in one of the earliest forms of the genre, and because of the role of the gypsies as ironsmiths. Martinete uses only the anvil strike and the voice of the singer. The dancer in this case embodies the human contributions of Art and Science to existence.

• The desired effect on the audience should be to create a dual sense of the dilemma of the individual, which is the natural territory of flamenco – plus the collective reality of Humanity as the only organism we are aware of which engages in both scientific and artistic discovery.

• Rehearsals and preparation for the flamenco section are not overly effected by the context of the piece, but will be integrated into it by the overall direction of Flamenco Express and Athina Valha.

• Choreographic Notes
Dancers to act as chorus to the solo, the movement pattern to accompany the martinete compas.

3. Post-Humanity to Chaos. (est. 15 mins)
• When organic Life ends, as it will, the universe is destined to undergo similarly radical changes to the ones which created life in the first place. The universe itself will die.
There are many choreographic possibilities for such a narrative, which would require a disciplined workshop structure within a set timescale.

• Representing everything after the end of Life.
The transition in the late universe from matter to radiation to ‘Heat Death’. The descent of matter into chaos to be represented by descent of coherent rhythm and melody into cacophony, discord and then silence.

• Desired effect
The primary desired effect on the audience should be to create a sense of increasing, inevitable discord via polyrhythms.

• Musicians and dancers would be expected to workshop this concept under direction. A range of percussive and choreographic techniques to be used, plus sounds from found objects and mass produced sources such as mobile phones, alarms, chimes etc.
Secondary audience effects to be achieved by a range of methods including:
Orchestrated text-mobbing of audience mobile phones to convey contemporary information panic and the dictatorship of technology.
The physical exhaustion of the dancers to embody the state of the cosmos in decline.

• Choreographic Notes
Transition to solitary, individualised, atomised state. Structured collapse of technique. Transition from light to dark, sound to silence, and movement to stillness.

Unique technical requirements:
Stage anvil. Wide range of formal and informal percussive instruments.

© Flamenco Express 2009

Benefits for Cast
Familiarisation with new rhythmic concepts and genres, including structured improvisation.
Familiarisation of dance students with one of the primary contemporary dance influences – flamenco.
Exploration of science as a source of creative material.
Familiarisation with workshop methods of production.
Opportunities to work with flamenco artists.
Interdisciplinary co-operation.
Creative input for set passages.

Because of the scientific and technological themes, the range of possible alternative venues is wide, the obvious ideal being a forge, steelworks or bell foundry. The object being to place art in a different context and thereby challenge established preconceptions.
The project is also capable of being productively adapted for schools use.

Appendix. Scientific and Cultural Context.
According to myth, Pythagoras codified music after hearing a smith working on different sized anvils, which produced different sounds directly in proportion to their size.
Martinete is probably the most primal form of flamenco, and is based on the anvil and the blazing forge which held such significance for the Gitano. Without iron hooves and cartwheel rims, the gypsies would have found their long journey from India even more difficult. `Their skill at metallurgy was central to Gypsy culture and they had no artistic difficulties celebrating the technology of the anvil by playing it.
Without its iron core, the earth would have no magnetic field. And with no magnetism, the sun would have stripped away our atmosphere billions of years ago, and we would never have existed. Iron makes our blood red and gives us life in the process.
And now we learn that iron is the element which all other elements try to be.

'As it expanded and cooled, the early universe was a nuclear reactor -- protons and neutrons combined to make light elements such as deuterium.. helium and lithium. The nuclei themselves would have liked to continue this process of fusion, combining all the way to form iron (the most stable nucleus), but the rapid expansion of the universe soon made the nuclear plasma too thin to sustain further reactions. '

It seems iron is the most stable organization of atomic particles. It is vibrating at the desired frequency of the rhythm of the universe. The use of iron as a motif in this piece is therefore unavoidable providing, as it does in this model, the technology of music. The use of the anvil as a musical instrument also fuses the two conventionally hostile disciplines, and refers to a period when they were not polarized into the specializations which have help grant control of art and science to those who control the specialists.
According to the most generally known modern cosmological model, the Big Bang created the universe, and (unless further discoveries are made) the universe according to the Laws of Thermodynamics will eventually peter out into the dark matter-less oblivion of Entropic absolute zero. This is now almost popular culture.
This project does not assume the scientific truth of that model, but gratefully accepts it as an artistic reality and a formula which symmetrically sandwiches the Human Race between two vast periods of chaos and change.
'Pythagoras: Music and Space'

Contact: Flamenco Express. Tel: 0207 358 1140

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