Well that escalated quickly...

You wouldn't believe what the Australian Art Quartet did today. It is amazing working with really accomplished musicians and relating their music techniques to movement techniques, their understanding of music composition to movement composition... I'm making an integrated sound/movement work... we don't know what about yet, but we've got an 8 day residency at Bundanon to figure it out!

The drive down with Alina and Anna was a breeze - though the drive took most of the day. Alina is the violist with the AAQ, she performed in their interpretation of my work "27" during their "Butt Naked Salon" concert last year (in which I also happened to appear as a nude model for Wendy Sharpe to create a mural from). Anna is new to the quartet and is the 2nd violin. 

When we finally got to Bundanon we caught James (cello) going for a run and he instructed us to our cottages where we'd be staying - I'm bunking up with James and Alina and Anna are bunking up with Dan (1st violin).

It is picturesque here... there are kangaroos hopping about the property, we came across a beautiful snake with speckled scales slithering across the road, there are trees everywhere. It is refreshing to get out of the urban landscape of Sydney to create work in.

I'm here to finish off the work I'm making for the Song Company (Out of the deep) and create a score for the AAQ. The AAQ will perform it next month, and TSC will perform their work in June....

After a quick lunch we went straight into a movement and sound workshop.

This is the first time I've lead anything of this length and nature before - a 3 hour workshop towards the creation of a new devised work. I took to it like a duck to water though...

Alina helping James stretch - the task was that she wasn't allowed to use her hands. Using her foot on James' shoulder and sitting on his leg deepened the stretch - and was a good way of introducing contact into our movement improv to come later.

Alina helping James stretch - the task was that she wasn't allowed to use her hands. Using her foot on James' shoulder and sitting on his leg deepened the stretch - and was a good way of introducing contact into our movement improv to come later.

I first got the quartet walking around the room, and encouraged them to take in the details of it - how many lights were there, were there windows, where were the windows, how many paces could they make from one side to the other - and importantly (for musicians) what sounds does the room make as they walk around in it? can we possibly incorporate those sounds into composition later?

After becoming aware of the space I started adding instructions to augment the score we were enacting in real time... play with direction (walk backwards, sideways, etc), play with speed, turn, slowly arc, quickly arc... then adding other elements like feeling free to descend to the ground and rise again, and other bits and pieces - the exercise ended up getting everyone into a giggly mess as we couldn't remember everything we were meant to be including! 

Dan helping Anna stretch without using his hands. His solution of using legs as contact points was effective in this stretch.

Dan helping Anna stretch without using his hands. His solution of using legs as contact points was effective in this stretch.

But the mess soon dissipated as I got them to do some specific exercises playing with level (height that is), speed and direction together. 

We then did some stretching, and I sneaked some contact in there (1 stretcher, 1 helper). Adding that the helper can't use their hands.... then adding they can't use their arms (but they must help, and no copying of solutions!) created the opportunity for them to problem solve and explore proximity and comfort... handy as we then looked at 3 core concepts which would really define our improv work.

Exploring the idea of flocking - here James is leading just after Alina was leading the ensemble. The movement language improvised was purposefully very different with each new leader. 

Exploring the idea of flocking - here James is leading just after Alina was leading the ensemble. The movement language improvised was purposefully very different with each new leader. 

Proximity - Flocking - Imitation

Defining proximity physically as well as conceptually lead us to begin to think about things from the audience's readings perspectives. We did an experiment on perception of proximity where I stood about 3m away from Alina and got her and I to face one another looking directly at each other, and asked the others to compare the impression of proximity that gave in comparrison to when we were purposefully turned away from one another and looking away... although we were in the same physical position, it was felt by the others we were further away from one another when we were facing and looking away from each other. (a tad obvious, but actually doing that exercise opens the idea of the gradations between those extremes). 

Also looking at imitation vs mirroring - so imitating "impressionistically" (that is, similar aesthetic, but different movements and pace potentially) vs imitating exactly (i.e mirroring), and the gradations in between there.

A whole bunch of concepts were thrown at them today... with theory and practical exercises, culminating in a 7 min improv score (which required at least 1 group flocking, 3 stillness, using of all the techniques we covered today and starting on the floor in as close proximity as possible). Completing this improv created such a moment between the five of us - it's like we broke a barrier and started on a tremendous exhilarating journey together.

But what really interested me was the ensuing conversation talking about a few techniques I'd been exposed to before (the use of "state" to inspire movement/performance, use of text in creation of work, tapping into formulaeic approaches to composition, ways of creating physical narratives through space, etc). We then extended the conversation into the technique os relating sound and movement... when I did my thesis on this subject for my undergrad honours I found nothing in the literature covering this topic, so it felt like we were really covering some interesting ground that was yet to be examined in an academic context (though I bet it has, I just wasn't able to find it back then!). We came up with a few experimental relationships we'll try in our next session. The quartet came up with suggestions that even surprised me!

I've just come back to my cabin from dinner chez Alina, Anna and Dan. The quartet are still all back there, looking at specific string quartet things like intonation and rhythm through playing through some Handel. I was delighted that the quartet found today's workshop very beneficial to their playing together as an ensemble despite not involving their instruments. I do think this is the start of something quite extraordinary. 

Whilst I'm here, I want to also tell you that I'm continuing my ongoing collaboration with Guy James Whitworth. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I performed at his Mardi Gras exhibition in February. This week, I posed for him wearing the pig-mask costume that I'd created for that performance... he did a few sketches of me in it, which I think are just wonderful. Certainly not the sort of costuming I'd be working with the AAQ or TSC with, but it is good to have an outlet expressing my sexuality and explorations of kink. I daresay he'll be entering an oil-on-canvas of this into something major... we'll see where it goes! I do think he's made me a tad more muscular than I actually am in the one above, and perhaps a tad leaner than I am in the one below, but others tell me that they're quite accurate - perhaps I underestimate the effects of those ballet and  stretch classes and gym sessions with Dean!

Andrew Batt-Rawden

Arts Illuminated Pty Ltd, Level 13, 167 Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Publisher and artist. I have a background in music composition, festival direction, media publishing, some uni teaching here and there as well as performance art. I make websites for various projects that I'm involved with.