Composition in an Expanded field of Performance: Experimental Music in Collaboration with Contemporary Dance.

Peck, Chris, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Coffey, Edward, Department of Music, University of Virginia

Collaboration with dance is commonplace in experimental and computer music, but there is little in the way of published discourse about composing for dance or working with choreographers. In this dissertation I offer what I hope may be a few new footholds for building more substantive, useful future discourse on collaboration with dance in our field.
Part One tackles two dominant threads in the extant discourse: the paradigm of separation developed by John Cage and Merce Cunningham (Chapter 1) and the interactive technology paradigm of integration (Chapter 2). The Cage-Cunningham paradigm, as it turns out, is only about separation on its surface. Their “non-collaborative” method arises from a sense of music-dance parity within a unified field of theatrical possibility. I explore the implications of this paradigm by considering Cunningham’s Sounddance (1975), with music by David Tudor, as well as a number of edge-cases or “failures” of non-collaboration involving music for the Cunningham company by Christian Wolff, Nam June Paik, and Charlemagne Palestine.
Conversely, computer music collaborations with dance involving interactive technology are frequently problematic in how they seek a more complete or satisfactory integration of the two forms. They tend to subvert dance’s autonomy in a way that works against collaboration. I investigate the interactive dance paradigm through a review of computer music literature on dance as well as analysis of several interactive dance works.
In Part Two, I discuss my music for a trilogy of evening-length pieces by choreographer Eleanor Bauer: A Dance for the Newest Age (2011), Tentative Assembly (2012), and Midday and Eternity (2013). Rather than distancing the music from the dance in this discussion, I situate the music in the interdisciplinary and multi-sensory experience of these works from an audience perspective. I hope to show that collaboration in an expanded field of performance need not come at the expense of the concerns of composition proper. Rather, dance can and should be a deep store of resources for the adventurous composer.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
composition, computer music, dance, choreography, collaboration
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