The Nature of Human (2008)

The Nature of Human (Mind/Body/Spirit) for dance, video and digital sound Music: The Nature of Human, Jeffrey Hass (b. 1953) I. Mindstorms II. Magnetic Resonance Music (video projection by Jeffrey Hass) III. Spirit Trails Choreography: Elizabeth Limons Shea Scenography and…


The Nature of Human (Mind/Body/Spirit)
for dance, video and digital sound

Music: The Nature of Human, Jeffrey Hass (b. 1953)
I. Mindstorms
II. Magnetic Resonance Music (video projection by Jeffrey Hass)
III. Spirit Trails

Choreography: Elizabeth Limons Shea
Scenography and Lighting Design: Robert Shakespeare
Costume Design: Amy Burrell
I. Mind Maze
Bonnie Green, Kelly McCormick, Joanna Paul, Colleen Welch, with Noah Trulock and Justin Zuschlag
II. Body Talk
Andranise Baxter, Amanda Harring, Kelly McCormick, Richelle Steiner, Noah Trulock, Colleen Welch, Justin Zuschlag
III. Spirit Tracings
Entire Cast

Understudies: Elaine Buck, Maddie Gentile, Brianna Wieclaw

from the choreographer:
This work explores the three facets of our human existence; mind, body, and spirit. The first section, Mind Maze, abstracts the flow of information across synapses by manipulating the dancers’ spatial juxtapositions and body rhythms. The visual technology further constrains the choreography by limiting the dance to a 10′ by 15′ area. In Body Talk, physical strength and power take a conversational form, as the score and video projection provide a framework for ‘dance play.’ Finally, Spirit Tracings represents the individual’s awareness and curiosity of our emotional framework, and signals not an end, but a beginning to an understanding of how the complexities of our humanity affect relationships with others.

from the composer:
The score for the entire piece is comprised of processed and manipulated digital sound. Following the basic idea of ‘mind, body, spirit’ each movement takes on its own unique character and compositional approach.
1. Mindstorms came about following a discussion with Psychology Professor Jeffrey Alberts this past summer. The two of us had discussed the idea of ‘data sonification,’ that is, taking scientific data and converting it to sound. When the idea of a movement dealing with the mind came up, I located data of recorded synaptic activity. It was at first very sparse, then grew in intensity following some stimulation. I created sounds that represented the data, both in their frequency and intensity. Interesting timbres developed from the transformation of the dense neural patterns, including ones suggesting even a scratchy violin (though no violin was ever used). Underneath these ‘clicky’ sounds is a more static bed of shifting harmonies-for these, I took an electroencephalograph (EEG) graph, apparent by the slowly rising and falling musical voices inside a complex chordal texture. The movement progresses from the point of a very primitive mind to that of more highly organized thought as the synapses change timbre to bell-like sounds and perhaps, in the end enlightenment.
2. Magnetic Resonance Music While contemplating what it was I wished to do for the ‘body’ portion of the piece, I underwent my first MRI. Stuffed into this small tube for an hour and a half, admonished not to move in any way, but having a horrible desire to itch, I tried to turn my focus toward the bizarre, strident, extremely loud noises and complex rhythms the machine was making and how they might be incorporated into a musical composition. With the addition of a few extra ‘beat’ elements, Magnetic Resonance Music was born during my brain scan.
3. Spirit Trails takes the widest possible interpretation of ‘spirit,’ the last of our mind, body, spirit path, be it the human spirit or a more general concept of spirituality. Associations with many sonic representations of the spiritual are woven into the fabric of the music. The music may conjure up images of sunken Buddhist temples, or that of Native American tributes-it winds its way through the darker aspect of spirit as well. The goal of the music, however, was to provide a fertile background for the dance and its movement to suggest what it will for each viewer’s own conception of the intangible.

from the scenographer:
The exploration of virtual scenography in live performance is rapidly expanding as new technologies become available to the arts. Tonight’s production includes an opening sequence which synthesizes physical dancers under stage light with their captured and projected luminous silhouettes. After some experimentation we discovered the screen material used for the panels which is Infra-Red transparent, enabling a dancer to become merged between a front and rear luminous echo of their movement. The time delay between real and virtual gesture and the multiple images enabled choreographer, Liz Shea, to explore this rhythmic visual relationship. The projected image was manipulated using ISADORA, interactive software written by a modern dance artistic director. The silhouettes of dancers are captured by an infrared camera in conjunction with a cyclorama, backlit with invisible Infra-red light. Stage lighting produces a significant amount of Infra-red light, so all instruments used in the first movement are installed with Infra-red absorbing filters, making the visible stage light invisible to the IR camera. The camera image is then inverted and referenced onto the dancers with a data projector. Future research will focus on reducing the processing time between image capture and projection enabling many possibilities, including shadowless light framed dynamically to the silhouette of the performer. In conjunction with the “virtual light transporter” effects demonstrated two years ago by the same creative team, we are contributing to a new world of live performance scenography. The third movement incorporates a synchronized projected video background, created synthetically, and ends with a reprise of the “virtual character” effect used at the top of the first movement.

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