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Connections: Sounds Jazzy

Today’s post comes from Taylor Shoolery, class of 2012 and Art Center student docent.

For the last five Thursdays at Late Night dance theater performers from the Power House Apprentice Company performed a soundpainting called Wuthering, a semi-improvisational reinterpretation of the novel Wuthering Heights. Soundpainting, conceived by Walter Thompson in the 1970s, is a performance in which the director uses a special sign language to communicate with performers. To catch up on the buzz on soundpainting, feel free to check out this post from July 8, before moving on.

After seeing the performance each week I began to wonder what other soundpaintings looked like. After a rendezvous with youtube I found that soundpaintings often involved live music as well as dance theater. I am something of a jazz enthusiast, so when I came across the clip below, I was thrilled. It reminds me of Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, a free form jazz improvisation, but the amazing part about soundpainting is the interaction between the performers and the director. Rather than an amalgamation of improv, soundpaintings are a defined by the live exchange between performer and director. The director depends on input from his or her performers and the performers depend on signals from the director to motivate their performance. This interplay makes soundpainting a unique thing to behold.  This clip is pretty lo-fi, but I think it is a great example of soundpainting with music. As you watch, pay close attention to the director’s signals and how the musicians respond. Keep an open mind as you watch, because harmony, melody, and regular rhythm are of the least importance to these musicians. It is certainly no ordinary musical experience.

From Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz:

This is a clip of a soundpainting class, if you want to see more.  This class has musicians, dancers, and actors:

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