Peformed at Dance Place, November 11 & 12, 2006
One of my biggest and most difficult projects of the last year wrapped up recently -- I wrote music for a new multi-media piece by Step Afrika. The piece, titled "Nxt/Step," is their first attempt to push stepping in a new, modern direction. It's put together as a long-form piece (20 minutes) which is quite unusual in stepping, and it includes hi-tech video integration. These were all new challenges for them, which only amplified the challenges for me. Most stepping doesn't include additional music - the dancers make loads of sound with their feet, hands, and voices, so there generally isn't much need or space for additional music...
Going into the project, I made some naive assumptions about stepping. I thought the rhythms would be pretty straightforward - with steady tempos, even meters, and nice symmetrical phrases. Not so. It's much more like African drumming, where each rhythm has it's own length and tempo - very different from what I'm used to, so I had to get caught up fast. My first approach was to do some live processing and looping, manipulating the sounds of the dancers. After a few rehearsals, and disappointing results, we ditched that idea. Eventually we came up with some short riffs and phrases that I could build on, and we put something together.
The piece still feels to me like a work in progress. Elements of the choreography were still changing right up through the dress rehearsal, so I had to keep several sections open (by only using live guitar music that I played along with them). For a few transitions, I had recorded cues, and some of those had some live guitar added on top. There's a good chance we'll be revisiting the piece in spring of 2007, so I'm looking forward to continuing to develop it.
Friday, December 15, 2006