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Voix égales - Research




General Description

Voix égales (2005) is a practice-based research on the musician’s corporeality and theatricality in a live performance context, in which New Media collaborates with his craft/corporeality, mediating sounds and actions to create a meaningful (performance) space.


In Voix égales the motion of the musician in the performance space both generates and modulates the sound worlds he inhabits. In doing so he generates a multitude of moods and atmospheres, and a continually evolving world of sound, image and actions.


Voix égales focuses on the extensibility of different medium of expression that belongs to the musician as stage performer, and the diffusion of those elements through different media.

Voix égales is structured as a laboratory where breath, voice, gestures, movement, positioning on the stage, together with instrumental sounds of one musician, provide a palette of signs to establish a rich musical discourse with the space, to establish an "integral music performance". The "integral music performance" we refer to, is the collaboration between sound, body, space, image and New Media that enriches the levels of signification in a contemporary music performance.



The subject is concerned with the development of and the research towards the integral music performance directed to the practice of the contemporary music in combination with new media.

Special attention is paid to the interrelationship performer-space through an interactive network, and the dialectics between physicality and relevant real time digital tools.



Objectives and main questions

- The development of a broader notion on the "integral music performance". In which way does multimediality affects and/or intensifies the musical experience? To which extent does the accent on the playing technique becomes crucial? Which are the fundamental mechanisms for the different creative processes?

- To develop a stage practice specifically directed to, and designed for the Contemporary music-New Media performance. In this context technology becomes a key element supporting an artistic idea: that is a means not as an end on itself

- To develop a work method in which the performer/musician:
1. Will increase and adapt his technique to the heterogeneous context of the contemporary and multidisciplinary performance.
2. Will arrive to an organic interaction with the real time electronic tool.
3. Will increase his body awareness.

- To develop a digital network that amplifies or diffuses the musician’s motion/gestures/corporeality, as a means to integrate the musical discourse with the space.

- To create an optimal network of sounds, movements, and video signals based on an efficient live electronics setup (Max/MSP, LiSa, VNS, BigEye, BodySynth, KeyWorx, a.o.)



Theoretical point of departure

"The Theatre of Totality must be, with its diversified interweaving of light, space, surface, form, movement, sound, man –with all the possibilities of variation and combination of these elements in turn – and artistic configuration: an ORGANISM."
László Moholy-Nagy, 1925, p104 in The Sphere and the Labyrinth, Manfredo Tafuri.

This research departs from the notion of the "Integral Stage Performance", which combines three points of gravity: sound, body and space. These three hubs are linked, amplified and/or diffused through the use of New Media to create a scenic experience with enriched and balanced levels of signification. The diffusion and amplification of corporeality, space, sound and image entail particular poetics and characteristics which require a thorough understanding of its elements in order to render meaningful an spectacle of this nature, rather than complex and artificial. This knowledge will provide us the platform for future researches on the other two gravity points of the "Integral Stage Performance:
1) The actor’s gestures and actions related to the sound/space (the dialectics of physicality, theatricality and musicality)
2) The theatrical space against the architectural space, the décor against the existential space.



Jorge Isaac (blockflutist / multimedia artist)

The increasing use of New Media in live performances brings about new considerations on the performance notion as an all around scenic form, in which divisions between music, theatre and other Performing Arts begin to become blurred. I believe that through interactive electronic systems, the musician can develop an interdisciplinary language that begins within his own discipline. This amplifies his actions in collaboration with his craftsmanship as stage performer.

The digital network designed for Voix égales integrates on different levels the musician’s presence with the stage, giving him a vast set of communication tools. Through body sensors, floor sensors, pitch tracking and video capture, the performer generates sounds and interacts with the aural world he inhabits, becoming part of the performing space. The musician is able to build up a rich palette of expression means through an effective sensor management. In doing so, he is able to incorporate the digital extensions in the body language, not as a musical "action", but as logical and even natural gesture within the dramaturgy. Accuracy and flexibility become keywords to get through these processes. In this context, I consider the body of the musician as a highly visual music instrument with its own properties and demands (practical and musical ones).

The first module of Voix égales was devoted to the study of the (im)possibilities provided by the digital network in the music performance. The musician and the composer mapped-out all possibilities related to the aural world that could be produced/manipulated in such an environment. The regisseur designed the non-musical actions and the training of the musician, as well as linked theatrical activities to musical ones as sensorial actions. This in collaboration with the actor, who realised in the first instance the physicality involved in the use of all the electronics system. The architect started developing a spatial concept based on the hybrid nature of the events corporeality-electronics, presence vs amplified visual/aural representations of the presence. Once we knew the language/vocabulary possibilities offered by the system, we concentrated on different levels of integration between the three main elements: musical discourse, non-musical discourse and space experience. These three elements were guided by the leitmotif: struggle for communication.

In this multi-sided process real-time composition frames were structured and defined, based on the links between musical and non-musical actions. The last step was the communication between all the elements within a fixed structure, the use of blockflutes, the formulation of the spatial and material concept of the theatrical space, and the choice of when a particular event is highlighted in the sequence of actions.




Roderik de Man (composer)

In Voix égales the spacialization of sound is a key concept for the compositional research. Interfaces, sensors and software enable the musician to create sonorous layers through gestures in opposition to a tape. the sounds in the tape travel around the space via four speakers surrounding it, and interacting with the musician's movements and position in the space.

It is known that Samuel Beckett had a great interest in the word's sounds, structure and rhythm. This particular approach is important for the composer to observe and treat in the composition. The music for Voix égales is based on the text's musicality and theatrical expression. The live electronics is a key tool to enhance these qualities in the text. Through its use the musician can improvise with, and react to the sounds and words. Therefore, the composer, not only has to write notes, but he must also consider the necessity of space in the musical structure in which the cues play an important role for the orientation of the performer in order to retain the intended musical structure in time.

The compositional research used four situations that resulted in four musical movements, three of which involved live electronics. The material for the compositional research was inspired by Samuel Beckett's 'Not I' from 1972. Words and word fragments are spoken, whispered and spoken through instruments. This material is then recorded into a buffer to be re-worked and electronically manipulated, creating sonorous elements not present before. Particles of words were merged together in order to create new words. Only the last movement contains music for tenor and contrabass (Paetzold) blockflutes recorded by Jorge Isaac. The two instruments take the leading role in this movement. The first fragments of clear text are heard at this point, which could also be considered as the apotheosis of the four movements when regarded as parts of a single piece. The title Voix égales, serves as well to examine the words as contrapuntal element related to the whole.

Throughout the entire process there is a continued dynamic of opposition and unification of several media without affecting the independence o its elements, thus allowing them to remain clear for the spectator.



Nikolaas Vande Keere (scenographer, architect) | UR architects

UR takes distance from the referential logic of theatre. Rather than working with the linear nature of the conventional theatre space – from the backdrop through the stage to the audience - UR relies on the slightly more abstract notion of ‘the actions defining the space’. The theatre gets its intensity from the immediacy and strong presence of ‘play’. This makes the theatrical space more ‘fluid’: it contracts and expands, it materialises and evaporates, it appears and disappears. The theatrical space as an existential space, as a body.

The research on the space originally focused on the isolation of the body as a theatrical force. What is the psychological border between the room and the cage? When does the space become physical to such an extent that the performer must interact with it? Where lies the border between free movement and the manipulation of those movements? On this basis, how can the theatrical space materialise into an existential space, into a ‘performing’ space?

The analysis of three exercises forms the core of this part of the research. Each exercise consists of a movement sequence in which electronics interfere. The exercises start from lying, sitting, or standing positions. These positions are being dissected through the superimposition of video-stills. This process, initially nothing more than a method to define the spatial outline of each movement, proves to be also a process of montage: the choice and the order of the video-stills, to limit amount of the chosen video-stills in order to keep the image recognisable, the manipulation of each individual video-still. The montage styles the movement. The exercise suggests definition to the quality or spirit of the movement.

The exercises take on a physical boundary. With the addition of the music they become experiments. We condition the movements further through the isolation of one body part or the restriction of movement of that part by binding. In this way the energy of the performer is channelled towards the free parts of the body and the movement becomes more intense. The movement becomes tied between the bind and the spatial outline.

What was originally implicit in the montage reveals itself. The movement is conceptualised into a more aware ‘movement in space’. Each of the three exercises develops an associative meaning, an archetypical nature.
The body acquires a sculptural quality: it rises, reaches up, bends, reclines.
The body acquires a pictorial quality: hands and face search for contact with the outside world.

The body acquires an architectural quality: hands and feet need grounding, touch around, look for the edge of the space. Scenographically the concept results in a minimal materialistic evocation of these qualities and an maximal evocation through the movements themselves. The culmination of this forms the performing space as a result of the symbiosis between the performer and the space. In the end only the movements are the cage of the performer.



Miguel Silva (Cross-disciplinary theatre director)

I define the concept of Integral Dramaturgy moving away from the usual idea linked to Dramaturgy as text. I understand Dramaturgy by its etymological origin: drama (action) and ergon (rule). Rather than a written text it is a texture, a network of actions constituting the spine of a spectacle. In the Integral Dramaturgy languages integrate through a dialogue. Integration is not juxtaposition. It requires adaptation, therefore a partial transformation of its elements. The Dramaturgy treats the diverse crafts involved as elements of signification. It integrates the signs that belong to these crafts in order to create a ‘poly-language’. During this research choices were taken in order to integrate music, theatre, and architecture (elements of signification). I believe that a compromise between crafts has to be made in order for a new ethos to arise. The ethos of the Integral Dramaturgy I am speaking about exists both in the performer and the spectacle itself.

Montage is a key concept within this research. The Integral Dramaturgy always happens through a montage process. The Dramaturgy defined the exercises of our research. Musical, theatrical, spatial and movement signs were isolated to create a new context. This happened through a constant montage: disarrangement and rearrangement of actions, events and signs. This process creates a montage in the mind of the performer. In this manner a psychological dimension to the scenic event is created. Through this montage we try to create the conditions of a space that will define the performer’s actions. A restricted space accompanies the restricted communication.

One of the key principles of this research is the isolation of elements and signs. Signs are not used in the conventional way. The performer is forced to create new conventions with conventional signs in order to make those signs clear to the viewer. The motor of this research is the struggle for communication. While finding new conventions within the frame of a restricted amount of signs and in a restricted space, the performer’s actions are determined by, and determining the space. Rather than using the space as a medium in which to perform, we aimed to create a space in which the performer actually existed: an existential space. The performer finds a new way of behaving, particular to these conditions. He inhabits the space, the theatrical actions, the musical events and the movement elements in a balance that enables communication.


blockflutes, live electronics & performance: Jorge Isaac
music composition: Roderik de Man
space conception: Nikolaas Vande Keere
theatrical advisor: Bart Kiene
dramaturgy development: M. Silva

video: Marcel Wierckx (2006)
production: Visisonor Media Productions (2005-06)



With the support of:

Fonds voor de Amateurkunst en Podiumkunsten
GAUDEAMUS Foundation