This spring, young musicians from Animate Orchestra worked alongside young dancers from Trinity Laban’s Youth Dance Programme to create a brand new piece of music and dance inspired by the theme of string theory. This was performed as part of the three week Lewisham Live festival on Tuesday 18 March in the Bonnie Bird Theatre in the Laban Building. Two members of Animate Orchestra describe their experiences of participating in this exciting collaborative project:
Prospera Dukes Ross (aged 11)
When I first started this project, I only had my experience using music technology to work with. I didn’t know what string theory was and hadn’t the faintest idea how we were going to work with the dancers!
But that has all changed… For a start, string theory is massive, and yet so small it cannot even be seen under a microscope. Smaller-than-microscopic strings make up every atom, every particle; the universe in its entirety. We created our music around the four elements of string theory: Strong Nuclear Force, Weak Nuclear Force, Gravity and Electro-Magnetic Force. With the help of new friends, a quick brainstorming session, and an ever helpful tutor, my experience switched from not-so-good to brilliant in a matter of hours.
The element of string theory the music technology group were working on was Strong Nuclear Force. We used screams, sirens and explosions -what you’d get if an event like Chernobyl happened- and then got to work making and recording sounds. We makey-makeyed (a type of computer keyboard that you can connect to a computer via a USB cable and then wire up with objects containing zinc) a vibraphone with a vocal sample we’d constructed. I then created a soundmap on Soundplant, played with the Borderlands app that allows you to record and manipulate sounds, and pressed dangerously red buttons in rhythm. We learnt that the dancers based their work mainly on cues in the music and the fact that we warmed up together meant that we learnt a bit more about how they warmed up. In turn, they learnt about our methods of getting ourselves ready to play. We also had the opportunity to watch their dances with and without our soundtrack.
I would definitely do this again; the people, tutors and music created were phenomenal and I had the time of my life, especially on the night of the performance!
Marisse Cato (aged 11)
Sunday 19 January
The first day I would say was the best. Everyone was all together – dancers, musicians and tutors. The musicians got a taste as to what it would be like to be dancers. We were split into groups, each brainstorming ideas about what string theory reminded us of. We then got into our orchestral sections to come up with melodies and riffs that could make up our Gravity piece. I play the bassoon, though I must admit that saxophones always have the best and catchiest tunes – they stick in your head for months after the performance.
Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 February
We spent these days in Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music at the Old Royal Naval College. The site is absolutely stunning – with the Thames and the Cutty Sark nearby, the opportunity of just being there is wonderful. The ideas brainstormed were used for the Electro-Magnetism piece and the Gravity piece. Different sections linked up beautifully; base riffs, soaring melodies, clashing, creating a magical atmosphere that all music should have. The Electro-Magnetism piece was in sections that represented the movement of the photons that are used in Electro-Magnetism. One of these was coils: melodies passed round from instrument to instrument to represent those coils. We then built on those ideas to create our final piece. By the end of the day, the brass section was being most creative, using their instruments in ways not traditionally used for classical music. For example, they lightly blew into their instruments to create a vibrating airy sound that changed the punchy gravity atmosphere into a mysterious, unknown vibe, sending charges through the air.
Sunday 16, Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 March
Following a month long break, I worried about remembering all the ideas we had pulled together in February. It is amazing how most things popped back into our heads once we got together. Another full day of hard work demanding my full concentration; this is my idea of a worthwhile career. These days were at Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Dance and they were all about perfection and precision. The dancers were amazing. They actually got involved with the music as well, performing a small singing part. Tuesday was performance day. Seeing the other dancing acts that were performing – wow! They were of all ages; from primary school children to young adults. We had to perform our original music from memory and it truly was an amazing experience performing in the Bonnie Bird Theatre.
To conclude, there are so many things I have learnt. A new game, how to cooperate with dancers, how hard it is to dance and how many hours you must practice to become any good. The list is endless. Playing the bassoon was a great opportunity as I learnt how other instruments with a similar base range can collaborate with me as a bassoonist. I also was shown a new instrument; the tromboon. It is when you replace the mouthpiece of a trombone with the crook of the bassoon. It made an… interesting sound. Every Animate project has provided a very different experience, widening my perspective of how music can be used. This particular showcase has inspired me to explore further the world of dance. I can hardly wait for the next Animate workshop!