Keeping Score

Jay Weissman Issue: Section:

The most powerful phrases actually
came from the stutters and restarts

click to listen "charlotte"
"Charlotte" a sound score for a dance piece.

Most of the pieces *Rebecca choreographs on her university students start
with a music search, combing through the boxes of Matador promo Cd's. A
handful continue on to late night WNYC shows where endless dark car rides
prove to be a potent test lab and theater simulator.

Rickie Lee Jones dropped a particularly powerful performance and interview
with her most recent record Balm and Gilead.  "Wild Girl", a song Rickie Lee
wrote for her daughter, hit us hard and dictated the direction of Rebecca's
piece.

This song illuminated the essence of what Rebecca was trying to create with
her piece; a personal portrayal of what her college students were feeling
but through a dynamic perspective of mothers and daughters.

We had a sketch of the structure, we knew we wanted to use "Wild Girl" along
with a second song and prerecorded interviews with her students, to create a
sound score for about a 12 minute piece.

We figured the next song would come from Rickie Lee Jones' record Pirates,
and Rebecca zoned in on the song "The Returns" with its colorful textures,
masterful arrangements and judicious use of space. The actual chronological
time lapse between the songs emulated the generational gap of
mother/daughter nicely.

Rebecca prepped her students with writing exercises and I came in one class
and conducted interviews and recorded their readings.

Next I cut up the audio files extracting the phrases that jumped out at me
and assembled them in a natural rhythm as they wove in and out from
student to student. The most powerful phrases actually came from the
stutters and restarts; they seemed to project a certain honesty and
vulnerability. With a bunch of left, right panning and some audio effects, I
tried to create some depth of field to support choreography.

The bells up top were taken from John Lennon's "Mother" (if you are going to
steal, take from the best) and the opening "chorus" was fabricated by
layering matched phrases from the students individual interviews.

I tried to pull repeating sounds such as the Glockenspiel bells from the
"Returns" turning them backwards, adding reverb, to integrate the different
elements together throughout the entire piece as well as layering some of
the students voices over the music.

Rickie Lee Jones' original live performance of "Wild Girl" that grabbed us
initially was hard to let go of, but the rhythms of the record version proved
essential for the dancers, so I just layered them together and used them
both simultaneously. The live version had no click track, so they would
phase in and out of sync, but moving them around created a trippy echo
effect which I ended up liking.

After a couple rounds of sitting in on rehearsals and editing, the piece
premiered at the Citicorp Theatre, Alvin Ailey Building on April 30 for the
Eugene Lang (The New School) Spring Dance Concert. I proposed as a title
"Charlotte" the name of Rickie Lee's daughter (Charlotte Rose) she
references in the song. The students liked its old fashion feel and the fact
they could refer to work as "she".

Sorry there is no video I couldn't access one, but accompanying the track is
an image of the piece. If you have a minute, put on headphones and see if it
takes you there.   

click to listen "charlotte"

*Rebecca Stenn is a choreographer and dancer whose had her own company for a
really long time and danced for MOMIX and Pilobolus before that. She studied
at the Royal Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet (I think), Juilliard, and earned
her MFA in dance in Milwaukee with one small child at her side and one
still in her belly.
Jay Weissman is an event producer with a past as a musician, composer and MD
for aforementioned company. Random, past musical highlights include playing
and writing with Perry Farrell, touring "I'll Stop the World and Melt with
You" with half of Modern English and being in a band that was managed by Sid
Bernstein despite the fact that he fell asleep during the audition.

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