As June busts out across the European Union, I have just joined fellow Digital Dramaturgy Lab member Sebastian Samur in a hot and humid Paris, France to co-present a paper at the Bodies On Stage: Acting Confronting Technologies conference held at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3. Our presentation — Moi qui parle à moi-même dans le numérique / Auditory Alienation and Liberation for the Intermedial Performer — documents the results of our recent Digital Voice Lab experiments — a component of Sebastian’s ongoing Voice Exchange forum at The Centre For Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (University of Toronto), in which we explored the creative and dramaturgical potential of actors working with electronic voice modulation (a.k.a. ‘voice mask’) tools — such as pitch-shifting and time delay —to develop new characters or (alternatively) new approaches to performing well-known characters, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Here is Sebastian explaining our digital ‘voice mask’ research (in French) during a conference break.
Palgrave Macmillan has just released Performing Site-Specific Theatre: Politics, Place, Practice (Anna Birch and Joanne Tompkins, editors) – an anthology of writing investigating the nature of the relationship between ‘site’ and ‘performance’.
Among the collected writings is an article written in collaboration with Bruce Barton (University of Toronto Drama Centre), in which we explore the theory and practical (creative) application of immersive audio technologies in site-specific performance. Entitled Immersive Negotiations: Binaural Perspectives on Site-specific Sound, the article places a large emphasis on my sound design work for site-specific performance collective bluemouth inc (who also feature prominently in an another article in this anthology by Keren Zaiontz). It’s a rather brief article, focusing largely on the confluence of immersive audio design, mobile audiences, and trompe d’ oreille (deception of the ear), in creating heightened sensory experiences.
Here is the publisher’s description of the book:
“Performing Site-Specific Theatre turns a critical eye to the increasingly popular form of site-specific performance. By re-assessing this contemporary practice, the book investigates the nature of the relationship between ‘site’ and ‘performance.’ Site-specific performance operates differently from performance that takes place within a theatre venue because it seeks to match form and content (and place and space) more finely than does theatre that takes place inside conventional venues. Yet the form also encourages an investigation of how we might understand ‘site’ as less fixed or less specifically geographical; it broadens the types of relevant ‘spaces’ we might consider. The form also enables us to address a range of performative issues, from the development of site-specific ‘soundscapes’ to the role of the spectator in site-specific performance. The contributions in the book from leading theorists and practitioners demonstrate how site-specific performance extends theatre’s potential engagement with its geographical and political communities, and cover an exceptional range of innovative performance practices. Students, scholars and practitioners of contemporary theatre and performance, space and place, and site-specific performance will find much to value in this timely interrogation of current trends, practices and implications of performance in which site/landscape is central.”
Since 2002, I have been collaborating with Cameron McKittrick and Leslie Wyber under the name of FINGER, a live electroacoustic performance trio creating new work and re-interpreting old works by mixing fresh compositional approaches with new performance technologies. We have become increasingly interested in the impact of electronic mediation on live performance – especially where it concerns the perception of physical gesture, interaction and issues of scale. In our recent work we have examined the role of mediatization in performance forms.
A common obstacle in creating convincing electroacoustic performance concerns the use of laptop computers as instruments — their computational (and compositional) power hugely outweighing their corresponding visual appeal as instruments in live performance. The traditional instrumentalist’s large and culturally familiar gestures are in stark contrast to the visual component of a typical laptop computer performance: In a laptop performance, the audience regularly reports frustration resulting from their inability to ground the sound they are hearing in the actions they are seeing. Past FINGER performances have often evoked experiences similar to that of sitting in a live radio audience watching the small physical actions of the sound effects artist become transformed into much larger, sonic images. For example, how the tapping of coconut shells comes to represent horse hooves in the mind of the listener. More recent FINGER performances – focusing specifically on the intense amplification of small, manually performed aural and visual gestures – have made us aware of the audience’s need for a larger performative context. At the same time, we are increasingly aware of the risks involved in amplifying an audience’s incredulity through fantastic gestural interface without apparent governing artistic intention.