’s skilled, prepared and dedicated performance of Portals
not only provided great satisfaction through a talented professional interpreting my work but also enabled further discussion and understanding of the composition of video scores.
One major concern surrounding the performance of the piece was the use of a transcription during performance. Although this allowed Kanno to explore ideas for rehearsal, the use of the transcription during performance unfortunately nullified several aspects of the intended aesthetic. As previously stated, an ideal performance would have fully engaged with the temporality of video and the retentive and protentive capabilities of the human performer and audience (Snyder, 2001; Kelly, 2016). For example, performing Wolff's Duo for Pianists II
demands that performers be constantly operating on the edges of action and restraint (Thomas, 2010). In the case of Portals,
the reactions of the human performer and their attempts to keep up with, recall and predict the next sequence in an unstoppable and unyielding stream of information were significantly altered by the use of a transcription. During rehearsal it became clear that Kanno attempted to create a faithful response to the motions she had witnessed in the video performer’s skilled and precise bowing technique (Kanno, personal communication, January 20, 2016). Due to the level of detail in the images the movement of the portals around the screen space were largely unused except for the changes to size of the left hand portal being attributed to degrees of vibrato: the larger the portal, the wider the vibrato as can be heard at 00:45-54
Kanno’s performance revealed that the explicit rhythmic and pitch information presented by the score
was too strong to yield performances based on anything other than a reproduction of the images within a literal and finite set of parameters, rather than encouraging an internal discussion of potential realisations (Mooney, 2011). Furthermore, due to the use of a music stand and transcription during performance, the desired connections between the score and Kanno’s interpretation were rendered unavailable to the audience: it may have been unclear that the video was the score. The use of a transcription in live performance may have skewed audience perception of the audiovisual contract (Chion, 1994)
closer towards a cinematic context where sound is typically subservient to image, usually supporting visual cues and narrative (Maloney, 2005; Fox, 2016; Westgeest, 2016). It could be further argued that the projection of the video score diminished the performer’s role while exacerbating the issue of a hierarchy between visual and auditory forms (Prévost, 1995; Kahn, 2001).
The literal interpretation of the score points to it being too prescriptive, able to ‘be compared to a kind of instruction manual’ (Kanno, 2007, p. 235). It may be possible to attribute the literal interpretation to the limited range of instrumental information in the score affording ease of access through Mooney
’s (2011) frameworks and affordances model. Engaging with Mooney’s (2011) spectrum after the fact of composition showed that affordances at the bottom range may only sufficiently engage a performer in the task of recalling the sequences of events, which in the live performance of Portals
was rescinded by the use of a transcription. A low resistance in the score created a scenario in which literal movements became the currency of the piece, resulting in music with a clear grid-like approach to pitch and rhythm. Further obfuscation of pitch and rhythmic information may work to de-emphasise the grid: showing only the back of the fingerboard or removing the left hand entirely. Bowing could even be represented by a dot or line, indicating bowing direction and rhythm without suggesting string interaction.Baldwin
actively engages the performer in the production of the score, placing them at the centre of the piece. Baldwin’s interest in the performing body and performance space provided an interesting perspective on video
which may produce a platform from which a performer can ‘interpret the score rather than solely reproduce the score’ (Baldwin, 2016 More Precise - Points of Contact, and Abstraction in Video Scores section, para. 4): something which Portals
failed to accomplish.
By not providing the performer with enough resistance and making the information too obvious, Portals
resulted not in an open score as initially intended, but a rather closed and complete one (Eco, 2004). Shlomowitz
’s Letter Pieces
exemplify the organisation of material within an open score. Creating a piece in which the performer were able to attribute sounds and actions within a determined structure may engender space for investigation and introspection. Interpretations may differ widely between performances of the work, potentially engaging with and exposing the performer’s knowledge a priori
. Considering similar approaches towards composing video scores may also enable a more interesting use of the temporal medium through play speed and variations in metre, including arresting or advancing the frequency of images.
Despite my criticisms of Portals
in relation to an improvised audiovisual piece for live performance, there may be a positive direction for the approach.
Considering Whiten’s (2000) research in which observation and copying are seen as central to cognitive and social development, literal information may be useful in composing pieces for people with little or no prior musical experience, such as young children. Composing videos depicting movements on an instrument may even be tailored to provide instruction on posture and technique. The internet has provided a platform for tutors and musicians
to disseminate instrumental tuition videos for several years.