Saturday, September 29, 2012

Interview with Cicada Brokaw Dennis, Sound Composer and Designer for SoMoS.

SoMos is a Branch Dance performance spectacle bridging nature and the urban landscape, to be presented in a parking lot in the North Philadelphia barrio on October 12, 2012, at 7:15 and 9PM as part of Taller Puertorriqueño’s performance series, Café Under the Stars: Spotlighting the Arts in El Barrio. In contrast to the urban landscape, the parking lot at 5th and Huntingdon Streets will be transformed into a quiet carnival of nature images, sounds, and movement invoking the four seasons. This is a free event.

Interview with Cicada Brokaw Dennis, Sound Composer &  Designer for SoMoS

Q: Please describe your work for SoMoS . How does the scale of SoMoS affect your approach to sound design?
Cicada Brokaw Dennis: The scale does not really affect my approach, so much as the scope and breadth of the work. The length of the piece really moves it well beyond the realm of design so that we must speak of sound composition. And the number of different sound environments requires that I create multiple sound compositions. Each environment requires its own hour-long multi-channel composition.

I am a collector of sounds. I have many long duration, as well as shorter duration recordings with which to paint the sonic canvas. To create surround sound mixes, as backdrops I am using multiple long duration stereo recordings of nature placed into the four stereo planes present in the quadraphonic sonic field. These backgrounds evolve and develop over the time of the piece. Other shorter duration events are placed at various times, locations, and distances to complete the compositions.
The compositions are ever evolving and changing. Yet the pace is that of nature: a slow steady asynchronous interwoven complex of sound patterns which gradually shift and change.

Q: What is the set up like for the show, and what are some of the challenges?

Cicada Brokaw Dennis: There is a sonic environment for each of the four seasons. These are suitably placed within the performance space. There are also a couple of other smaller scale environments. Each environment requires its own sound source, amplification, and set of speakers along with necessary cables and power. Each environment must be plug and play, as there is not a cost-effective way to continually monitor every environment and be adjusting sound levels during the performance. Our tech rehearsals are very important to get to that level. The sonic juxtaposition of the various environments will make for interesting experiences at the areas of transition and overlap. The quadraphonic sound fields and the tents will help each sonic environment maintain its integrity. Because of the large scale, it is not feasible to put up and tear down the performance space prior to the week of the performance. A lot of tech work and tweaking of the design will be done in the final week in order for everything to gel.

Q: Merián has talked how SoMoS is like a culmination of her branch dance work. How long have you been working with Merián on branch dances, and how do you see this evolution of her work, and the evolution of your contributions to it?

Cicada Brokaw Dennis, Leigh Mumford, and Beau Hancock 

Cicada Brokaw Dennis: I previously worked with Merián in her Postcards from the Woods in 2009. At the time, that felt like a culmination. SoMoS builds on that experience and moves to another level of form, movement, and sound. The branch dances in the Wissahickon occurred in various seasons at the time and place of those seasons in nature. Postcards in the Woods was in an enclosed space using projections and surround sound, which moved through various seasons and experiences of nature during the course of the piece. In SoMoS, what I see is that the seasons and experiences of the pervious works are taken out of time and simultaneously placed into a single place within an urban environment. We are bringing recordings, interpretations, and reflections of nature into a space that is normally perceived as devoid of her immediate presence. The piece is also reaching out to a community, by being placed there in that space and being free for those who would come. The development of the dancers and the choreography of the work continue to evolve and expand, as the dancers find connections within themselves to the natural world and with the branches.

Q: Other thoughts?

Cicada Brokaw Dennis: SoMoS is sure to be a transformative experience for those who come to experience it as well as for those of us who are creating it.

Interview by Josh McIlvain
Photo: Lindsay Browning
September 25, 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment