Introducing Digital Performance Issues (Performance)

The focus of this series of performance wiki articles is to take a very selective look at some of the ways that practitioners have used digital tools in the course of planning, designing, ‘doing’, communicating and documenting 'performance' related works. This is a term that covers an enormous amount of territory and is intrinsically cross-disciplinary, connecting activities as diverse as design, music, drama, electrical engineering, human movement studies, communications theory, literary studies, and so forth. Perhaps the most straightforward method of defining what ‘performance’ involves is to consider the disciplinary areas which feature it as an activity. AHDS (Arts and Humanities Data Service) Performing Arts define those categories as:

  • Music
  • Dance
  • Theatre
  • Radio
  • Film
  • Television
  • Performance (Live Art)

In order to comply with the general aim of the series of working papers on which these wiki articles are based (which are targeted more towards individual academics or research groups who are looking to increase their knowledge of the types of tools that will complement and enhance their research) the focus will be geared towards identifying selected techniques and specific software solutions that could potentially empower individuals to broaden, add value and enrich their (practice-based) research. The technological complexity that underpins the capture and delivery of performance footage in the realm of radio, film and television often requires an institutional or commercial infrastructure, and is therefore largely beyond the scope of this paper and will consequently not be specifically addressed.

In many instances, the remaining four categories (music, dance, theatre and live art) are difficult to isolate from one another when determining the overall effect of particular performances. To take an arbitrary example, ‘Allegro Molto Con Brio King Kong’, a digital opera composed and conceived by Kenneth Doren in collaboration with the choreographer Danielle McCulloch and the librettist, Doug DeRoche, uses an eclectic range of techniques and reference points to deliver its digital re-working of Beethoven’s ‘Creatures of Prometheus’. The web reference to the production states:

[quote]The libretto and choreography for 3 dancers are based on television and movie culture juxtapose [sic] with the myth about the Greek god Prometheus. The dance, music and writings embody pop culture paralleling antiquity. This synthesis explores the genres of technology-based new music, opera and dance.

With so many types of productions aspiring to present themselves as a technologically updated version of Richard Wagner’s notion of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (total art), there is a possibility that any sectional division of tools that divides up technologies in relation to activity type, e.g. music, dance, etc., will result in references to seminal performance works having to be duplicated. The organising principle for these wiki articles, therefore, will reflect the steps that might be taken in the course of organising and staging a generic theatrical production. Whilst this ostensibly forces an unwanted orthodoxy onto notions of performance, it should be noted that these categories are intentionally very loosely defined and are meant to serve merely as a subjective organisational principle that gives some structure to an otherwise arbitrarily ordered account of relevant tools. The articles are as follows:

1. Developing Ideas
2. The Performance Space
3. The Cast
4. Props, Costumes and Instruments
5. Stage and Scenery
6. Music, Audio, Graphics, Lights and Effects
7. Performance and Audience
8. Archiving and Representation

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