In a single action is a piece for dance and video in which the dancer is instructed to perform a single action as slowly as possible. This action is amplified both visually and aurally through use of zoomed video and a microphone.
The piece is an examination of the relationship between action, breathing and states of consciousness. The following passage from my thesis outlines this idea,
Teaching shakuhachi on the front porch next to the street there were a lot of sounds; cars, trucks, birds singing, the wind.
I asked the students to play from memory and firstly think of their breathing, then focus on and experience external sound, lastly think of the sound of the instrument.
I have been thinking about John Cage’s piece Ryoan-ji; a set of pitch curves played as glissandi set against a metric but irregular percussive beat. Glissando is a change of pitch free from discrete rhythmic articulation. Percussive sound exists almost totally as articulation free of discrete pitch.
The pitch curves for Ryoan-ji were taken from the shapes of the rocks in the Zen rock garden at the Ryoan-ji temple in Kyoto.
Reading to each student about aspects of breath and timing in shakuhachi honkyoku, I was struck by talk of a Zen rock garden as empty.
The rocks in a Zen garden are rough, un-hewn, raw. The gravel or pebbles they are set with are meticulously raked into patterns every morning. Raw with refined – rocks and gravel.
Playing on the porch I was suddenly struck by the fact that the rocks represent noise in sound; the un-directed or unintentional in our experience. Gravel represents desired sound or music, carefully raked each day into beautiful shapes and patterns; our aesthetic construct.
The truck passing by our lesson is the rock. The act of playing the shakuhachi is the act of raking the gravel. When raking, do not think of the rake or gravel, only the action of raking, and there will no longer be any division between gravel and rock.
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