Sample (2011): Experiment #2 - Solo
mediaposted on 30.01.2019, 05:57 by Sanjin Muftic
Exhibit # 2 – Solo
Devised as part of the research project on developing planetary theatre through bricolage and theatrical images
PROCESS SampleTrack (Director, Stimulus, Performers)
Director INVITES Performers;
Director INTERROGATES Stimulus into Container;
Performers EXTRACT Sources;
Director SELECTS Sources TO FIT Container & LAYER into Performance;
LOG Comments on SampleTrack from Director, Performer, Audience
Hiddingh Campus, performed on Sunday 12 June 2011
Extract from PhD
The SOLO decision-making style requires that one performer with a personal stimulus access their repertoire. When extracting sources, the performer selects from their personal performance history and is guided by the theatre-maker into layering these one after the other, or by separating them and performing them together (such as a speech from one performance, and an action from another). An added layer may take the form of the inclusion of recorded media of the performer’s past performance in the live performance. Props, costumes and set can be remixed from a selection of sources.
Within the first experiment in 5 Thoughts, the performer, Mandisi Sindo, extracted several samples from his repertoire. In discussion with Sindo, the stimulus for this extract was a boy growing into a man. Sindo identified that a lot of his performances followed that narrative. Most of the performances were in Xhosa, and were interwoven with a few English texts. Mixed in with these performance texts was a series of songs, extracts from chorus performances, as well as dialogue from Sindo’s repertoire. The costume he wore was also put together from two different characters in two different plays. The sequence of his physical actions also combined two of his performances from other productions. Sindo expressed that he experienced performing these extracts all together as though he was looking at his journey into each of the characters, and how it reflected on him.
Sindo’s process of performing samples has some resonance with a song by Alicia Keys on her 2001 album, Songs In A Minor. On the track “Girlfriend,” Keys plays a “disjunctive and off-kilter chopped piano loop” that originally appeared on “Brooklyn Zoo,” a 1995 hip-hop single by Old Dirty Bastard (Schloss, 2004: 150). Schloss points out how crucial it is that “Girlfriend” was not a sample of the 1995 song, but that Keys learned the strange chord changes and rhythms from the record and then performed them live herself on the piano (and recorded for her song). She was thus engaging in a sampling methodology but playing it live. This meant that she was copying a way of working with records and bringing it to bear on her live performance.
This is similar to Sindo’s process of taking bits of his previous performances and re-performing them as a new work. The difference here is that Keys is reworking another person’s song, while Sindo is working with material that he had previously performed. The embodiment and connection to the material is therefore different, even though there is a shared process of re-playing with pieces that are already in existence. In this process Sindo was given full control over his choice and arrangement of his repertoire extracts. Additionally, Sindo’s work hinted at another possible juxtaposition. Within his performance, he had found moments of performing a movement sequence from one production, alongside speaking text from another production. He had assembled a single image out of two. This separation of two different theatrical elements, what one could identify in a classic way as text and image, within one body suggested another opportunity within the search for the syntax. The juxtapositions could happen within the elements of a theatrical image, but did they need to be pointed out?
There is also a much earlier example of the methodology evident in the song “Girlfriend” or Sindo’s Solo Sampling experiments. According to Harold Scheub, the oral storyteller was one of the first artists in the history of humankind who had to worry about dramaturgy, and the patterning and rhythm of images. Scheub’s research on Southern African oral storytellers is useful for the analysis of images within a performance. While understanding that storytellers communicate their images mostly through words, Scheub emphasises how the sequence of images, combined with their repetition and rhythm, can affect the audience and their emotions (Scheub, 2002: 4). Images are the raw material that a storyteller uses to tell a story coming from two different sources – the contemporary world and ancient tradition – which turns the storyteller into:
a shaper, forging links between the real and the imaginative, then working the audience into that combination. The result is a metaphorical relationship built to a large extent on the imaginations and experiences of the members of the audience. The storyteller discovers relationships between the worlds of history and imagination: His [sic] artistry is revealed in the effectiveness with which he weaves the audience into those relationships. (1996: 55)
All storytellers have at their disposal is their “repertory of images,” images which they might have heard from other storytellers and taken on as their own, as well as what they had witnessed throughout their life. As Scheub argues, the storyteller is “…a performer, organizing the three worlds of history, imagination, and audience into a semblance of unity, an ordering that is fraught with tension and fragile beauty” (1996: 57). The storyteller weaves together these bits of history into a story, which becomes another part of history, constantly reworking itself. Sindo’s example within the SOLO dramaturgical selection leans heavily on this practice. It is also similar because it leaves much of the selection choices with the performer, acknowledging the performer as the most appropriate storyteller of their own repertoire. They are free to create their own “metaphorical relationship”.
Scheub, H. 1996. The Tongue Is Fire : South African Storytellers and Apartheid. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Schloss, J. G. 2004. Making Beats : The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.