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» Muriel Romero y Pablo Palacio

Location: Madrid > Spain

Artistic and technical sheet:

Concept: Pablo Palacio / Muriel Romero
Choreography and performance: Muriel Romero
Composition: Pablo Palacio
Supports: La Casa Encendida, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares and Cie Gilles Jobin.

Premiere date: 2008

Lenght: 40 min.


Acusmatrix is a two-entry matrix conceived for the interaction of human motion and sound in continuous transformation. In this case acquires the shape of an acusmatic bird treaty for one dancer and tridimensional sound theater in sixteen channels. The piece is performed by an hybrid quintet composed by a performer (the dancer) and four species of european birds (capercaillie, blackcap, ptarmigan and little grebe), whose chants rotate and transform creating a genealogy of sound characters that are perceptually connected. The goal of the piece focuses on the correspondence and the interaction of dance gesture and sonic gesture.

Formal and theoretical aspects
1. General description
Acusmatrix is a creation for one dancer and sound design in eight channels. The focus of the piece lies in the correspondence between dance gesture and sonic gesture. The piece concretizes the attempts of Rudolf Laban of making a three dimensional geometric and morphodynamic analysis of dance motion, placing the dancer in a virtual space of cubic proportions. Following this line of thought Acusmatrix places the dancer in a three dimensional sound space interacting with sonic objects that are successively transformed according to their trajectory and dynamic morphology. The sonic universe of Acusmatrix is constructed upon digital transformations of birdsong of european species developed trough algebraic structures (residual classes) that articulate time, spatial motion and timbre. These structures form the basis of a method for constructing and metabolizing symmetries in dance motion.

2.Dance gesture, sonic gesture and acusmatic.
Rudolf Laban synthesized the infinite motor repertoire of the human body in eight basic efforts, one for each vertices of the cube: Pressing, Flicking, Wringing, Dabbing, Slashing, Gliding, thrusting y Floating. Laban plotted the space and temporal dynamics of these basic efforts or gestures as a function of time (sudden-sustained), space (direct-flexible) and weight (lightstrong) in a three dimensional graph he called the dynamosphere, making an analysis of the inner energy flow involved in motor activity.

These and other aspects of Laban notation may also be considered in relation to the nature and articulation of sound objects. In a music concert we observe how the sound that we listen to depends on the sensorimotor coupling of the player with the instrument. For instance, a violin pizzicato is caused by brief strokes (dabbing) and is light and sudden, whereas a double-bass glissando slides (gliding) and is strong sound object that can be sustained in time. On the other hand, there are musics in which we don’t see the gestures that cause the sounds, those are imagined or inferred and their ambiguous and mysterious morphology make us doubt about their origins. This is the case of acusmatic music, designed in most cases by electroacustic means and to be diffused in public using different configurations of loudspeakers that emphasize the character of the piece.

In the acusmatic conception masking sound sources produces an inter-sensorial dissociation between ear and eye, and focus our perception in the nature of sound shapes. In Acusmatrix dance fills metaphorically the visual void, drawing back the pythagorean curtain and completing the perceptual experience through a new audiovisual association. In this manner Acusmatrix becomes an experimental matrix designed in order to establish a gestural relation between human motion and sound, relying on the existence of a common gestural substrate for both phenomena. Elements of both perceptual domains (ear and sight) with a morphodynamic affinity are associated and stressed in different levels:

-Geometric: Sound objects move around according to the trajectories outlined by the dancer, constructing geometrical shapes that are manipulated and transformed by means of linking points in the space delimitated by the loudspeakers.

-Stability-instability:The dancer oscillates between balance and unbalance, analogically sonic objects evolve from order to chaos either in the temporal plane (periodic-aperiodic rhythms), or according to their spectromorphology, that is, moving between harmonicity and noise (we perceive as noise those sonic objects whose spectra is totally unstable, and we say that are harmonic those sounds in which the physical components or frequencies are stable.)

-Morphodynamic: It is directly connected with the efforts, the energy-motion trajectory that creates and models sound and movement, how it is originates, sustains in time and vanishes. Dance motion and sound are conceived as organic structures that follow analogous growing processes. These levels of gestural interaction do not act isolated but combine and mutually reinforce. The geometric space motion depends directly on the morphodynamic trajectory, and both levels are affected by stability. For example, an object that is ‘floating’ in space conveys a certain geometry, different from other that is ‘thrust’, and would be more stable than other object that is being ‘flicked’.

*Acusmatic: name given to the disciples of Pythagoras that during five years listened to his lessons hidden behind a curtain, unable to see him and observating the most rigorous silence. Adjective: it is said of a noise or a sound heard without seeing the causes o f its origin.

3. Constructing symmetries using algebra: dance and residual classes
In dance as much as in music the organization of symmetries (in the spatial domain) and periodicity (in the temporal domain) plays a fundamental role, on which relies the ability of the brain to recognize structures with sense (pattern recognition). Watching a dance piece we identify spatial identities (symmetries) and identities in time (periods), they act as a plot guiding our perception and activating our intelligence. We find an analogy with this process in astrophysics, searching with gigantic radars signals of intelligent life in the shape of symmetries or periodicities among the chaos of frequencies that come from outer space.
Algebra, and particularly residual classes with the help of the Logic of Classes, allow us to formulate a theory to construct symmetries as complex as we want them to be. This system was already introduced in the sonic domain during the 70’s by Iannis Xenakis (Sieve Theory), however its implementation on dance motion represents a novelty and a challenge. Sound design in Acusmatrix in its temporal, harmonic-timbric and spatial planes is articulated through residual classes. These structures are used to develop dance motion and form the basis of a formalization of the interaction between sonic gesture and dance gesture.

4. Sound transformation in Acusmatrix
The necessity of continuity exerts so much fascination on the imagination as the idea of transformation or change of shape. At the same time we search for connections with our origins we aspire to transform ourselves in order to achieve personal fulfillment. Darwing established a continuity between the multiple transformations that compose the chain of being, and the fact that there’s still a missing link raises many questions….In this manner it’s not a surprise that the most relevant aspect of any composition is the way in which the material is transformed, and that sometimes we discard interesting ideas in favour of a better continuity or fluency.

The sonic universe of Acusmatrix is generated by digital transformations of birdsong of european species. Why this choice? Birds are probably the most stunning sound virtuosos over the planet, and their repertoire covers a great spectromorphological range of absolute contemporaneity, moving between noise and delicate pitched tones.

Acusmatrix presents a sound generation method with a tree structure. Starting with a sound (birdsong in this case) the transformations produce successive metamorphosis of the original, creating a genealogy of perceptually interconnected sounds with multiple junctions and branches.

These transformations comprise the multidimensionality of sonic space and reflect the fact that sound is a continuum in constant transformation. Too often we listen to electroacustic music composed under the instrumental-notational model consisting of static objects and ignoring the potential of computers for transforming any sonic material with the only limit of the imagination.

The conception of sound as an organism in constant evolution has a great adaptive potential when working with the body and keeps a close relation with the organic nature of dance itself. Sound transformations in are designed with C.D.P. (Composers Desktop Project) software.

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Foto: Enrique Escorza

Foto: Enrique Escorza

Foto: Enrique Escorza

Foto: Enrique Escorza

Foto: Enrique Escorza

Foto: Enrique Escorza

Foto: Jota

Foto: Jota

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