Working with Sound

I spent the evening with my neighbour Steve Johnson who is a very versatile musician. He has had many excellent ideas for sounds and music to be part of Not a Séance and we started work on them last night.

He has been partly inspired by the work of Matthew Herbert, an electronic musician who uses sounds from every day life to create music. His work includes an album called One Pig that documents the 20 week life cycle of a farmed pig.

I brought the chopping board and the variety of peelers and knives that I used for the one-to-one version of Not a Séance and of course a range of potatoes. We concentrated on recording the sounds of potatoes being peeled and chopped and eaten. The scraping of the knife across the board and the peelers tearing the potato flesh were both recognisable and quite haunting. When Steve began to create music with the sounds what I most liked about it was how it echoes the style of the performance, in that at times it was intense and at others really quite funny. At our next session, we will boiling and burying potatoes.



Inspirations – Dorothy Rowe and Laddering.

Yesterday in Hospital Friends Charity Shop I found a copy of Dorothy Rowe’s The Successful Self. Rowe is a psychologist and writer who particularly focusses on depression. Much of her work focusses on how we structure our views of the world and create meaning. “She has shown how we each live in a world of meaning that we have created out of our past experience”

I got to hear her speak in 2011 about Depression and Creativity at an Un-Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University organised by Arts for Health and Greater Manchester Arts Health Network. I found her fascinating and particularly connected to her laddering technique which is introduced in a chapter called “Which Reality do you prefer/” in The Successful Self. Rowe describes laddering in the following way:

When I teach a psychology class about the structure of meaning I often, as a demonstration, call for some volunteers to go through a process of questioning which demonstrates how the most trivial of decisions which we make is based on a series of judgements, each more abstract than the one preceding it,and all ultimately dependent on a judgement about the nature of the individual’s sense of existence

I would like to use the technique in Not a Séance in a simplified form as I think it encourages you to  very quickly uncover unconscious beliefs and values.


Laddering: an example from my breakfast.

Whilst in a clinical context laddering might be prompted by a statement by a client, it can also be stimulated by asking someone to think of three types of the same thing. In The Successful Self Rowe uses the examples of cars books and food.  I will show an example from what I had for breakfast and will put Rowe’s questions in bold.

Give the names of three foods

Avocado, egg and pitta bread

Can you tell me one way in which two are the same and the other different?

Egg and avocado are natural, pitta bread is processed.

Which do you prefer?

I prefer the natural foods.

Why is it important to you?

I like things to be natural as I think they are healthier and more authentic

Why is that important to you?

When things are healthy and authentic its easier to connect with the world

Why is that importat to you?

Because feeling connected means that you are more open to experience and feel more alive and able to understand more.

Suppose the conditions of your life changed and you were unable to experience your life in this way?

I would feel very isolated and down and not see much point in anything.

When we know we are “right”, we can forget to be compassionate.

This post really does have something to do with performance although it could take a while to get there. On Friday I went to my yoga class and witnessed an exchange between two people that reminded me of a lesson I have learnt many times and often forgotten that I know.That is that when we believe we are in the right, we somehow believe that gives us the right to completely disregard other people.

I witnessed a mini-altercation between two people about mat placement. In the studio you place your mats in rows in front of a mirror with the aim that everyone can see at least a bit of themselves in the front mirror. A woman asked a man to move his mat so that she could see  herself in the front mirror. He refused and was very dismissive citing protocol and was so sure he was right about this that he didn’t seem to listen to anything that she said. He may have been technically “right” that protocol states that the people nearer the back have to move their mats not the people at the front, I am not entirely sure, but what shocked me was how dismissive he was. And I feel sure that his belief in the “correctness of his position” was what fostered this attitude. I recognised that I have been guilty of this on many occasions.!

How does this link to performance? I want to create a performance where the modality of being is not judgement but connection and this small mat moment reminded me why. I want people to experience my performance not judge it as good or bad or “right or wrong” in some way. This takes me to the work of Adrian Howells who created many intimate performances both as himself and as his alter ego Adrienne. One of these performances “Foot washing for the soul” involved him washing the feet of each audience member. He stated on one occasion:

“I don’t like spectatorial performance, it encourages judgement”

and whilst I am not sure if it is possible for human beings not to judge, I want to create an atmosphere where the judgment moves to the background in order for there to be compassionate connections.

A late starter.

I have been slow to start this blog and my progress up to date on my MA in Performance and Visual Practices MA is listed on this site. I will be using this blog to document my progress in creating Not a Séance which will be performed at my MA Assessment at The Marlborough Theatre in September. I am hoping to perform it in a variety of locations over the summer with a variety of groups including The Men’s Room among others.

vegetable orchestra

As my performance focusses at least in part on vegetables I thought I would share my gleeful discovery of The Vegetable Orchestra.