'already there' (2020-21)
music for the dance installation by Britta Joy Peterson
for voices, violin, cello, guitar, bass, 2 keyboards, 2 percussion
‘already there’ is an installation created by Britta Joy Peterson, my dear friend and colleague at AU who I’ve had the pleasure of working with many times in the past. The work was commissioned by the Kennedy Center under the auspices of their Local Dance Commissioning Project, and was supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation for the Humanities. It was presented from 28-30 October 2021 at the Kennedy Center’s new REACH facility. The digital program for the installation (read in full here) describes the experience:
'already there' gathers together a gallery of vivid vitalities in The REACH’s Studio K. Timed entry reservations invite small groups to follow swells of music, light and dance through this immersive installation. Audiences wind their way through vibrant rooms, sharpening their senses towards that which is often filtered out. Audiences may find themselves singing along, dancing with giants, or laying on the grass. Within these halls the scales are tipped, dwelling is essential, and togetherness is possible.
Despite the lengthy process of generating this work (just over three years from its initial conception to finally presenting it to an audience), in my head it has *always* been “the piece with singing dancers”. Indeed, the voices you hear throughout the score are the eight dancers featured in the filming. In addition to the dancers’ singing, the work is scored for violin, cello, guitar, bass, two keyboards (piano and synth) and two percussionists.
Obviously the nature of creating this work changed in the face of the pandemic reality. Originally conceived as a live work, plans for the re-envisioned immersive experience were initiated in discussions around May 2020. From that point, the conception and writing and recording of the music (roughly in that order, if overlapping a bit) was consistently underway up through about a month ago when the last bits of music were mixed and recorded.
Britta has a rich, committed musical background which informs so much of her creative explorations, so it’s a dream for any composer to be lucky enough to support her brilliant work with their musical conjurings. As such, a core essence of the ‘already there’ experience, and one that consistently “rang” (pun very deliberate) through our discussions, is the notion of “attunement” - the physical reaction of our bodies and minds to the tuning process, as a means of creating and nourishing transcendent communities among ourselves and those around us.
This concept had a potent influence on so many aspects of the music. I won’t go into too much compositional/analytical detail here, but it’s not an element that lives merely under the surface. Throughout the music, you’ll hear moments of emphasis on long, sustained, resonant tones from which more active, intricate textures will suddenly swell and grow. Moments of organic development are always seemingly motivated by these sonic markers. The notion of “attunement” is stitched through the fabric of the whole work.
I’m honored and grateful to have had the opportunity once again to work alongside Britta, and to be a part of the stellar creative team who brought this truly unique experience to life. (And, on a personal note, it was such a thrill to finally gather with them in person last week in DC to build this thing, after a year-PLUS of Zoom meetings!)
Special shout out to the sound design team at UptownWorks - Bailey, Daniela, and Noel - for creating a remarkable, unique sonic space in this installation and bringing my music into that world in such shining, captivating ways.
Last but certainly not least - my endless gratitude to the musicians who joined me on this project - violinist Jess Bauer, cellist Iva Casián-Lakoš and guitarist / tonmeister extraordinaire Bryan Campbell, for their incredibly rich, compelling, beautiful work.
And, of course, all the dancers, whose joyous, gorgeous singing has always been the true "voice" of the music for this experience, and was a constant source of inspiration for me.
©2022 Sean Doyle. All rights reserved.