How to choreograph sound? Finnish artist Taneli Törmä faces the question in COVER, a triptych exploring the kinaesthetic experience of sound through space, costume and music.
The first composition is performed by 48 valves controlling drops of water, an idea developed with scenographer Kasper Hansen. A solitary dribble drums the floor, creating a rhythmic baseline for other trickles, each with a unique intensity. The empty room transforms into a sound box: from a chaotic bebop into a massive symphony, where sudden synchronizations evoke certain satisfaction. Our ears become sensitised to nuances – a knocking or hollowness when water reaches the linoleum – that awaken sonic memories guarded in our bodies, in my case recalling rainy days from my childhood.
Törmä begins the second movement striking a noble pose on the floor in a costume by Sophie Bellin-Hansen: a golden leotard covered with 212 bells – huge jingle bells, brass bells, old-fashioned cowbells. The armour transforms his body into an instrument that reacts to both voluntary and involuntary gestures, to inner and outer movements. A deep breath causes a tiny tinkle, while a single muscle tensing initiates a wave of tintinnabulations. During a controlled butoh-like sequence, all motion is perceptible for the ear: movement made audible. This sound installation plays with chance, gravity and movement, like a John Cage inspired ‘prepared body’.
In the third scene, we sit comfortably on the floor. As musician Laura Folch caresses her cello strings, at times releasing a note or two, a hypnotic conversation develops between the instrument’s and musician’s body. The real-time playing is reproduced by 10 speakers placed in a circle around the audience, forming an orchestra that sound designer Esa Mattila conducts. Sequences appear and disappear like unruly echoes seeking to extend the notes’ passing existence. The sound travels creating a turbulence, ocean waves, a floating without gravity, a balsamic lullaby. Enchanted by these siren calls, many of us closed our eyes, becoming absorbed in the experience without needing to think or understand. And isn’t that just what many creators of abstract or extended choreography desire?