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38 l September 2014


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live UNITED KINGDOM Mallets and ME


British dance company Rambert teamed up with Philip Selway to create a “moving” dance event that put audiences in the middle of the action. Erica Basnicki finds out why an Allen & Heath system made the perfect dance partner…


The audience gets up close and personal with Rambert dancers


AS THE famed choreographer Merce Cunningham once said about one of his events, it was “not so much an evening of dances as the experience of dance”. Behind London’s Southbank Centre in a building not even a year old, esteemed ballet company Rambert recently held a series of four dance “events” inspired by Cunningham’s work, the last of which was performed in July 2014.


The event featured costumes and sets based on artworks by internationally renown painter Gerhard Richter, and music composed and performed live by Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, Adem Ilhan, and Quinta (Katherine Mann).


Set in two separate studios inside Rambert’s new rehearsal space, the event allowed audiences to roam from one room to another. The musicians also rotated between both spaces, incorporating a visual element to the music.


Central to their performance was a Xylosynth by Wernick (a MIDI mallet percussion controller) that Selway had purchased specifically for this project. “We just wanted to be able to generate quite a large sound between the three of us,” says Selway. “So it came down to deconstructing a lot of samples and then playing them as a piece. It’s an extension of putting a piece together on an MPC.” Acoustic instruments were often played with an unconventional twist, including bowing a vibraphone and adding metal objects to a piano’s soundboard. Unseen but definitely heard were on-the-fly manipulations of the live music using Ableton Live. “From the outset, when I was initially talking to Jeannie Steele, former Cunningham dancer and Rambert


event director and choreographer who staged the event, she wanted to have the whole experience integrated so that the musicians would be there as part of the whole performance rather than being hidden away in an orchestra pit or something like that,” explains Selway. “She wanted it to be – as


Cunningham events have always been – a different experience for people coming to this particular event. That sense of being able to get up that close to dancers, or to be able to move around and see what the musicians are actually doing... it broke down the normal performance barriers I think, and it just made for a very immersive experience.” It also had all the makings of a technical nightmare: not only were there two live sound events happening simultaneously, they were on two different floors of the building. Fortunately for the event’s sound designer and engineer Gavin McComb (who regularly tours with Radiohead), Rambert’s new home has been designed and built with a state-of-the-art technical infrastructure that connects three of the five studios to a central control room with viewing windows to two of the studios making the sound design easier to achieve technically. “The control room is very interesting; although it’s in the centre of the building, it’s fed by natural light from both studios on either side, so you can see the outside through the studios, it makes for a very ergonomic environment,” says Jonathan Clarence, Rambert’s sound engineer. “There’s five studios altogether. Three of the studios have patch panels in the walls that include Ethernet, video, microphone tie lines and speakers lines, and they all


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