Thursday, January 28, 2010

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, April 7, 2008

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, April 7, 2008
Submitted by Charlotte Wile - October 27, 2008


[Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau, April 7, 2008. The minutes were written by Charlotte Wile.]

Present: Sandra Aberkalns, Tina Curran, Ray Cook, Mira Kim, Mei-Chen Lu, Lucy Venable, Charlotte Wile.

TOPIC - Unit Timing of Touching Gestures

This meeting was devoted entirely to János Fügedi's paper “Unit Timing of Touching Gestures,” which was presented at the 2007 ICKL conference and will be published in its proceedings. János's kindly gave us permission to disseminate the paper to Open Theory Meeting members before its publication in the ICKL proceedings. The paper is being sent to members as an attachment to these minutes.

A central idea in János's paper is that notation should have simple indications and simple rules [see page 1 in János's paper (in pdf format)].

The group wondered what “simple” means? For instance, does it mean easy? Perhaps it means consistent.

Tina: If the notation is “simplified” to facilitate learning in one context, does that create complexity somewhere else? János's context seems mainly to be teaching notation to beginning students. He wants to make the teaching of Hungarian dances accessible to these students. The paper opens up the larger question concerning the pedagogy of teaching notation: What is being said and how do we get there? In other words, is this a theory issue or a pedagogy issue?

Lucy: Or is it an “understandable” issue. Do the rules for what is written make the notation more understandable?

Ray: One issue is the visual aspect. Is what you see on the page what you get? If you use specific timing you may be writing what is there, but does that make the notation more confusing? When one teaches notation one naturally teaches a simplified version without thinking about it. The beginning student doesn't realize there are other possibilities until later in his/her studies. Also, the background of the student is important. A person familiar Hungarian Folk dance would not have problems with a “simplified” score, but a person not familiar with that style of movement may find such a score difficult to read.

Ray: When you simplify you leave out things. What is not said is what often is important. In unit timing, details about the movement are left out that may be important to recording the style of the movement.

Tina: One needs to ask for individual scores if it is important to give that information.

Sandra: Explanations for indications can always be given in the glossary, or there could be a style addendum. Recording style is very difficult. Regardless of the detail given in score, the stager will still need to make decisions about how to interpret the notation.

Tina: Maybe we need manuals for notating different movement techniques and styles.

Tina: The notation teacher needs to consider why his/her students are studying notation. Is the purpose for the students to go further in their studies, or will they be staying at a beginning level? Likewise, what is the purpose of the notation? Is it to preserve the movement in its most accurate form for people who may not be familiar with the movement style (e.g., as in Doris Green's notation that was discussed at previous meetings)?

Charlotte: Assuming one is writing for people who do not know the movement at all, what assumptions should be made about the rules of usage in a score? What is the standard for when unit timing should be used and when specific timing should be used? What timing features need to be glossarized because they have not been explained clearly in the texts or are not standardized?

Sandra: The discussion of unit timing versus specific timing has been going on for decades. Conventions are used to solve problems associated with this issue. When choosing between unit or specific timing, the notator needs to go by the conventions that are built into the type of movement that is being notated. For instance, in ballet, if one writes a port de bras and supports with detailed timing, it could be very confusing because then it would look like there are many things going on with different timings. Writing exactly with great detail can give too much information and make the score very difficult to read. Conventions pull everything together; then the reader's mind fills in all the miniscule blanks so that there will be three dimensional movement.

Lucy: This comes up in discussions of western theatrical dance vs. Hungarian Folk dance. A detailed analysis may not be necessary for readers who are familiar with the style. The details of the dance are assumed to be understood. Notators of theatrical dance say the same thing about their own scores.

Lucy: Perhaps we should have keys for certain abbreviations and conventions.

The group briefly discussed a couple of ideas for such keys, but did not come up with satisfactory solutions.

Ray talked about the indication of timing for supports. Consider the notation in Ex. 1 (shown below). To be precise, the support and gesture should finish at the same time. This could be indicated as in Ex. 2. However, then there would be too much space in the notation before the next indication. In other words, while the time value of the support might be more accurate in Ex. 2, the time value given to the pause would be incorrect.


The group discussed how transitions into movements may not be indicated when unit timing is used.

[János discusses a related issue on page 9 in his paper]:
“While destination description serves well, a heavy convention is built into it. When we use destination notation for a gesture, we usually notate the result of the movement, not the movement itself. It is like drawing 'key-frames' in cartoons, 'snapshots' of the positions where to arrive, when the movement is finished.

In UT the 'key-frame' indication starts when it has already been finished, and is elongated to express the sense of rhythm. What is expressed this way from timing point of view is actually the time during which the dancer can prepare for and perform the next movement (to get into the next 'key-frame'). Strange enough, still UT description meets our mental timing representation of movement.

In ST the notation of end result (the 'key-frame') begins where the movement just starts but not finished. Actual performance depends on from where, from which spatial position the movement is initiated to arrive into the ahead established 'key-frame'.”
Charlotte felt that one of the main issues in János's paper can be summarized as follows: In standard notation, gestural touching is written as shown here below in Ex. 3, and gestural touching with clapping is written as in Ex. 4. János feels Ex. 4 is visually confusing because the hook and clap do not coincide. János proposes the touching should be written as in Ex. 5. That way the hook would coincide with clapping indications, as in Ex. 6. This would not work using standard rules because Ex. 5 would be interpreted as a transient touch. However, János opines that this is really not a problem because, as he sees it, there is no such thing as a transient touch. (He says “transient touches” are actually sliding movements and should be notated as such).

The group was not sure if János's premise is correct. They physically demonstrated examples that they felt could be considered transient touches (without sliding).

Lucy: János is saying that since the movement continues going into the indicated direction it must slide. He demonstrated this idea at the ICKL conference.

Mei: There is a different intent underlying sliding and touching.

Charlotte: Is there a way to use János's idea for placement of the hook even if there is such a thing as transient touch? For instance, one solution would be to have transient touches indicated as in Ex. 7. 

Sandra said that in Ex. 4 (see above), in order to have the gesture and support coincide with the clapping, she would make the direction symbols shorter.

Lucy: János discusses this idea [see János's examples 24.b''' and 24.b'', shown here below. Ex. 24.c shows how the movement would be indicated in specific timing].


Charlotte: But shortening the symbols changes the length of the gap between symbols, thereby making it look like the pauses between movements are longer than they really are (see Ray's comment for Ex. 2 above).

Charlotte: Another thing to consider is resultant touches, which are not discussed in János's paper. For instance, Ex. 8 shows the standard way to write a resultant touch. János's rule is that hooks should be written using specific timing. Therefore, the notation would be written as in Ex. 9. In this case, which example is clearer?

Sandra: Often in ICKL papers, notation examples make sense only because they are given out of context. It is important to show how proposed indications would look in complex scores that contain a variety of situations. For instance, for the topic under discussion perhaps it would be instructive to show longer notation sequences or even whole dances. What happens when János's ideas are applied to other types of movement besides Hungarian Folk dance? Would János's proposals work when there are more complex arm indications, gesturing of other body parts or the torso, variation in tempo, body part initiations, resultant touches, palm facings, etc.?

Charlotte: At the end of his paper János says, “Exploring the ways and conventions of UT notation needs further, thorough investigation- the present paper can be regarded only a step into this direction. Certain further questions (such as understanding of touching gestures longer than a time unit, sliding gestures, ending in a hit, and perhaps the most important one, the result-centered description of, e.g. rotations) were intentionally taken out of the scope of the paper.”

The group felt it would be useful to know if János's proposal is intended just for Hungarian dance, where perhaps the items Sandra listed would not be in the score. Or is his paper intended as a proposal for standard notation that is the default for all styles?

The group briefly discussed ICKL procedures. For instance, is there is any requirement at ICKL for papers to include longer excerpts from dances? Lucy said some papers include such excerpts and some do not. It depends on the topic and purpose of the paper. Also, the group wondered if in the future ICKL could make a DVD of conference discussions. Being able to look at such a DVD would have been very helpful for the Open Theory meeting.

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