Thursday, January 28, 2010

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, July 14, 2008

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, July 14, 2008
Submitted by Charlotte Wile - April 2, 2009

[Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau, July 4, 2008. The minutes were written by Charlotte Wile.]

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

1. Janos's response to the June 8, 2008 discussion of unit timing.
2. The unfolding sign vs. the back to normal sign.
3. Distance indications.
4. Flexion and extension indications.


On June 8 Ann Hutchinson Guest and other members of the Laban community met to discuss notation theory. A report of that meeting see Susan Gingrasso, “Minutes for the Motif Theory Discussion, June 8, 2008”. The meeting began with a discussion of Janos Fugedi's paper, “Unit Timing of Touching Gestures,” which he presented at ICKL 2008. In Susan's report she summarized that discussion as follows:
“Unit timing: Ann presented the example shown below. She emphasized that on this type of “spring point,” the actual landing occurs a moment before the count and the touch occurs on the count. Janos did not discuss this issue in his paper. In addition, one important premise in his paper is that passing touches are not possible. This group disagreed with that idea. They felt there can be passing touches. Ann said they have to come at an angle so they can go off at an angle.”
Janos e-mailed the response to that discussion: see J. Fugedi's Commets on the June 8, 2008 Meeting.
At this meeting (July 14) there was the following discussion about Janos's response:

Re. Transient touches.

Everyone seems to agree that there is an angular path in a transient touch. The group disagreed with Janos's idea that such movement should always be seen as containing two units.

As the group sees it, the movement could be perceived in different ways. Yes, it may be seen as consisting of the two “opposite components” that Janos describes. This perception can be written with indications for terminating touches, as in Ex. 1a below.

However, the group felt that the movement, even if it contains a steep angle, can also be seen or experienced as one continuous movement. Transient touch indications, as in 1b, are conventions which allow this interpretation to be notated.

The group discussed the differences between 1a and 1b. First, they express different intents. Ex. 1a says touch right forward, then go forward low. It tells the mover to think of two separate, relatively small movements. In contrast, 1b says tells the mover to think of one continuous movement that touches along the way.

Also, in 1a the location of the touch is exactly right-forward and the timing of the movement is exactly half way. In 1b the location and timing of the touch is left more open. The notation just says touch somewhere along the way. The placement of the hook gives relative timing, e.g., when it is in the middle it says the touch occurs more or less midway in the movement. This more general notation allows the movement to vary from person to person, according to their leg lengths, the way they time the movement, etc.

The notators in the group have found the intent, general timing, and location conveyed in the 1b convention is very useful for notating ballet and modern dance. In their experience, for most scores, breaking the movement down as in 1a would probably result in “over writing.”
Ex. 1d is different from 1a and 1b because it depicts a curved path in which there is a sliding touch in the middle.
Ray: In Ex. 1a and 1b the foot touches only one point on the floor, as illustrated in 1e. In 1d the foot touches in more than one point, as in 1f. Like 1e, 1f can be thought of as one path or two paths. For instance, it could seen as one part of one circular path going in one direction. However, one could also think of it as containing two quarter paths. Again, it depends on the intent of the movement.

Sandra: The perception of the movement will change depending upon the type of movement one is notating. For example, the intent conveyed in 1b would be easier in point shoes than in bare feet or in boots.

Re: Spring Points

The group explored various movements to see if it is possible to touch and land at the same time in “spring point” movements. Ray wondered if it can be done if the supporting leg is bent before it touches the floor. Sandra said it can happen when a person is supported in partner work, as in Giselle.

At any rate, even if one cannot touch and land at the same time, the group agreed with Janos that the amount of time between the landing and the touch is so small as to be inconsequential for most situations. Therefore, they agreed with Janos that using unit timing works for writing spring points. Writing the movement as though the touching and landing occur simultaneously (even if they don't) conveys the impression and intent of the movement. Writing it with specific timing would usually be cumbersome and unnecessary.

Sandra and Ray questioned why Janos seems to be accepting the use of a convention for writing spring points, but he does not accept the use of a convention for writing one continuous movement with a transient touch indication.

Note: Janos's also replied to the group's April, 2008 discussion of his paper (see J. Fugedi's Comments on the April 7, 2008 Meeting). Discussion of that reply was deferred to a future meeting.

Topic #2. Unfolding Signs Vs. Back to Normal Signs

Ray asked a question about Mira's score for Peter Quanz's Kaleidoscope, which Ray is checking. He wondered why in one case Mira used an unfolding sign to cancel folding, and in other cases she used cancelation signs. Mira explained that she used the unfolding sign in a situation in which the torso is folded and twisted; then the torso unfolds but remains twisted. Using a cancelation sign would have canceled both the twist and the fold.

Ray said the meaning of the back to normal sign needs to be clarified throughout the system. In the Labanotation text it gives at least three different ways the sign can be interpreted.

Topic #3. Distance Indications

In the November 26, 2007 and January 7, 2008 meetings the group explored ideas for indicating distance. In the January meeting the group concluded that of the ideas presented up until then, the signs shown here below might work best: any distance (3a), near distance (3b), moderate distance (3c), far distance (3d). Charlotte said she has been trying out those signs in Motif sequences, but has found them too cumbersome, especially when they are modified to show penetrating or surrounding, as in 3e. Also, she finds it troublesome that the sign for near (3b) is different from the plain dashed sign for near that is so well established in the system (3f). 

Charlotte has been exploring a new idea. In Advanced Labanotation: Spatial Variations, Issue 9, p. 256, Ann Guest uses a straight line with arrows on both ends to indicate distance, as shown here in 3g. The sign is derived from the sign for distance used in architectural blueprints. Charlotte suggested that it could form the bases of a family of distance signs. The straight line would be changed to a curve so the symbols would fit in with other relationship indications. A curved broken line (3i) would indicate a near distance (i.e., the same as the established sign for near). A curved broken line with arrows on each end (3j) would indicate moderate distance. A curved solid line with arrows on the end would indicate far distance (3k). [Addendum from Charlotte: Any distance could be indicated as in 3h].

The signs could be modified as in other relationship indications to show surrounding or penetrating (for instance, as in 3l). [Addendum from Charlotte: Passing could be shown as exemplified in 3m, and the active part as exemplified in 3n.]

The signs could also be modified to show a precise distance, for instance, somewhat near (3o) or very near (3p). Note: 3i could be interpreted as somewhat near or very near. Likewise, 3k could be interpreted as somewhat far or very far.

A sequence containing the basic signs is shown in 3q).

Ray liked Charlotte's proposal.

Sandra had reservations about it. For example, she said that the solid line in far (3k) does not work because a solid curve means a contact relationship.

Ray and Charlotte: There are many instances in the system where signs have more than one meaning, e.g., circles can mean upper body part (3r), retention (3s), or body aspect (3t). Likewise dots have different meanings (3u).

[Addendum from Charlotte: There is already a precedent for curved lines having a meaning besides contact, as in the path sign in 3v. In the relationship family a dashed line is used to indicate near (3w), but it is also used to indicate awareness (3x) (see Guest and Curran, Your Move, p. 268). Dashed lines also signify a “passive” movement (3y).] 

Sandra wondered if 3z could be written as in 3aa. If not, she felt there may be a problem with Charlotte's proposed symbol for a far relationship.

Charlotte: Ex. 3cc is not used as another way to write 3bb. This does not invalidate the use of the curved broken bow in other contexts. The same would be true for the proposed far bow.

Ray: The relationship bows are used to show an association between body parts, objects, people, etc.; not an association in relation to space as in 3aa and 3cc.

Charlotte: Maybe you could have a relationship between the right eye and the left eye (everyone laughed).

Sandra felt that having arrows in the bows did not fit in with the rest of the family of relationship bows.

Charlotte said that when her 6 year old students were shown several relationship bows and asked to identify them, they immediately said that the sign with arrows (3k here) means “far.”

Mira agreed that 3k visually connotes “far.”

Sandra asked why arrows are needed at both ends of the bow. Perhaps an arrow at one end could show the active part.

Charlotte: That is an interesting idea. However, in deciding how to depict the active relater(s), it probably would be better to follow the pattern that has been established with other relationship bows, e.g., 3dd would indicate either foot is active, 3ee would indicate the left foot is active, 3ff would indicate the right foot is active, and 3gg would indicate both feet are active. 

Ray wondered what 3hh might mean (everyone laughed). 

As in the January meeting, Sandra questioned whether an indication for far is really needed since farness can be shown on a floor plan. She said that in Labanotation an indication for “near” is needed much more than one for “far.” As an example, in partner work quantifying nearness is more important. She feels it is usually sufficient to show farness through other symbols. For instance, direction signs that show the position of the arms would denote how far the arms are from each other.

Charlotte replied that floor plans are only put in Motif Notation scores when they are salient aspects of the movement. Floor plans specify where movers are located in the movement site, as well as their distance from each other. The far sign would be useful in Motif Notation when one wants to indicate the movers' distance without showing their location. As for Sandra's other example, an indication for far would specifically convey the intent of distance that is not inherently implied by indications for arm directions. (See the January 2008 minutes for further discussion of these issues.)

Topic #4. Flexion and Extension Indications.

Charlotte has a new idea for the flexion/extension family of indications.
Charlotte gave a definition of terms: Flexion is the general term for movement that may contract, fold, or join. Extension is the general term for movements that may elongate, unfold, or separate.

[Addendum from Charlotte: Here is a more complete definition. Flexion and extension are generic terms for body-oriented actions in which the emphasis is on moving a joint or joints.

Flexing actions cause the body or a body part to occupy less space. Such movements include bending, folding, joining, arching, narrowing, contracting, shrinking, curving, curling, closing in, and adducting.

Extending actions cause the body or a body part to occupy more space. Such movements include stretching, unfolding, widening, elongating, growing, broadening, separating, opening out, and abducting.]

Charlotte said 4a-4f below show the established indications for flexion and extension. [See Curran and Guest, Your Move, p. 172.] The horizontal ad lib. sign in the indications say that the signs indicate any of the forms of movement given in the definitions above. The small vertical ad lib. sign signifies “any amount.” It is derived from the placement of dots that specify degree in contraction and elongation signs.

The indications for flexion can be interpreted as contracting, folding, or joining. However, they only contain the signs for contracting and folding (and an ad lib. sign). Likewise, the indications for extension can be interpreted as elongating, unfolding, and separating, but they only contain the signs for elongating and unfolding (and an ad lib. sign).

Charlotte thinks the signs would be clearer if they included all variables. For example, the signs for flexion could contain the signs for contracting, folding, and joining, as in 4g, 4i, 4j. The signs for extension could contain the signs for elongating, unfolding, and separating, as in 4h, 4l, 4m.

Mira suggested drawing the signs for marked flexion extension as in 4n, 4o. Charlotte liked that idea.

Ray wondered if it is necessary for the generic symbols to visually contain all aspects of what they represent.

Ray pointed out that in the flexion signs contraction and joining are easy to see, but he didn't see the folding sign.

Charlotte: The top of the established consists of the sign in 4o. The top of the proposed sign consists of the sign in 4p. 

The group wondered what the “neither joined nor separated” aspect of 4k would mean. In other words, where would the arms go if they are neither joined nor separated? Would they hang downward in a neutral position?

Charlotte also thought it might be useful to have a symbol that indicates either flexion or extension. Maybe it could be indicated as in 4q. The sign is derived from the signs for joining (separating), elongating, and an abbreviated sign for flexion, as shown in 4q. It is related to the sign discussed in previous meetings for unspecified altitude (4r).

Mira asked if the difference between 4s and 4t could be clarified.

Charlotte: Ex. 4s means either flex or extend. Ex. 4t means neither flex nor extend. 

Mira wondered if direction (e.g., contracting over the front of the body, folding over the side of the body) is shown in the indications.

Charlotte: As far as I know, in the established and proposed symbols 4a-4o, the direction of the movement is not specified; it is left open to interpretation. It can be specified with the specific signs for contraction, folding, etc.

Ray: The idea underlying these signs could also be indicated with distance signs. For instance, in an arm flexion the hand might get nearer the shoulder.

Sandra had reservations about the proposed signs (4g-4n) because said she would interpret them as meaning all aspects of the sign must be performed. She felt that 4a-4f make a clearer statement because they contain an ad lib. sign.

Charlotte: Not all generic signs contain an ad lib. sign, [Addendum from Charlotte: e.g., any turn (4u), any design drawing (4v), any weight transference (4w), any Effort (4x), any altitude (4y). There are also several composite generic signs that do not contain an ad lib. sign. One example is the sign for “any relationship” (4z), which combines attributes of the signs for addressing, supporting, and touching. That sign does not say do all of those relationships. Rather it says do any one of them; the choice is open. Another example is the sign for any body part (4aa).] 

Mira: Perhaps the proposed signs could be drawn so they have an ad lib. component, e.g., as in 4bb. 

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