Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Submitted by Wile et al. - April 25, 2007

[Following is reprint of discussions that were originally posted on LabanTalk and CMAPlus, January-February, 2007].

Discussion #1, by Charlotte Wile – January 9, 2007

I have always felt that in order for Labanotation to be useful, it must have a single standard, with definitive symbols, rules of usage, and terminology. Recently I have become aware that some notators disagree with this idea. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Discussion #2, by Claire Porter – January 9, 2007

[Charlotte Wile wrote]: "...for Labanotation to be useful, it must have a single standard, with definitive symbols, rules of usage, and terminology."

[Clair responds]: Definitely!

Discussion #3, by Teresa Heiland – January 9, 2007

I agree with you [Charlotte Wile] completely, and also recognize that any language has shifts and turns that have to be rethought and refocused in order to have standards of grammar and usage. I tend to think we should all be using the language and symbols in a way that is standardized. This makes the system accessible for our students. When it is slightly different from teacher/user to teacher/user, students pull away from using the system at all because they feel like they “just don’t get it.”

Discussion #4, by Jeffrey Longstaff - January 9, 2007

I totally agree with this regarding fully structured description in Labanotation. However I feel than in the realm of "motif" that there should be accepted variability depending on the preferences, needs, purposes, of the person making the notation. - - of course, all variations, everything not usual can simply be defined in a glossary when needed.

Discussion #5, by Peggy Hackney - January 9, 2007

I am definitely in favor of continued work for standardization of symbology and usage in the Labanotation/Kinetography and Laban Movement Analysis worlds----particularly since our work is now used globally and across languages.

The Motif work is (and should remain, in my mind) a place for continued innovation and ongoing creativity. I do not feel that it should be nit-picking in its concern, but should be large and thematic, with glossaries where needed for particular application areas.

Discussion #6, by Sheila Marion - January 11, 2007

As Labanotation/Kinetography Laban evolves to encompass changing styles of dance and applications to various movement forms, I think it is important that we are all aware of current standards, that we reference existing sources, and that we create glossaries for our scores to explain how we may have adapted symbols for particular circumstances. In addition, I think we should share our questions and potential solutions whenever possible, on this listserve, on the DNB Bulletin Board, and in ICKL conferences.

The International Council on Kinetography Laban was started for unification of the Labanotation/Kinetography Laban systems, which had grown apart through the WWII years, and through investigation of different movement styles. It continues to serve as a forum for clarifying our understanding of symbol applications and usage, for proposing changes, and for adding new concepts and symbols to our system. Anyone who wishes to research and write a technical paper on topics related to these purposes is encouraged to do so--and, it's not to late to submit a paper for the upcoming conference.

In August, ICKL will meet in Mexico City. I am chairing the Research Panel this year, so if you have any questions or a topic that you are interested in investigating, please let me know.

Discussion #7, by Barbara Busse - January 11, 2007

Amen to Peggy's comments [Discussion #5].

Discussion #8, by Leslie Rotman - January 11, 2007

Of course, every field needs to have standards in order to achieve credibility. In notator training we were required to become familiar with our sources so that we knew how to find help with difficult material and there was consistency in the scores coming through the DNB. The sources were given a priority:

1. ICKL - ICKL rules had to be followed, even if we disagreed with them. ICKL is our United Nations. It's not perfect, but it's our only hope for the future! When ICKl rules were unclear or problematic, we were encouraged to try and correct the problem by submitting a paper.

2. Labanotation by A.H.G. Always the bible.

3. DNB Study Guides.

4. Prior written scores. Finding a precedent in a score by an experienced writer is one of the best ways to learn.

5. The Dictionary of Kinetography Laban by Knust. Knust was where we went for unusual solutions. The seemingly limitless array of symbols gave us so much to go on. Often, just when you thought you needed to make up a symbol, you'd discover that Knust had already "been there, done that".

On the rare occasion that we found an inconsistency among the sources, we were taught to find a solution that circumvented the ambiguity. When all else fails, GLOSSARIZE! And, once in a great while, we couldn't find a symbol for our needs. Only then could we "make one up", using the wisdom of the elders to inform our final choice.

All of this added up to an education. We never felt that our creativity had been stifled. Using existing symbols in the proper combination is a creative challenge. Like a Hemingway novel, a good notation score presents the information in a concise, readable format-no easy trick. It was always comforting to know that there was a wealth of information available to us and a venue where we were encouraged and welcomed to debate it.

Discussion #9, by Linda Nutter - January 11, 2007

I am neither a notator nor an expert Motif Notation person. Still, as a member of a LIMS faculty, I am wondering why there don't seem to be a lot of people in favor of standardization on the Motif Notation side. For the same reasons that Leslie Rotman states, I do not feel that standardization stifles creativity. From my perspective, the more a person knows about the existing structures and standards, the more subtly creative they can be.

Discussion #10, by Doris Green - January 12, 2007

I agree with you [Charlotte Wile] in principal, but there are some things in Laban that are more conducive to modern dance and ballet, but not to African dance. As a pioneer in African dance, I have been presenting this dance form from the viewpoint of the African how they view their dance. For example, many of the selections are in a twelve eight time signature. Inherent in the Laban system is the metric count of twelve individual eighth notes. The African does not count his dance this way. The African views it according to the rhythm sounded. This means the selection would be written with the following notes: Quarter, eighth, quarter, quarter, quarter, eighth, quarter. The dancer steps according to this pattern not individual eighth notes. I believe JS. Longstaff presented a paper on this at the 2003 ICKL conference, wherein he stressed Action rhythm vs. Metric rhythm - paper Rhythmic Timing in Dance Education.

I wholeheartedly agree with JS Longstaff. If Laban is to truly encompass all forms of movement, they must address the issue metric vs. action counting of the rhythm.

When I was in DNB some of the students said they could not understand African dance/music because they could not identify the form or structure. I notated one of the selections together with the music so they could see how the dance interacts with the music. When this was presented to them, they were awe struck, as they could see the form and structure of the movements, plus they were more exacting in their performance of the movements. As far as I am aware, myself and Jean Johnson Jones are the only people who apply this to African dance notation for greater accuracy.

This issue needs to be addressed, perhaps as a thread.

Discussion #11, by Vicki Watts - January 12, 2007

I don't disagree with preceeding posts on this topic, but in light of the fact that thus far there seems to be only convivial accord, I'd like to be just a little bit difficult, most especially on a pragmatic level.

1. Changes in the standardization of grammatical rules of language tend to arise from grass-roots changes in language use, but it seems to me that a grass-roots is really what notation systems don't have right now. Contentiously, I'll posit that attention to refining and updating the system (and maintaining what I sense is some notion of 'purity') is a distraction, and potentially even counter-productive, in light of the fact that our skills as dance notation experts may become obsolete in my lifetime.

2. I studied both Labanotation and Benesh Movement Notation to Advanced level, and have teacher certification in both systems. I'm passionate about them both, but it's simply not possible for me to invest my own money in conference attendance and subscriptions to stay up-to-date. I welcome new theory to deal with new forms of movement or new conceptual problems, and would always do my research if my work necessitated use of such material. I do not welcome so warmly small 'grammatical' changes to the system I spent so long learning, such as the rule on use of carets with head and body parts. It's not a big deal, but it is irritating. And it necessitates rewriting a lot of my teaching materials; as a freelancer, (no access to free photocopies remember, and paid only for contact hours) this is deeply burdensome.

Discussion #12, by Jimmyle Listenbee - January 12, 2007

Sheila Marion has brilliantly & beautifully articulated my attitudes toward standardization of Laban symbol systems.

I see Motif writing as part of the same semiotic system, but with more tolerance for lesser degrees of "grammaticality" in practice and for recognition of various and emerging "dialects."

I believe that as more diverse movement concepts enter the vocabulary it is necessary to embrace the constancy of change and that our work will benefit by an inclusive attitude that not only recognizes but seeks to clarify basic principles. I expect that new reference volumes, both comprehensive and specialized, will appear as natural developments of the fundamental systems so brilliantly devised by Laban, Ann H. Guest, Peggy Hackney and others.

At that point scores could be identified primarily by date & author of reference standard, with idiosyncratic symbols and autographic practices glossed.

Discussion #13, by Martha Eddy - January 12, 2007

Thanks for this discussion.

I echo Linda's [Linda Nutter, Discussion #9] sentiments that to standardize is useful. It provides clarity. It is up to us to keep the "rule-making" process negotiable in order to allow for continued innovation.

Having notation developed from different contextual frameworks is also important. When there are varying usages I suggest that we chart out these different uses so that if there are controversies at least they are clearly laid out and practitioners can make their own informed decision about which convention to go with.

This proposal parallels how I present the Shape category of LMA. I work to clearly outline the Lamb-Kestenberg model and the Hackney model and discuss how they are used.

Discussion #14, by Billie Mahoney - January 14, 2007
[Responding to Doris Green's comments in Discussion #10]

This is the type of subject ICKL would be interested in investigating. Why doesn’t Doris present it in a paper to the Research Panel so it can be discussed at the conference? From what I read I don’t understand why the rhythms can’t be distinguished in LN. There are many different ways to show timing changes and variations, and if she doesn’t believe there is a way in LN we need to approach it. Please pass this suggestion on. Thank you.

Discussion #15, by Naomi Isaacson – January 15, 2007

Charlotte suggested I send the following (originally addressed to her personally) to the list, in case readers are interested, and I have added a response to more recent list messages. Apologies if this is too long:

I also believe that standardisation is the ideal (note that we don't even have such in the spelling of the word!). Of course there will always be a certain amount of local or personal 'dialect' in notation; this probably stems from culturally based perceptions as well as personal ideosyncrasies. In addition, I think the original difficulty with differences between the followers of Knust and the American-English school is hard to overcome, due to both ingrained habit (otherwise known as entrenched/internalised training), and a perhaps somewhat exaggerated sense of loyalty to the master teachers (as distinct from loyalty to the potential universality of the system).

A truly universal approach would require the replacement of 'notational patriotism' with a sense of the greater value of international co-operation, for which I'm not sure even our cosmopolitan notators are really ready. The introduction of notation as a commercial tool in robotic research has probably led, if anything, to a greater degree of competition between notators from different countries. Can one separate the notator from the total personality (which affects even the individual styles of notators)? Whatever the case, for the system to be of the greatest benefit, for the intra/international exchange of information, I do believe it should be standardised. This may cause difficulties for those who are accustomed to their particular usage/symbols and need to cope with changes, but ultimately would be best for the future wider use of the system.

Probably not fair from one who has derived much past pleasure and benefit from Labanotation and is no longer 'in the loop'; but I'll be interested to learn the opinions of other list users.

Further to the above, I certainly hope notation will not soon become obsolete, as has been suggested. Quite aside from the mechanics of getting the symbols down, the in-depth study of the system leads to a greatly enriched understanding of movement in all its facets. Properly taught, this should enhance both teaching and performance, and it would be a great loss if the system were to be abandoned due to lack of appreciation of such value, or lack of 'zitzvleisch' on the part of students too lazy to use their minds as well as their bodies. Professional dance is not an 'instant gratification' field. Whilst it is a great vehicle for self-expression, its greatest benefits come from long-term dedication to developing understanding and control over mind, body, and the elusive element we call spirit, or soul. As dancers, we all want to be able to 'let rip', and get caught up in the joy of moving, rather than 'nit-picking'; but as in most areas of endeavour, mastery and freedom only come with persistence and application to detail. And once you believe in the future of notation, it seems logical to try to standardise as much as possible now, so future notators/students won't have to nit-pick or wade through masses of glossary/historical material in order to simply read a score. This doesn't have to mean discarding special symbols totally, but they should ideally be kept to a minimum so readers/reconstructors don't have to drown in too many footnotes.

I wish you all happy - and reasonably standardis(z)ed - notating for many years to come.

Discussion #16, by Oliver Bandel – January 15, 2007
[Responding to Naomi Isaacson's comments in Discussion #15]

[Naomi wrote]: A truly universal approach would require the replacement of 'notational patriotism' with a sense of the greater value of international co-operation, for which I'm not sure even our cosmopolitan notators are really ready. The introduction of notation as a commercial tool in robotic research has probably led, if anything, to a greater degree of competition between notators from different countries.

[Oliver responds]: Do you know more on movement notation in robotics research? As far as I know, Weshkol-Wachmann-notation is used in that fields.

If you know more, please let us know. I'm interested in this topic.

Discussion #17, by Gill Miller – January 15, 2007

Let me register a minority opinion:

IMHO, standardization, while valuable, is not “the ideal.” Although it is useful and helpful in many ways that have already been articulated, it also necessitates a merging and simmering down until there is agreement. The loss in that process is precisely the unique perspectives that each notator can bring to the perception and recording of movement material. If we consider a silly analogy, let me suggest we would never ask that all dancers moved precisely the same way. We are not even interested in having all “Graham dancers” move precisely the same way. It is the variation within a fairly well-defined but not completely standardized semiotic system that keeps it human and interesting and allows us to begin to “see” what someone else “saw” (and thus recorded.)

I am not arguing for no standardization at all. But at a certain level, the choices a notator can make, including creating new symbols within the logic of the system (likely not different from “coining a term” in spoken/written text) keep the system itself alive and responsive. And, yes, this can happen within an elite body (like ICKL) but it is more intriguing to allow in more voices. I feel more loyalty to a process that allows for and respects differences than to one that strives for a predictable and, to me, rote understanding based on universality.

What Naomi [Discussion #15] speculates as loyalty to one person/one method/one decade of training/etc. (as opposed to universality of the system/greater value of international cooperation) is quite valuable in and of itself. It’s not necessarily the case that “for the system to be of the greatest benefit, for the intra/international exchange of information, […] it should be standardised.” Should we yield to this option, we sacrifice knowing anything of what she is calling “the total personality of the notator.” (While it would be less than “total,” that is not the point here.) I believe a notation score does, in fact, share that personality aspect, and that it is as important as the embedded movement material. Rather than causing “difficulties for those who are accustomed to their particular usage/symbols and need to cope with changes,” it could yield richer and more fascinating scores that help future generations learn not only the movement of the dance but also the culture of the dance—at least through the perceptions of the notator (who, ideally, should know the culture in order to be recording it.)

I appreciate the comments about studying deeply, but I don’t believe we have an obligation to “standardize now (at least as much as possible)” so that future generations won’t have to “nit-pick or wade through masses of glossary/historical material to read a score.” To subscribe to that philosophy seems to imply “we” (current users/pedagogues) are the more appropriate interpreters of what may come in the future. It also seems to imply we can anticipate how those movements will be perceived or taught, and what the recording needs will be. I am suggesting that will be better left to those in the future, and the “wading through details” is part and parcel of the process.

For notation to be a living, responsive system, perhaps even a language of sorts, it must yield to a growth process and that process necessarily accepts some degree of non-standard behavior (even occasional far-flung mutations!) Otherwise, it may well fall to an historical, antiquated, irrelevant position that is more trouble than it is worth.

Discussion #18, by Naomi Isaacson – January 16, 2007

Gill seems to have missed the fact that I made a point of allowing for some individuality as inevitable, even desirable. All languages incorporate words from other languages/dialects eventually, to keep them alive and dynamic. But if the notation system for recording such language is comprehensive enough (which most likely no system is yet, but Labanotation seems to be getting there) to record the maximum number of subtleties and nuances, and people take the trouble to learn it sufficiently well, there should not be an excessive need for introducing new symbols. A dance notator has to record the movement desired by the choreographer (and yes, we do change our own choreography to suit specific dancers sometimes, and any sensible reconstructor has also to make decisions as to what leeway can be given to individual dancers in interpreting the recorded movement). There are also ways of notating that the movement written can be performed in slightly different ways. A certain degree of common sense (if there is such a thing these days), and artistic sensitivity, must be applied to both writing and reconstructing; but what should be avoided is individuation of symbol creation to the extent that scores become useful only in a local, rather than an international, arena.

In other words, there will probably always be a need for the glossary option, but in my 'umble opinion it should be used as sparingly as possible. I am the last person to want standardisation of movement, but as we are able to have a fairly standardised international alphabet (yes, I am aware of other word alphabets too, and of variations to accommodate accents and pronunciations) to facilitate verbal communication, I believe the notation alphabet should be as comprehensively standardized as possible.

Discussion #19, by Gill Miller – January 16, 2007

These discussions are helpful for stretching my thoughts -- thank you to Charlotte and to Naomi and others who have written.

Just to clarify a thought that is developing in my own mind, I'd like to say I am distinguishing between movement, the language that records the movement, and the alphabet that records the language. In spoken/written English, we do not encourage making up new letters, but we do allow for making up new words using those letters. In Labanotation, however, we allow for not only new words, but also new "letters" and explain those letters in a glossary. It is the making of new symbols themselves that represents one of the concepts that ICKL is responsible for: namely, the identification of a new "arena" of thought about witnessing movement ideology. Example: when the design writing symbology and "rules of use" first appeared, they had developed from a perceived need to describe movement in a wholely different way than what our collection of symbols had previously provided for. (Was it from Valerie Beettis' Desperate Heart? I can't recall exactly.)

We seem to be either mixing metaphors or contradicting ourselves when we talk about standardization in opposition to borrowing words from other languages. If Labanotation is not culture-bound in its design (i.e., semiotic systemization) and could (at least in the ideal) represent and record any kind of movement, then we must also deny ourselves the temptation to borrow from other languages (i.e., other notation systems) because that wouldn't be necessary. The thought as I read it means there is no need for borrowing from other languages since ours is capable of handling anything that is produced physically.

But here, I am exploring something else entirely: the idea that standardization is useful, yes, but not "ideal." The concept of ideal to me means something we should be striving for. For me that striving comes at too high a cost. Looking back historically shows us that the set of symbols we use now is larger and more complex than the "original set" which to me supports my point. I regret what we would have to give up should we strive for standardization too stearnly. In other words I appreciate what is contributed by those minds that celebrate ignoring standardization. This is not the same as a more simple "allowing for individuality." I'm actually addressing a "minority support position" for unusual or unique symbols (glossarized) which I believe will widen our understanding of movement itself, and thus of cultures that engage that movement.

As I recall, Charlotte asked us why anyone would not support standardization -- this is one reason why. In a margin that supports non-standardization, we have to explore the movement that drives that recording device rather than fit the movement we believe we are seeing into a fairly comprehensive pre-existing system.

Discussion #20, by Rose Anne Thom – January 16, 2007
[Responding to Gill Miller's comments in Discussion #19]

For the record, I notated "The Desperate Heart" and 'design writing/drawing' was already in place.

Discussion #21, by Gill Miller – January 17, 2007

Thank you, Rose Anne. Am I remembering right?--It was glossarized in the Desperate Heart score. So it was likely in that period of "trial usage," no?

Well, can you imagine how difficult it would have been to read back all the tiny little squished-together symbols it would have taken to read the fairly quick circulating arm gestures without design writing? The new-ish concept and way of thinking about recording was so inventive and helpful in that score.

Discussion #22, by Georgette Gorchoff – January 17, 2007
[Responding Gill Miller's comments in Discussion #21]

[Gill wrote]: ... quick circulating arm gestures without design writing?

[Georgette responds]: Indeed, the tiny symbols were difficult to read, and more difficult to write. In the interim, however, many new concepts arrived (and a few disappeared). Some innovations became part of the system. Some, though remembered by a few, were rarely used. The best innovators knew the rules prior to changing them and always, a glossary was required to help readers interpret non-standard symbology. It has remained expedient to be kind to the reader.

Discussion #23, by Naomi Isaacson – January 21, 2007
[Responding to Gill Miller]

We seem to need a clear definition of what we mean by 'standardisation'. I don't regard it as meaning the total fixing of the notation vocabulary/symbology at a given time, to be as it were graven in stone.

I understand it to mean:

(a) Currently known movement vocabulary should be notated wherever possible with a standard set of symbols in all countries.

(b) When a new movement/concept is introduced, and there is no existing symbol to record it, agreement should be reached amongst notators as to how it will be written every time (and wherever) it occurs. This allows for initial individuality, new ideas, and the creation of new notation symbols in case of need, but would alleviate the aggravation of having to learn many symbols which actually denote the same movement/concept. Until such time as an opportunity for demonstration and consensus occurs (eg at conference), individual symbols will be used with glossaries, but in finalised published scores it is preferable for the agreed new symbol to be used.

This obviously means that a forum such as ICKL is essential for demonstration, explanation, and (ideally) agreement amongst international practitioners. And new scores will have to be carefully checked by some central authority before publication. I do understand the difficulty for many people in attending conferences, but if the ideal is to have scores as readable as possible for as many people as possible, some face-to-face demonstration and dialogue will generally be essential for the creation of understandable symbols.

As most choreographers use verbal imagery to enhance dancers' performance, it would also be good if such word notes included in scores could be translated when required for use in various countries. Could this be a useful project for the language departments at universities, not only for the benefit of the reconstructors, but to give language students an improved understanding of dance, as potential audience members?

Regarding the different ways in which different notators may choose to write the same movement, according to their individual ways of perceiving such movement, this can still be achieved using standardised symbols. I may be way off beam here, but I don't think differences in notating styles generally necessitate new symbols; they stem rather from expressing individual perceptions in different (rather than 'new') 'words' or 'phraseology'.
May our thoughts stretch forever.

Discussion #24, Ann Hutchinson Guest – February 2, 2007

I am very late in sending my thoughts about standardization, this is because work on the revised Your Move index has only just been completed, I have done nothing else since mid-December. After reading the many very interesting comments from people of different backgrounds, I have been itching to put in my 2 (or more) cents. My first comment is that there is a big difference between theory and actual practice. I will start with Motif Notation. When it was first introduced everyone was delighted as it was so easy, simple, with no rules. Then people began to be aware of differences in understanding and application. At present there are people for whom Motif is central to their work, who use it in a very detailed way. This has meant going in depth into the possible variations and meanings applied in use of the symbols. For others the use is more casual. In recent years the DNB brought together Language of Dance people, LMA practitioners and others to share our understanding of the Motif symbols, the terms used and the movement understood. We were dismayed to find how many differences existed, there had been no awareness of these differences. At these meetings there was no attempt at unification, it was enough to reveal and make a list of the differences. Freedom in using Motif should lie in the physical interpretation; the symbols and their basic meanings need to be clearly established. It has been with this aim in mind that Charlotte Wile, presenting the ideas and understandings of her colleagues, has devoted years to her comprehensive book on Motif Notation, now in the last stages of completion. In the revision of the Your Move book, I and my colleagues have striven for clarity, Motif being so central to the LOD approach to movement understanding. Charlotte and I have been in close touch, meeting in New York whenever possible to discuss differences as they emerged from reading each other's books. On two major points we have agreed to disagree. One is the automatic cancellation rule. Charlotte (and others) feel that there may or may not be automatic cancellation, it is open to choice. If the result of a previous movement is to be retained, that needs to be indicated. If it is to be cancelled, that should be stated. Interpreting a Motif score requires that such cancellation details be understood and applied. In many cases it may not matter and freedom should be allowed. In the new Your Move book I have veered toward Charlotte's rule in the interests of clarity, i.e., say what you want. The other point of difference is interpretation of a basic symbol, for example a direction symbol. With total freedom in choice of movement, which Charlotte and also Ray Cook (and other colleagues) believe in, a forward symbol could be interpreted as a finger pointing forward, traveling forward, even sticking your tongue out forward! For our LOD needs I have always believed that use of specific body parts should come later, the expression of forward and the physical awareness of how that direction can be embodied are better served by whole body movements, large or small. This point of view is clearly stated at the start of the revised Your Move book so that all will know. Because traveling is one of the basic elements in the Movement Alphabet, we see it as having its own importance and hence needing its own statement. In defining how traveling can occur, direction soon comes into the picture. Such application of direction does not take away from direction being an entity in its own right, or from traveling being a separate entity. In contrast to the wish to have every aspect of every movement totally open to choice, I find that in actual practice people want to, indeed need to, make a choice; theoretically the openness is there, but one cannot perform a total 'any', a choice has to be made and the observer sees this choice, the 'any' is only an instruction on the paper. Perhaps these two points, cancellation and performance choice, give an idea of how decisions on such details need, at some point, to be faced. We love freedom, but communication is important.

Because I believe in standardization in Labanotation, I have over the years made the effort to put down on paper and publish my knowledge and understanding, particularly for the advanced level of recording movement. It was Ilene Fox's statement at the ICKL conference in Belgium that made me aware of the need to put facts in print. In a discussing a statement in the LN textbook, she took an interpretation that was not applicable to the matter in hand. I explained where the difference lay, to which she replied "We can only go by what is printed!" We experienced a similar instance at the notation discussion meeting last June when a statement in the textbook was being interpreted narrowly, no such narrowness being intended or actually stated. Leading notators need to be in touch, results of their discussions need to be made available.

Glossaries at the start of a score are a perfect solution to many problems concerning how a movement can best be expressed on paper. A wonderful basis for exchange would be to distribute these glossaries so that we can all see what other people are using and why. Over the years many notators have encountered problems and had not known that these had already been met and a solution found. My great fortune has been the many sessions I had with Knust in the earlier years and also with Maria Szentpal, the most skilled notator of us all. These sessions provided me with valuable background knowledge. In Knust's case it gave me a clear idea of where Labanotation should follow his lead and where it was not to our advantage to do so. We have always wanted LN to grasp the new ways of looking at and analyzing movement and to find out how new needs can be met through using what already exists in the system and where modifications may perhaps be needed. William Forsythe's new spatial ideas can be recorded in LN, using the symbols we already have with slight modification. DBP (Direction from Body Part) immediately comes into the picture, distance from body part needs also to be established, and so on.

Now I must touch on Doris Green's problem with indicating particular rhythms in Labanotation. I worked for quite a long time with Doris in helping her prepare her book. We came to the point where I could not make clear to her how detailed timing is handled in LN, she could not see it and I could not find a way of explaining it to her. This ended my involvement. Because of the length of movement indications on paper giving the time value, LN is very flexible in indicating precisely very intricate rhythms. It is the only system with this flexibility. Perhaps someone else can find the words to explain this to Doris.

From time to time Janos Fuegedi gets in touch to discuss with me problems of movement details in recording Hungarian dance. Whenever I get such requests for help, for clarification, I always respond. I feel I have knowledge that can still be useful to the younger generation and the types of movement they are now needing to record.

My warm greetings and best wishes to all of you.

Discussion #25, by Beate Becker – February 2, 2007

Thank you, Ann Hutchinson Guest, for sharing your rich knowledge with us! I am very much on the sidelines of all this but have long wanted to throw out one question:

Is there currently a symbol being used to indicate movement or shaping in a particular plane? I have not known of one when I was at LIMS, and have always in my own notes drawn a diamond shape with the letter H, V, or S inside it. I find this very convenient both in the writing and in the reading.

Would love to hear about this!

Discussion #26, by Peggy Hackney – February 2, 2007

In 1982, Carl Wolz developed symbols for the Planes, and because I had just been in Hong Kong working with him, I presented them at the LIMS conference that year. We have been using them in our Certification Programs since that time. They are about Space and do not refer to Shape.

The Planar symbols are based on the three lines of the cross of axes. In the symbol the two major axes that are involved in creating the plane are solid lines, while the axis of the plane is broken (like dashes). The great thing about this system is that in the key one can delineate whether the dimensional pulls that are creating the planes are equally stressed or are unequally stressed (as in the Icosahedron or Dodecahedron) by putting plus (+) signs on one of the solid lines. One can also record Dimensions using these symbols.

If you are confused...go to pp. 224-225 in my book, "Making Connections." I use them there.

Discussion #27, by Charlotte Wile – February 2, 2007

Also, to see the Planar symbols go to the Theory Bulletin Board. See Peggy Hackney, "Spatial Locations and Directions" thread, April 22, 2005. I'm assuming these are the same symbols Peggy discussed in her CMAlist posting today.

Discussion #28, by Doris Green – February 4, 2007
[Responding to Ann Hutchinson Guest's comments in Discussion #24]

[Ann wrote]: Now I must touch on Doris Green's problem with indicating particular rhythms in Labanotation. I worked for quite a long time with Doris in helping her prepare her book. We came to the point where I could not make clear to her how detailed timing is handled in LN, she could not see it and I could not find a way of explaining it to her. This ended my involvement. Because of the length of movement indications on paper giving the time value, LN is very flexible in indicating precisely very intricate rhythms. It is the only system with this flexibility. Perhaps someone else can find the words to explain this to Doris.

[Doris responds]: I feel an urgency to address the above statement. Somehow there has been a mis-interpretation. I do not know how or when it occurred. Hopefully this writing will ameliorate and clarify the situation. It is necessary to do a “retour en arriere” in order to present this information.

In 1962 Labanotation was first offered as a course in Brooklyn College. I enrolled in college overnight in order to study Labanotation. At that time I had nineteen years of classical musical training, including piano, violin and bass, drums and steel pan. I also had eighteen years of dance. The last five or six years of this training was devoted to African music and dance as I studied with African students living here who shared their culture with us. I was also a choreographer who could accompany herself on the drums. As teenager, I began working on a music notation system in order to teach Congo drummers how to read music and accompany my choreography. The more dances we learned the greater the urgency to protect them from alteration. I was determined to preserve the dances Fanga and Batakoto. I continued my music and dance studies throughout undergraduate and graduate school. Obviously the schools did not offer any courses in African music or dance, so I became involved in creating same. I had the opportunity to participate in search committees to find appropriate personnel, as well as being the first person to teach African music and dance in Brooklyn College. After graduate school I went to Africa to continue my studies. (This is a brief synopsis of my background).

(Back to 1962) Perusing the Labanotation textbook, I was attracted to the section Breakdown of a Count (Beat). I found this to be mathematically sound. It was a better way of representing time other than the TUBs and the circles used in my beginning notations. African scholars, musicians and culturalists had been seeking a way to notate their music for decades. One of the main criteria of such a system was it had to be able to notate the music as well as other aspects of the culture, namely the dance. As you know traditional African dance is always performed with some form of music. I instantly recognized the flexibility in Labanotation. Given my musical background, it is impossible for me not to see detailed timing in the size of the symbols. I reiterate, this factor is what attracted me to Labanotation. I have worked with Africans from the East Coast to the West Coast. One of the questions posed to me was how come a twelve eighth time signature cannot be expressed in the order that they use it.

Hopefully the illustrations below will clarify the matter.

[In a separate e-mail Doris writes]: I have heard from several people on the list telling me that the illustration did not come through. Therefore, I am attaching a PDF of Agbadza a popular African dance done in 12/8 time signature. In this sample, you can see both the music and dance in an integrated score. You will notice that the first instrument which is a bell (Gankoqui) plays the rhythm accordingly - quarter, eighth, quarter, quarter, quarter, eighth, quarter. Notice that it reads the same way forward as backward. You will also notice how the dancer steps according to this pattern. You can also see the relationship of the dancer's step to the bell as well as other instruments of the ensemble. This ensures that the dancer moves on "time". You will also notice that this does not change or alter the timing mechanism within the Laban symbols.

[The notation is shown below]

Given my musical background I state that these illustrations prove that the length of the timing mechanism is not in anyway altered when written according to the African perspective as pictured in Konkolo. If one aligns the two samples, one can see that an eighth note is still an eighth note and a quarter note is still a quarter note. Surely the musicians who collaborated with me in producing the music portion of the book, as well as the African musicians who made the request, are not wrong. This is merely rhythmic timing vs metric timing as Jeffrey wrote in his paper. If someone on the list still believes that sample B alters the timing element revealed in the length of the symbol, then l encourage them to show me.

Hopefully this solves the situation.

Discussion #29, by Greg Shenaut – February 6, 2007
[Responding to Doris Green's comments in Discussion #28]

.....let me inject a brief excerpt from Gardner Read's "The Elements of Notation" (a book not about Labanotation, but about music notation in general):
"Mixed Meters.
When meters consist of unequal units (simulataneous denominators) grouped with the measure, mixed time-signatures are produced: This signature may be found in Tippett's Symphony No. 2. For the composer, the performer, and the audience, 2/4+3/16 is not the same as writing 11/16. The 11/16 signature implies that a constant sixteenth-note is the beat unit, and this is not what the composer conceived. The mixed meter combines a quarter-note unit with a dotted-eighth unit (or 3/16), and the metrical feeling is very different. Such careful distinctions between varying notations is a vital part of contemporary musical expression. (p. 173-174)"
Then Read gives a number of examples of mixed meters: Bartok, 3/4 +1/8 ; Berio, 6/8+1/16, 3/8+1/16 ; Boulez, 3/16+4/8, 2/4+5/8, 3/2 +1/4, 3/16+3/8, 1/4+1/16 ; Nilsson 7/4+1/16+3/4, 3/4+3/32, 3/4+3/8 ; Revueltas, 2/4+3/8, 3/4+3/8 ; Stravinsky, 1/8+3/4 ; Tippett, 3/8+2/4, 3/8+2/8+3/16 ; Varèse, 2/4+3/8.

It seems to me that the most natural way for LN to adapt to mixed meters such as the African dance example is simply to use the same mixed-meter time signature notation commonly used by musicians. The example above, depending on how it is felt, could be notated as 3/8 +3/4+3/8, or 1/4+3/8+1/4+3/8+1/4 or in many other ways.

Note that in LN, the change would probably be limited to the time signatures only, because unlike in musical notation, there is no fundamental way to group movements together explicitly (i.e., using beams). (As far as I know, I'm no expert!) One way to get much the same effect in LN might be to use variable meters, that is, to group each rhythm segment as a separate measure with a constantly changing time signature, for example |3/8...|3/4...|3/8...||...|3/4...| 3/8...|]. I have seen cases where measure lines in LN have been placed differently from in the corresponding musical score. Dotted bar lines could also be used to group rhythm segments appropriately as they sometimes are in music notation.

Discussion #30, by Zack Brown - February 6, 2007
[Responding to Charlotte Wiles comments in Discussion #27] 

What's the CMSlist?

Discussion #31, by Oliver Bandel – February 25, 2007
[Responding to Zack Brown's comments in Discussion #30] 


The mailing list of the CMA's.

CMA: certified movement analyst.

CMAs are analyzing body movements in a qualitative way, and as a notation system they normally use motiv, not the detailed labanotation system. They also analyze Laban's scales (axis scales, girdle scales, and so on) and such stuff.

It's a more abstract way than labanotation's view.

You can find the CMA-list here:

Discussion #32, by Linda Nutter – February 25, 2007
[Responding to Oliver Bandel's comments in Discussion #31]

Just wanted to add a small addendum to your note. While CMAs do look in a "qualitative way," we also look in a quantitative way.

Discussion #33, by Oliver Bandel – February 25, 2007
[Responding to Linda Nutter's comments in Discussion #32]

Yes. And you may add some examples? Do you mean - for example - statistical analysis of used movement patterns?

What I meant was not quantitative vs. qualitative, but abstract concepts vs. very detailed descriptions of movement.

In software development there will be talked about "layers of abstraction", e.g. OSI-layers of network communication.

And viewed with this in mind, Labanotation is on a lower level of abstraction but extremely detailed, whereas Motif Notation and looking at patterns of movement (e.g. Body Patterns like body-half or cross-lateral) is more abstract and therefore can be called to be higher-level (but is not as detailed as Labanotation is).

With "qualitative" I meant this abstract view on movement ("the big picture viewed at a glance"), compared to a very detailed description of the details. I did not mean "not using quantitative methods", so maybe I was a little bit too imprecise in using my words... sorry for that.

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