I have been thinking about dance notation and what really is notated with these notation systems.
Imho such a system notates which part of the body will be moved into what direction. For people who are familiar with notation as well as dancing a lot, this may automatically be translated into bodily organizations (spatial intent, triggering of muscle chains and so on).
But that does not necessarily mean that all people are performing the movement in this way.
Some weeks ago I mentioned [in another LabanTalk posting] that it may be necessary (especially when writing computer programs for which dance-animation is intended) to use a muscle-activation based internal "muscle activation/description language", so that the computer may use these internals and translate it into intersubjective/observable movement and its notation.
Today (in dance class, while having some problems with the crosslateral connections) I first thought: Notation could help to clarify it, but then I suddenly was alarmed and thought: What we are notating with any of the dance notation systems (insert your favorite notation system here) is: We notate what limb is turned into what position, or what kind of movement a body part has to do. This is notating the outer form/shape/movement.
This is how the most teachers are teaching: You have to move so that you create this or that shape (move your head, arms, feet, body in this or that position... then into this/that position, and hold your ... always ...).
But this is teaching (and notating) the outer form. It's not how the body should be activated.
It's not often that teachers teach in a way that you can feel what has to be done in the body for gaining a certain movement. And the notation does it the same way: It does not tell you anything about how to organize your body.
Isn't there a contradiction between notating only outer forms/shapes/movements in Laban's (or other) notation system, and advocating to teach dance in a more "inner" way, as is emphasized in Bartenieff Fundamentals classes?!
Wouldn't it be better to have a notation system which reflects the bodily organization, so that the movement is "more natural" to what it should look like, because it is described in how it has to be performed?!
Maybe a computer internal muscle-activation-description language can be a solid base for a (more human readable, because less detailed) notation system which reflects the bodily organization too?!
Posting 2, Tara Stepenberg, December 11, 2002
Perhaps I am incorrect - but I have long believed that notation assumed that its readers knew how to move/dance (i.e., body organization) and that the dance notation was not written to TEACH this -- just like in music notation, the notation assumed that the instrumentalist knows how to create excellent tone/pitch, color a phrase etc.
Posting 3, Oliver Bandel, December 11, 2002
[Responding to Tara Stepenberg’s comments in Posting 2]
Well, aren't there different ways of performing a movement?
What are Bartenieff Fundamentals classes good for? They are good for coordination of the body. Is it for dancers not necessary to go into such classes, because they know their "instrument"?
What about different styles?
It's for example possible to move an arm isolated, as well as it is possible to move it as a part of the crosslateral connection.
Well, if the observer is good, he may see the difference. And as a notator he may notate it. Is this how it works? And if the movement should be performed differently, maybe totally non-dancer like? How is this described in a notation that only uses shape-description? Could this be described as bodily organization instead?
And aren't there different styles of moving (in respect to body organization) as well as different dancing styles?!
Does notation cover this? (Maybe in its very detailed forms it does).
And if it does, is it the right approach to notate purely by shape/movement?
Does it makes sense to describe only the outer forms/shapes? Does it make sense to let the body organization totally be unwritten and only a "mouth to ear" approach? Or a "the dance-teacher shows it and student looks to it" approach?
If the "talk about dance", what researchers are performing in books, papers, scores, mailing lists should be named "scientific", and when scientific is to write down our bias (presumptions), then we should write down the bodily organization onto the score too (at least, if the score is intended for detailed analysis, not only for "remembering some steps of the classes").
If we don't write it down, we have presumptions that are not explicitly written down. And that may cause many problems. At least this may be called non-scientific.
Correct me if I'm wrong here.
By the way: You say that dance notation is for teachers (for people who know to use their instrument), and they should know how to dance. And the students are learning from the teacher.... well. Why is notation not intended for dance students?
I think that students are learning better when they use notation. You mentioned music notation.
Normally it's intended to let the students use notation very early. Why do you think that in dance, notation is a teachers-only tool?
Btw: How to create an excellent tone is not what every musician is able to produce. Or some musicians are good in classics but very bad in punk-rock music (and vice versa). Some are very good in all styles. And if music notation would be more detailed, adding further information than only "play this note and that", and maybe even adding bodily organization for musicians, this IMHO could produce much better/flexible musicians.
So, I don't know why you are smiling.
(Maybe perfect teachers are doing that? :-> )
If I ask ten different teachers, I will get ten answers. They are similar, but not equal. Some are totally different.
P.S.: Some dance people say that it is absolutely crap to dance as a teacher and let the students try to do the same movement. And they prefer only using words in classes, so that the student has to "feel" it instead of looking how the teacher performs it.
=> "inner" vs. "outer"
P.P.S.: If I would have not mentioned my problems on the crosslateral connections, how would you have written your answer then?
Posting 4, Leslie Bishko, December 11, 2002
The Laban system goes well beyond simply notating which part rotates when, and patterns of organization are certainly included.
Posting 5, Neil Ellis Orts, December 11, 2002
Having only the vaguest of notions about Labanotation, it seems entirely possible that not every nuance will be picked up by every dancer, however advanced the notation. I think the musical score analogy is pertinent. I've heard music composers speak of the horror of hearing a bad performance of something they wrote. I think we have to just live with the same potential in dance notation. And just as a beginning musician will play something mechanically on the piano, so might a beginning notation reader perform the dance mechanically. I would think the ability or experience of the musician/dancer to interpret the piece has a huge role to play.
Since there were no sound recording instruments until a little more than a century ago, we really have no idea if what we hail as a great performance of Bach is at all what Bach intended . . . but thank goodness we have the scores to approximate something for our time. This may be all we can hope for in dance notation as well.
Posting 6, Greg Shenaut, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Tara Stepenberg’s comments in Posting 2]
I think the musical example is right on: I can play flute or violin music on my guitar; I can even play the same notes faster, softer, or jazzier. In each case, the sound is different, but the underlying composition is the same.
That is, both Labanotation and musical notation are “abstract” representations of movement/music, they aren't simple series of commands to tighten or loosen muscles rhythmically. For special purposes, it is possible to go well beyond the "normal" level of notation both for music (take a look an unquantized MIDI sometime) and LN--this will allow a great deal of precision, but it becomes almost impossible to read & write it and most people wouldn't want to anyway!
Posting 7, Oliver Bandel, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Greg Shenaut’s comments in Posting 6]
[Greg wrote] I THINK THE MUSICAL EXAMPLE IS RIGHT ON: I CAN PLAY FLUTE OR VIOLIN MUSIC ON MY GUITAR; I CAN EVEN PLAY THE SAME NOTES FASTER, SOFTER, OR JAZZIER. IN EACH CASE, THE SOUND IS DIFFERENT, BUT THE UNDERLYING COMPOSITION IS THE SAME.
THAT IS, BOTH LABANOTATION AND MUSICAL NOTATION ARE “ABSTRACT” REPRESENTATIONS OF MOVEMENT/MUSIC, THEY AREN'T SIMPLE SERIES OF COMMANDS TO TIGHTEN OR LOOSEN MUSCLES RHYTHMICALLY.
[Oliver responds] Well, labanotation looks a lot like "straighten your right leg at count three and your left arm at count 4&e".
Music notation seems more abstract to me.
BTW: I think using symbols for body organization (patterns) is very powerful and abstract, even if it at the first view looks very near to the body and not very abstract.
Using a body half pattern is more abstract than saying: lifting your left arm and your left leg up or lifting your right arm and your right leg up (and I have to add the information that the muscles of the whole body have to support that movement...)
If notating a certain body half action, this may bloat up the score much more than using body-pattern indicating symbols.
If a pure gesture is done - without support of body core - this may be coded easily in a LN score. When there is a movement sequence from the arm through the core body into the leg, this may be very complicated to write down.
Using body pattern symbols, this may be done very easy.
Don't you think that such an indication of "how to use the body" could help to not only clarify a movement and how it is meant (and to write it down into the notation, and not necessarily have to know the style of the choreographer before reading the score)?
Don't you think that [by] coding with body organization patterns a laban score would be more clear and less bloated, because a lot of symbols could be thrown away?
[Greg wrote] FOR SPECIAL PURPOSES, IT IS POSSIBLE TO GO WELL BEYOND THE "NORMAL" LEVEL OF NOTATION BOTH FOR MUSIC (TAKE A LOOK AN UNQUANTIZED MIDI SOMETIME) AND LN--THIS WILL ALLOW A GREAT DEAL OF PRECISION,
[Oliver responds] Yes. A great deal of precision... coded with many symbols for each limb and body part... or?
Isn't it so, that LN in the way it is used right now is too much like these detailed descriptions. It's a detailed description of body parts movements. For being very detailed, it will be very complicated. And when substituting a lot of these symbols by some body organization symbols, the content may be the same, but less verbose notated?
[Greg wrote] BUT IT BECOMES ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO READ & WRITE IT AND MOST PEOPLE WOULDN'T WANT TO ANYWAY!
[Oliver responds] Where can I find such extremely detailed LN-scores? And do they have bodily patterns added?
P.S.: Because Eshkol-Wachman uses numbers instead of graphical symbols, it seems to be more abstract than LN.
Posting 8, Greg Shenaut, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Oliver Bandel’s comments in Posting 7]
[Oliver wrote] WELL, LABANOTATION LOOKS A LOT LIKE "STRAIGHTEN YOUR RIGHT LEG AT COUNT THREE AND YOUR LEFT ARM AT COUNT 4&E".
MUSIC NOTATION SEEMS MORE ABSTRACT TO ME.
[Greg responds] I would have to agree that in terms of abstractness, LN is probably somewhere between standard music notation and instrument-specific tabulature notation.
Posting 9, Janet Descutner, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Oliver Bandel’s comments in Posting 1]
I'm sorry, I have been observing and suffering through your attempts to understand the use of notation in what appears to be a vacuum, recently filled by a lot of attempts to clarify in simple terms what is a very complex system at its most communicative levels. I finally can't stay out of this ongoing dialogue with you. My name is Janet Descutner. I am an Associate Professor Emerita at the University of Oregon and I have taught Labanotation and reconstructed many Labanotation scores over the past 30 years.
Music notation does not tell the musician how to play, it tells the musician what to play, with indications as to its emphasis (loud, soft, etc). Dance notation is the same. The dance in the notation is the same as the music in the notation, it is interpreted and brought to life artistically by the artistic interpreter, who has a lifetime (however currently long) of training and is assisted in learning the specific actions that bring the music to t [sic]
The notation is not the art. The art is the ability of the performer/reader/reconstructor to bring the notation back to the ear, the eye, the heart, by understanding its implications, not just reading its symbols. Just as one can hear the same musical score performed in different ways, depending on the "read' of the musician, the dance becomes what the artist makes it after reading its "facts" from a score. The exemplary score is one that provides the most pertinent information in the most detail--to reveal emphasis, energy/dynamics, all those things that make the dance more than just body parts moving in space to a beat.
Young pianists may be able to read the notes and hit the tones. Young dancers can strike the poses and make the shapes in time. Artistry is acquired over a period of time and deepens with familiarity. A reader of notation strives not only to get intimate with all of the details of a score, but to know as much as possible about renderings of that event (whether from score or the originals or the reconstructions prior to scores) in order to reveal its essence insofar as we can know it. And P.S., even reconstructions of a work under the original artist are frequently redirected in their emphases in order to use the special resonance of a particular performer. I have observed this happening with many guest artists and our students.
As an expressive mover, one cannot be operating in performance on a muscle-activator level, just as a pianist cannot be concerned with the physics of moving the cheeks, fingers, lungs. These are elementary levels of learning that are essential. But once one gets to the expression of more complex choreographic events, one know longer "sees the forward middle symbol" any more than one would "experience the contraction of bicep, release to extension". ETC. The action as a whole becomes a statement.
Advanced, professional artists in dance do not operate on that "computer internal muscle-activation-description language" system that you describe. I'd really like to know how such a system could be considered "more simple," since I know from observing the reports of our dance science students who do studies isolating certain muscular actions and their relationship to the results, that it is very complex, and the results don't necessarily flow out accurately from the intent. The learning is on a deeper level.
Actors do not declaim by the text's oral indications (there are none, for the most part). That is left to the artist, and, in the case of notated artistry (the script, the musical score, the notation of movement) the artistic history, ability, and training of the artist recreating the work and performing it.
The glorious thing about the performing arts that no "divine model" exists to say what the "acceptable translation" of the performed text must be. Juliet performed by a sensitive, talented and inspired actor is saying the same words as any other Juliet, but some are magical; others are not. Just as Clytemnestra either exhudes the strength essential to the role or does not. (in dance or in theatre). The script is not the responsible party for such differences.
Our efforts in notation have not been to provide the ideal model for the perfect performance which has no deviations, but to indicate the outline which provides the original material with its special emphases in space, time, dynamics, for the artist's exploration--and then let the spirit and experience of that artist fill it out. If one has seen and experienced a lot of dance, theatre or music, this process is not a foreign one.
Each generation/artist must find a way to fulfill the role and make the movement her/his own as well as that of the original. Many dancers have performed Cunningham's (name the favorite artist of your choice) actions but with their own (and their generation's) stamp on the activity. Please realize that absorbing a skill with all its accoutrements is a long-term task. One's understanding of simple indications (right high, left low forward) take on meaning in their context and complexity. Although learning to read notation is an integral part of music, it does not contain any instructions as to how to move the fingers. It symbolizes the intent; the resulting application is up to the artist.
Posting 10, Janet Descutner, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Oliver Bandel’s comments in Posting 3]
I now have read your other chain in this particular sequence. Of course, there are many different ways of performing a movement. We have made an attempt to get at this at this in many ways--with the introductory material in scores, by using Effort/Shape descriptors within a score to indicate energy use and spatial intent, as well as just directions and levels of arrival and pathways. Have you looked at any specific scores of specific dances? Some give an extensive Forward on the particular style. Balanchine scores indicate his specific uses of standard vocabulary in the explanatory materials as well as within the score itself. Pathways or classical positions may deviate from standard practices in ballet and so are indicated. Humphrey scores also elaborate on such elements as breath, inhalation, release, fall, etc., both in the forward and in the notation itself.
The reader must, of course, be advanced and experienced enough in both reading/interpreting notation and familiarity with the specific style of the choreographer to be able to reveal its essence as s/he turns the symbols into the recognizable style of a particular artist's movement.
The point is not that the "notator MAY notate it.” If it is part of the work, it is notated specifically, in order to render the underlying style as well as the general shapes that occur. The process of learning all of these notions as well as their symbolization takes more than a few weeks, just as reading Shakespeare with any depth of understanding requires more than just knowing how to pronounce the individual words.
Posting 11, Odette Blum, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Janet Descutner ’s comments in Posting 9 and Posting 10]
You have put it in a nutshell beautifully in both e-mails. Thank you.
Posting 12, Greg Halloran, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Janet Descutner’s comments in Posting 9]
I could not have stated this better. I am going to save this to help clarify the directing process for my students.
Posting 13, Oliver Bandel, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Janet Descutner’s comments in Posting 9]
[JANET WROTE] MUSIC NOTATION DOES NOT TELL THE MUSICIAN HOW TO PLAY, IT TELLS THE MUSICIAN WHAT TO PLAY, WITH INDICATIONS AS TO ITS EMPHASIS (LOUD, SOFT, ETC). DANCE NOTATION IS THE SAME.
[Oliver responds] Well. Ok, that is a new view for me. I thought dance notation is what to play, but also can be used to indicate how to play.
And some answers of people in other threads seemed to be saying this: LN can be used to say how to perform a dance. And I thought that this is what was intended when notators are archiving dances: They do not only say what text, they also say how to say it - not the textbook, but the screenplay, with details in it, what the actor has to do and how.
If movement notation is intended to say the essence of a movement, then the next question comes up: How detailed is it necessary to notate it?
So, my attempt for notating a dance is: Write down the dance so that I can better remember what the choreography is all about (at least in: how to move (which directions and so on), and to perform it better next time I dance it, and to preserve the dance on later days. The "what the choreography is all about" in respect to "the theme is love and dead", or similar, is different from "what the choreography is all about" in purely "movements in space". But there may/will be connections between a movement and its meaning.
But it's often easier to ask the choreographer what he wants to express... (and if this is not notated, you need to ask him/her).
But then it maybe does not matter how I use LN.
I thought that LN - like notators use it – is always at a higher complexity level, because nearly everything is necessary when notating a dance from professional choreographers.
But if I interpret your answer correctly, a notation of such a dance could also be very simple? Only notating some basic movements and not the expressiveness of the dancer (or the intended expressiveness of the choreographer)?
I'm confused, because IMHO you say other things than other people on this list. Or maybe one day I can integrate both perspectives on a higher level.
Maybe there are a lot of things that I heard about movement notation. I heard things like:
- "LN is too complicated and it does not make sense to use it if the essence of a movement should be written down. If you want to have a notation system for your usage, use Motif, not LN."
- "Why use Motif? If you really want to write a notation, Motif will not help you. If you start notating, do it right and use LN: It's detailed and it's intended to use it detailed. Why use Motif? If you improvise, improvise. And if you notate a movement, do it perfectly and don't crap around with Motif."
- "Motif is good for choreographing, improvisation and remembering your own choreography. LN is not good for choreographing/improvisation. It's good for archiving dances: You can write down any nifty/sophisticated detail."
- "You can use LN for your own purposes. If you do not need further details, leave them out in your score. But don't [think] that a notator would accept this minimalistic score."
- "LN can be used detailed enough to even write down how to perform. So it's possible to read a dance style out of a score."
-"LN is intended to say what the dances’ movement is all about. It shows you what is danced, not how it was performed."
- (add many other things that IMHO are contradictory)
These (and many more) opinions about LN/Motif and dance notation as a whole, as well as few (very interesting/enlightening!) experiences with LN, are what is rumbling in my thoughts.
This is quite chaotic, and I have a lot of ideas which are going into different directions as well as I hear different things from other people.
I hope the picture will be clearer with more experience in dance notation.
(And I'm happy that you have written this mail, because it's necessary hear the voice of LN-experienced people.)
[Janet wrote] THE NOTATION IS NOT THE ART.
[Oliver responds] Well, sometimes I think LN is so complex that it's art to use it. ;-)
[Janet wrote] THE ART IS THE ABILITY OF THE PERFORMER/READER/RECONSTRUCTOR TO BRING THE NOTATION BACK TO THE EAR, THE EYE, THE HEART, BY UNDERSTANDING ITS IMPLICATIONS, NOT JUST READING ITS SYMBOLS.
[Oliver responds] So each dance archive with notation must necessarily be enriched by video material as well as historical and ethnological notes, if it is intended to preserve information of dances of other cultural regions or folk dances of local/family dance styles, or styles of subcultures.
Using notation only then may be sufficient for artists looking for a dance theme. But for cultural studies, notation alone is not complete.
Can you second this?
And a lot of dancing people think that notation is not necessary, because it does not bring any advantages and is a waist of time. Often they say, I use video. Dance notation is not worth learning.
I think you will completely disagree here.
[Janet wrote] AND P.S., EVEN RECONSTRUCTIONS OF A WORK UNDER THE ORIGINAL ARTIST ARE FREQUENTLY REDIRECTED IN THEIR EMPHASES IN ORDER TO USE THE SPECIAL RESONANCE OF A PARTICULAR PERFORMER. I HAVE OBSERVED THIS HAPPENING WITH MANY GUEST ARTISTS AND OUR STUDENTS.
[Oliver responds] This is very interesting. But then the question about "how necessary is so much detail" arises. ("Use Motif, not LN, it shows you the essence of a dance...", as people told me.)
[Janet wrote] AS AN EXPRESSIVE MOVER, ONE CANNOT BE OPERATING IN PERFORMANCE ON A MUSCLE-ACTIVATOR LEVEL, JUST AS A PIANIST CANNOT BE CONCERNED WITH THE PHYSICS OF MOVING THE CHEEKS, FINGERS, LUNGS.
[Oliver responds] No this was not intended as a notation for usage in dance classes. It can be an underlying notation system, on which many abstractions can be done: If you need only a score which shows change of support, you grab it out. If you need only a score indicating rotations or directions, it can be excerpted out of low-level descriptions. If you want to have only an indication on change of directions, or a diagram on coordination of hand-and-arm or on body-patterns, you can get it.
But at least on the body-pattern level (Body Half, Upper-Lower,...) IMHO this can be a nice add on in an LN score (as well as symbols, indicating shape could be added, or the indication of a view or a floor plan, and so on).
But maybe a sequence through the body in a crossconnected way can be written down in LN as a sequence of movement. If so, then LN is much more near to such a muscle-description language (!!!) than if many movement-details would be written on a higher-abstraction level (writing "Body Half" is more abstract than writing down the arm, leg, chest,...).
[Janet wrote] THESE ARE ELEMENTARY LEVELS OF LEARNING THAT ARE ESSENTIAL. BUT ONCE ONE GETS TO THE EXPRESSION OF MORE COMPLEX CHOROEOGRAPHIC EVENTS, ONE KNOW LONGER "SEES THE FORWARD MIDDLE SYMBOL" ANY MORE THAN ONE WOULD "EXPERIENCE THE CONTRACTION OF BICEP, RELEASE TO EXTENSION". ETC. THE ACTION AS A WHOLE BECOMES A STATEMENT.
[Oliver responds] And (IMHO) writing it on a level of body-patterns (bodily patterns in the sense of P. H.'s "Making Connections") this is much more abstract, and much more of "what is meant", than writing it in how I have seen LN until today.
(I first thought that LN is more abstract, but from that viewpoint I take here, it seems that bodily patterns are more abstract. Or -- if not more abstract, they are at least more complex.)
In physics movements are described by differential equations. In medicine muscle activation and muscle chain activation can be used. In dance often ballet terms are used.
For me, dance notation is located somewhere above muscle-activation and indicating directions. But maybe you use it completely different. But a laban score indicates directions and it says which limbs to use.
The problem here is, that dance is both: a theme for the physics (space, time, speed/velocity, acceleration, ...) as well as art (telling stories, evoking pictures in the audience, ...).
So I may look at it in the outer way (how it is taught in most classes). And that's not wrong. It's one way to look at it. It may also be interesting to measure frequencies in music..
And then there is the other side: How a music sounds, and a dance looks.
This is another viewpoint.
I'm looking for the linkage of these completely contradictory worlds (is light a wave or a particle?).
Dance notation - indicating directions and measuring it with "objective" time is linked to physics.
Dance notation - showing what is going on in a dance is linked to art.
I don't think that one perspective is more true than the other.
[Janet wrote] ADVANCED, PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS IN DANCE DO NOT OPERATE ON THAT "COMPUTER INTERNAL MUSCLE-ACTIVATION-DESCRIPTION LANGUAGE" SYSTEM THAT YOU DESCRIBE.
[Oliver responds] I have not intended it for usage of artists directly. It's the anatomically layer of dance – located between physics and art, directly linked to the body-terms.
(LN is also located between physics and art. This double linkage makes it complex.)
[Janet wrote] I'D REALLY LIKE TO KNOW HOW SUCH A SYSTEM COULD BE CONSIDERED "MORE SIMPLE," SINCE I KNOW FROM OBSERVING THE REPORTS OF OUR DANCE SCIENCE STUDENTS WHO DO STUDIES ISOLATING CERTAIN MUSCULAR ACTIONS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO THE RESULTS, THAT IT IS VERY COMPLEX, AND THE RESULTS DON'T NECESSARILY FLOW OUT ACCURATELY FROM THE INTENT. THE LEARNING IS ON A DEEPER LEVEL.
[Oliver responds] It's simpler in how the rules for such a language could be described: There are not rules and exceptions, which needs more rules, and more exceptions, which adds much more rules.
Such a muscle-description language is flat. LN is complex.
(The result of such a language may be very verbose, but detailed. Because of its many detailed descriptions of movement, it may be difficult to survey, but it has no complex structure.)
OK, I will stop here!
I now conclude: LN is not intended to write down how a movement is performed. It only says which movement is performed.
But I don't know how to decide where the WHAT ends and the HOW begins (and vice versa).
IMHO there is no clear border.
Posting 14, Oliver Bandel, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Janet Descutner’s comments in Posting 10]
[JANET WROTE] I NOW HAVE READ YOUR OTHER CHAIN IN THIS PARTICULAR SEQUENCE. OF COURSE, THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT WAYS OF PERFORMING A MOVEMENT. WE HAVE MADE AN ATTEMPT TO GET AT THIS AT THIS IN MANY WAYS--WITH THE INTRODUCTORY MATERIAL IN SCORES, BY USING EFFORT/SHAPE DESCRIPTORS WITHIN A SCORE TO INDICATE ENERGY USE AND SPATIAL INTENT, AS WELL AS JUST DIRECTIONS AND LEVELS OF ARRIVAL AND PATHWAYS. HAVE YOU LOOKED AT ANY SPECIFIC SCORES OF SPECIFIC DANCES?
[Oliver responds] Some months ago I browsed through a book of an old dance. There were music notes, stage plans, the laban score and the beginning of the book contains texts and photos as documentation. I think it was a ballet. But I can't remember if there was one of body-specific symbols or comments.
[Janet wrote] SOME GIVE AN EXTENSIVE FORWARD ON THE PARTICULAR STYLE.BALANCHINE SCORES INDICATE HIS SPECIFIC USES OF STANDARD VOCABULARY IN THE EXPLANATORY MATERIALS AS WELL AS WITHIN THE SCORE ITSELF. PATHWAYS OR CLASSICAL POSITIONS MAY DEVIATE FROM STANDARD PRACTICES IN BALLET AND SO ARE INDICATED. HUMPHREY SCORES ALSO ELABORATE ON SUCH ELEMENTS AS BREATH, INHALATION, RELEASE, FALL, ETC., BOTH IN THE FORWARD AND IN THE NOTATION ITSELF.
[Oliver responds] How can I get a good overview on how are dances notated in different styles?
This labanotation material is not available in any bookstore and/or library. So a good overview on many different ways of real-world notations could help.
The simple beginner’s tutorials are not how it looks when a notator makes his staffs. And additionally, maybe each notator has his own style.
Here again, I think typographical issues and/or recommendations could help. Additionally I'm wondering if there are for labanotation what for programmers are so called coding rules. And, ok, these may change during the years. That complete staff that I've seen is many decades old. And so it will not be how dances/movements would be notated today...
... or is the way of how to create such a score even today completely dependent on how the choreographer/performer/notator is working?
How much (and what) of the notation is personal style?
Normally, when I read about labanotation, it looks like "all is done by certain rules". But when asking in this list, it seems that people say: "it depends."
So, is a labanotation staff art itself, or is it only a tool, like a ruler, a color-circle, a paintbrush?
When I look at music notation, they sometimes look ugly, and sometimes are well typeset. But normally they are written in a certain style.
How is that in labanotation? And: Where can I find examples of notations of different complexity and different usage of symbols?
[Janet wrote] THE READER MUST, OF COURSE, BE ADVANCED AND EXPERIENCED ENOUGH IN BOTH READING/INTERPRETING NOTATION AND FAMILIARITY WITH THE SPECIFIC STYLE OF THE CHOREOGRAPHER TO BE ABLE TO REVEAL ITS ESSENCE AS S/HE TURNS THE SYMBOLS INTO THE RECOGNIZABLE STYLE OF A PARTICULAR ARTIST'S MOVEMENT.
[Oliver responds] So then the notation (laban notation) alone is not detailed enough. That was a matter of discussion some weeks ago [on LabanTalk].
So, when I conclude this, I can say: There is no notation system that notates the style of a dance.
That means: When people in some hundred years find some papers with labanotation, and a complete description of how the system will be used, they will not be able to reproduce the dance if they do not have video-material or further information.
Especially because today’s dances and choreography can be performed in many different styles, and are not typically bound to a historical period (all styles of the last centuries will be danced today too, and additionally all newer styles), the historical view lacks precision.
Looked from this perspective, a labanotation score can not be used instead of a video-recording. It can only be added to it. Or, saying it in the other way: A laban score must be completed by video-material to have a "complete" description.
(But above you mentioned scores that were more detailed and even notating breath support......so. again I'm not sure, how it is.)
[Janet wrote] THE POINT IS NOT THAT THE "NOTATOR MAY NOTATE IT.” IF IT IS PART OF THE WORK, IT IS NOTATED SPECIFICALLY, IN ORDER TO RENDER THE UNDERLYING STYLE AS WELL AS THE GENERAL SHAPES THAT OCCUR.
[Oliver responds] So, this is possible?
Where can I find notation-examples?
[Janet wrote] THE PROCESS OF LEARNING ALL OF THESE NOTIONS AS WELL AS THEIR SYMBOLIZATION TAKES MORE THAN A FEW WEEKS, JUST AS READING SHAKESPEARE WITH ANY DEPTH OF UNDERSTANDING REQUIRES MORE THAN JUST KNOWING HOW TO PRONOUNCE THE INDIVIDUAL WORDS.
[Oliver responds] Yes, ok. I'm not patient. :-)
But if I don't see different scores and can see the common and the differences, I have the problem that I can't learn to work with that notation.
It would be nice if there were some examples or excerpts of complete scores available on web. Or a book explaining different styles of movement notation with many examples, and explaining good and bad ideas.
If I want to know something about good old book-typography, I look into Jan Tschicholds books about typography, or read newer (less strict) authors on that topic. In his books about typography, he shows examples and says: If you do it in this way, then the reader has this or that advantages, and if you design your book in another way, you will create a mess for the reader. And it begins with size and color of the paper, the fonts and its sizes, the change of fonts in documents, and a lot of more information.
But this is for books. In books, normally people think, only the text is essential. But even here the layout can't be ignored.
In laban-scores the layout itself is "the main thing". But it seems to me that there is no such thing like a typographical guide.
A notation rule (like coding rules for programmers) maybe could help here? And these notation rules could say which symbols, which layout, if colored or not, would be recommended. And it also could say when to add to notation symbols for body organization.
Well, Gutenberg is about 500 years ago... and Laban is too new...?!
Posting 15, Oliver Bandel, December 12, 2002
[Responding to Leslie Bishko's comments in Posting 4]
[Leslie wrote] THE LABAN SYSTEM GOES WELL BEYOND SIMPLY NOTATING WHICH PART ROTATES WHEN, AND PATTERNS OF ORGANIZATION ARE CERTAINLY INCLUDED.
[Oliver responds] Where can I find examples?
Are there scores in the web?
It's not possible for me to order twenty different notation books in the USA in the hope of getting the information I need.
Isn't there a study comparing styles of LN scores?
Posting 16, Jack Clark, December 11, 2002
[Responding to Oliver Bandel’s comments in Posting 1]
This sounds like a noble ideal - but identifying the muscular co-ordination for dance is so personalized that even the ideal muscular performance of any given action is not negotiable by all bodies in so direct of approach. Some bodies already activate the "correct" muscular connective co-ordination response for certain movements, and to restate that may cause an over "contraction" over certain muscle groupings, which is not too desirable or functional. Others may need to "un-contract" or relax the involvement of other muscular patterns to allow the "ideal" grouping of contractions to take over. So much depends upon a person's personal imagery which supplies that person with the muscular co-ordination pattern that creates a movement, and that imagery may even be sub-conscious in nature. However, if you can identify the main muscle groups and the types of contraction (eccentric, concentric, fast twitch, etc.) which lead or follow the movement to its end point, that will produce an "ideal" muscular performance, then you can notate that information next to and as a part of the notation's spatial origins. But to think that all humanity share the same inner language for motional motivation may be too big a task for any researcher. You may have better luck finding the inner working of one localized group of movers who share all cultural re-conditionings, along with their dance teachers, and focus on that. That is what Laban was attempting in the beginnings of his research into the ideas that movement could be converted into symbols, but so many of the determining factors were dictated by regional influences of his time. His discoveries eventually led him to focus his notation on the objectivity of the visual elements, instead of motivation.
Posting 17, Janet Descutner, December 13, 2002
[Responding to Oliver Bandel’s comments in Posting 14]
You're certainly a thorough and persistent seeker of information. Apparently you are not in the vicinity of any Labanotation-stocked library. Many university libraries have copies of scores that have been made available for purchase--notations of Isadora Duncan style dances, Doris Humphrey's works, ballets notated by Ann Hutchinson, etc. I assume you are not in America, where you could, if a university student, have inter-library loan access to such scores. Others are available from the Dance Notation Bureau for purchase (Ann Rodiger's, Ray Cook's, others I can't remember right now without the catalogue).
Some of these are scored at the appropriate level of complexity to allow the dance to be more or less fully represented. Of course, the more "fleshed out" a score is, the higher the detail and subsequent level of comprehension of the symbols and their inter-relationships required to make sense of it. In this aspect, dance notation (Labanotation is the one I'm the most familiar with) is more complex than music notation. The need to show interrelationships between many body parts as well as between many dancers might be equated with a musical score for piano or orchestra, with many complex chords or instruments and specific fingering indicated. Just plain old experience and specific, incisive attention to detail are good requisites for a reader/reconstructor. These are not skills that develop in the first year of study, just as sentence structure in written languages doesn't get addressed until students have ease recognizing letters and the words that they make up. It's a long process, and needs to be accompanied by many and various experiences dancing and observing the myriad forms of dance.
Good luck on your journey.
Posting 18, Oliver Bandel, December 17, 2002
[Responding to Neil Ellis Orts’s comments in Posting 5]
[Neil wrote] HAVING ONLY THE VAGUEST OF NOTIONS ABOUT LABANOTATION, IT SEEMS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE THAT NOT EVERY NUANCE WILL BE PICKED UP BY EVERY DANCER, HOWEVER ADVANCED THE NOTATION. I THINK THE MUSICAL SCORE ANALOGY IS PERTINENT.
SINCE THERE WERE NO SOUND RECORDING INSTRUMENTS UNTIL A LITTLE MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO, WE REALLY HAVE NO IDEA IF WHAT WE HAIL AS A GREAT PERFORMANCE OF BACH IS AT ALL WHAT BACH INTENDED. . .
[Oliver responds] Yes, and maybe he would cry if he hear what our best players perform today (like the composer, you mentioned, who had a horror hearing the piano player).
[Neil wrote] BUT THANK GOODNESS WE HAVE THE SCORES TO APPROXIMATE SOMETHING FOR OUR TIME. THIS MAY BE ALL WE CAN HOPE FOR IN DANCE NOTATION AS WELL.
[Oliver responds] Well, you mentioned Bach... as far as I know, organ players who lived many centuries before us played the melody with one hand. This melody was written down. With the other hand they played the bassline.
They played certain basslines, as it was "normal" in these days. It was obvious to them that nothing else could be played.
Today, the basslines are written down for the people of today, who have heard many more different music styles, and for whom it is not "normal" or "obvious" to play a certain bassline.
Is this because today’s organ players are not such good performers? Is it because some stupid/silly people were there who thought that it would be necessary to write down what every organ player of the old centuries had already known?
Or is it a "make it explicit" for the people who are living many centuries later and would – instead of an old bassline -- maybe add a jazz-bassline to a piece of Bach's melody?
Well, IMHO it makes no sense to rely on "well known" things (including mouth-to-ear history in such a fast changing world) like how to play a melody or how to move, because we may know how it has to be performed correctly.
At that moment, when we can find a new way to differentiate things (melody, movement, any other thing we can think about and do our research), we should explicitly write down what we can perceive. If we have a way to make a distinction, but do not use it - what sense does it make?
I think in Laban's days many things we know today were not invented. So, why should we rely on old models?
And since today dance researchers are able to put into words what they can see (e.g. bodily patterns/muscle activation), they should do it - and write it down.
Maybe it was obvious to use the body for a certain movement in a certain way some decades ago, but the world (and the dance world too) will be more and more pluralistic and differentiated.
So why can we say that it makes no sense to write down different ways of performing a dance, and that it's better to ignore on the score what we know?
Why not write down what is possible? If a score is too rigid, too strict for more modern times (say in 200 years our "wild" and "modern" dances may seem to be classic stuff and boring to newer people), then it's always possible to interpret them in a different way than they are written down.
But if information we can write down explicitly (because we can differentiate and therefore perceive it) is ignored on a score (because we think that it is obvious to use the body in this or that way, or because of any other reason), then we throw away the chances of more accurate dance-research/dance-history of future generations of dance researchers.
Posting 19, Oliver Bandel, December 17, 2002
[Responding to Jack Clark’s comments in Posting 16]
[Jack wrote] THIS SOUNDS LIKE A NOBLE IDEAL - BUT IDENITFYING THE MUSCULAR CO-ORDINATION FOR DANCE IS SO PERSONALIZED THAT EVEN THE IDEAL MUSULAR PERFORMANCE OF ANY GIVEN ACTION IS NOT NEGOIABLE BY ALL BODIES IN SO DIRECT OF APPROACH. SOME BODIES ALREADY ACTIVATE THE "CORRECT" MUSCULAR CONNECTIVE CO-ORDINATION RESPONCE FOR CERTAIN MOVEMENTS, AND TO RESTATE THAT MAY CAUSE AN OVER "CONTRACTION" OVER CERTAIN MUSCLE GROUPINGS, WHICH IS NOT TOO DESIREABLE OR FUNCTIONAL. OTHERS MAY NEED TO "UN-CONTRACT" OR RELAX THE INVOLVEMENT OF OTHER MUSCULAR PATTERNS TO ALLOW THE "IDEAL" GROUPING OF CONTRACTIONS TO TAKE OVER. SO MUCH DEPENDS UPON A PERSON'S PERSONAL IMAGRY WHICH SUPPLIES THAT PERSON WITH THE MUSCULAR CO-ORDINATION PATTERN THAT CREATES A MOVEMENT, AND THAT IMAGRY MAY EVEN BE SUB-CONSCIOUS IN NATURE.
[Oliver responds] But don't you think it can be learned to distinguish?
The problem of doing it right is there even when people are working with the "outer" images and the so called objective approach of "movements in space" controlled by looking.
Often people do not put their arms 90 degrees to the side when the teacher tells them "arm to the side" or "allongee". It's often that people put the arms beyond the area that is in the view-space. "Put arms to the side" often means "put them so much to the side, so that you can't see your fingers anymore". This is not "right" or "left", it is "right-backward"/"left-backward".
That's the same problem: Some people are not able to do the right movement, even if there is a so called "objective" approach to movement.
Normally people can learn this, but then they also can learn to recognize more fine grained movement observation. It's always amazing what dance teachers can see. Often dance teachers see body patterns and muscle activations that untrained people can't see, or that all the students don't do correctly. If there are activated muscles that must be inactivated, it is astounding that dance-teachers say to not activate them, even if the students were not aware of an activated muscle/(-group).
So why shouldn't it be possible to write such things down into notation? Some dance styles are using relaxed muscle groups more often, others are using activated muscle groups more often. And it additionally is what is called "personal style" that can be described with such muscle group activations.
If movement observation means describing a movement, and movement notation means notating it, why should such notators ignore such patterns? Is it too difficult? Then they may ask dance teachers - they often see, what is going on (but often have no standardized language and here can learn from notators as well as people who are well involved in medicine and anatomy).
[Jack wrote] HOWEVER, IF YOU CAN IDETIFY THE MAIN MUSCLE GROUPS AND THE TYPES OF CONTRACTION (ECENTRIC, CONCENTRIC, FAST TWITCH, ETC.) WHICH LEAD OR FOLLOW THE MOVEMENT TO IT'S END POINT, THAT WILL PRODUCE AN "IDEAL" MUSCULAR PERFORMANCE, THEN YOU CAN NOTATE THAT INFORMATION NEXT TO AND AS A PART OF THE NOTATION'S SPATIAL ORIGINS.
[Oliver responds] Writing it in words onto the score? Using symbols has advantages.
BUT TO THINK THAT ALL HUMANITY SHARE THE SAME INNER LANGUAGE FOR MOTIONAL MOTIVATION MAY BE TOO BIG A TASK FOR ANY RESEARCHER.
[Oliver responds] That's the point: many people use different words. And this has advantages as well as disadvantages. It is good to have "real world" descriptions, using "daily life terms" for describing movement. But it also is good to have a language into which can be translated, and on which can be recurred.
It's not necessary that dance teachers have studied medicine, but some anatomy terms are necessary and will help.
[Jack wrote] YOU MAY HAVE BETTER LUCK FINDING THE INNER WORKING OF ONE LOCACLIZED GROUP OF MOVERS WHO SHARE ALL CULTURAL RE-CONDITIONINGS, ALONG WITH THEIR DANCE TEACHERS, AND FOCUS ON THAT.
[Oliver responds] Well, ballet terms are used widely. I think they should be known. The problem is not that there are these terms. The problem is that I have seen a lot of teachers that are able to do it, to dance it, but explaining it? Well, and maybe a notator can write it down but not perform all of these amazingly things.
I'm looking for the linkage between these two sides. Describing in another language, with another approach, means to have one more system, on which people can rely as a possible way of learning it.
It's because there are so many different views that a common language can help. It does not necessarily mean to throw away localized languages and views. But it means to have one more (hopefully) widely used language.
It can be used as a translation of ballet (and other certain dance-specific) terms into localized terms/words/ views of the world.
I think it makes much more sense to tell a dancer that he/she should do a movement "more isolated" or "more flowing through the body", or "use crossconnection instead of isolation for your arm movement" than to say: "do it like the <dancer-xyz> in <choreographer-xyz> his <choreography-xyz>".
I think a more body oriented approach - even if it seems to be more subjective and less objective - may be more "objective" sometimes.
[Jack wrote] THAT IS WHAT LABAN WAS ATTEMPTING IN THE BEGINNINGS OF HIS RESEARCH INTO THE IDEAS THAT MOVEMENT COULD BE CONVERTED INTO SYMBOLS, BUT SO MANY OF THE DETERMINING FACTORS WERE DICTATED BY REGIONAL INFLUENCES OF HIS TIME.
[Oliver responds] Which factors of Laban's work do you mean to be so dedicated to the time and history? And: are they used today, or are they not used because they were so limited to a certain period/region?
[Jack wrote] HIS DISCOVERIES EVENTUALLY LED HIM TO FOCUS HIS NOTATION ON THE OBJECTIVITY OF THE VISUAL ELEMENTS, INSTEAD OF MOTIVATION.
[Oliver responds] Well, maybe he was not so body oriented as other dancers/dance-researchers. He was interested in architecture and mathematics, not in medicine.
And doing "research" often is looking for objective/positivts research in biology, chemistry, physics is done... this often leads to problems.
Dance research and movement observation is a wide field. This can be interesting as well as overwhelming.
You may use differential equations for describing movement; you may use sociological and psychological views; or you are a ethnological researcher; you can analyze it as an art-form, or in historical perspective; it's possible to analyze it as is done in sports, so you may look at optimizing force; or many other views.
But compared to that wide field of possible viewpoints onto dance, identifying body organizations seems to me to be very close to describing the movement directions of a limb.
There are already such terms in use (LIMS). But they are not widely used. IMHO describing a movement in body organizations makes a lot of sense. For me this should be more than only localized used (small people group) language.
Especially, because dance teachers already are able to detect muscle activation, even if they are not certified movement observers, it should be possible to identify such patterns for dance notators. And dance teachers IMHO should use these terms for describing it.
BTW: What are "objective visual elements"? Even the so called objective visual description is always problematic: It's subjective, even if we normally think of it as an objective approach. It's not only subjective, it also has a lot of problems: Perception always is non-perfect.
Some weeks ago I found an article on research of movement perception. Problem: Viewing a moved object; when it stops or disappears in the view, its last position will be estimated wrong by the viewing person. The reason is, that the eye's mechanical (movement!) properties leads to this over-estimation of last viewable position estimation.
So, how can - for example - a movement description be objective here? Some people are well trained with their eyes to have a more accurate estimation. Others are less well trained, or are tired at the time of the observation, and tired eye-muscles will lead to different estimations of the last position.
So, how is "writing down the outer form of the movement" more "objective" than writing down muscular activation (which, btw, also is detected by eye very often)?
So, why not accept this "we are always non-objective" and use additional helping descriptions?