Saturday, January 29, 2011

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, November 17, 2010

Minutes for the Open Theory Meeting, November 17, 2010
Submitted by Charlotte Wile - January 29, 2011

Following are minutes for the Open Theory Meeting held at the Dance Notation Bureau November 17, 2010. The minutes were written by Charlotte Wile. 

Present: Zack Brown, Ray Cook, Tina Curran, Caity Gwin, Ann Hutchinson Guest (by phone for part of the meeting), Oona Haaranen (by Skype for part of the meeting,) Mira Kim, Mei-Chen Lu, Emile Way, Lynne Weber, Charlotte Wile.

  • Guidelines for ICKL papers
  • János Fügedi’s "Notes and Comments"

1.1   TOPIC #1 – Guidelines for ICKL papers

1.2 Tina: Since 1989 there have been a series of meetings concerned with establishing more rigorous discussion of Motif Notation development. The idea of having Motif Notation ICKL fellows was discussed at the 2007 and 2009 ICKL conferences. (See the October 20, 2009 minutes.).

1.3 Tina: A call for Motif Notation papers has been drafted for the upcoming ICKL conference in Budapest, August 2011.  These papers will not be used for decision making in the way that L/N theory papers are. Rather they will provide a way for the larger international Laban community to have thoughtful and rigorous discussion about Motif Notation theory.

1.4 Tina: In putting forth the call for theory papers we need to consider what we mean by thoughtful and rigorous discussion.  How do we think about and develop this work in a way that is cognitive of and provides recognition for the existing theoretical structures in all areas of the Laban work.

1.5 Charlotte pointed out that there have been many papers presented at ICKL about applications of Motif Notion. However, as far as she knows there are no papers that deal with Motif theory. What we are discussing is guidelines for what are referred to in ICKL as “technical papers”, i.e., symbols, rules of usage, etc.

1.6 Charlotte said that L/N technical papers at ICKL are sometimes presented out of context, i.e., just indications and their rules of usage are discussed. However, other papers also contain background information, such as ideas for how the indications should be used, the history of the idea, and so forth. Would it be useful to have both types of papers for Motif Notation discussions?

1.7 Mei said that many symbols are developed through the logic of the system. So you definitely need to know where the symbol comes from, especially if you are developing a new symbol.

1.8 Ray felt you need to have the “pros and cons” of the indications included in the discussions. Also, in the past when a technical paper was presented out of context, people sometimes misunderstood what it said. Then often Ann Guest would provide the history and background for what was being discussed.

1.9 Tina added that when ICKL first began, its members where highly qualified and knowledgeable practitioners. That is no longer the case. Presently only a handful of it members are very knowledgeable.

1.10 Mei: In ICKL decision making the votes of the experts counts more than the other members.

1.11 Tina: The discussions involve everyone, not just the small expert group, so there is an element of education.

1.12 Charlotte: In thinking about how Motif Notation should be discussed at ICKL, we should keep in mind that Motif Notation theory is relatively new and there are very few Motif Notation “experts”.

1.13 Mei: ICKL has a special research committee for L/N theory issues. Will there be such a committee for Motif Notation? Will there be voting on Motif Notation issues as there is for L/N issues?

1.14 Tina said that some people at ICKL favor having such a committee. However, at the last ICKL some people felt it is important to see if the wider Laban community that uses Motif Notation wants one. Tina doesn’t feel that we are at a place yet where people can say “This is right!”, or “That is wrong!” However, there should still be attention given to standardizing the system. We need to have something that frames and supports discussions, but that can grow organically.

1.15 Caity returned to the issue of theory vs. application. She felt it is essential that both components are present in a paper. You need to say this is how I’m applying an idea and this is how the theory fits into it.

1.16 Ray: In ICKL theory papers there are always many notation examples. However, some people feel the examples are not useful if they are made up. They need to be practical examples and come from existing notation.

1.17 Tina felt that having an experience with moving the ideas is very important. When people just sit and look at notation they are just in their heads. 

1.18 Mei: The theory develops because there is a need in the field for a particular way of notating.

1.19 Lynne: For instance, the idea of folding symbols came about because that was the way modern dance was being taught in the U.S.

1.20 Ray: For many years people wrote ballet arms with contraction symbols. But when the folding symbols were introduced, they realized that ballet arms really fold, they don’t contact. A contraction indication doesn’t indicate what is being done.

1.21 Tina feels that placing theory discussions in a context is a very good idea. One way to do this is to have each paper partnered with an experiential session where the theory is embodied physically. This will also be an opportunity to educate people about Motif Notation so there can be a higher level of discussion.

1.22 Caity: It is essential that the papers answer a question. It’s like a thesis.

1.23 Ray: The question could be about how to notate something in a way that is not present yet in the system.

1.24 Charlotte said that her theory ideas often come from a real world “need in the field.” For instance, the idea for “altitude signs” grew out of her work teaching young children (The signs are described in Chapter XIV of Moving About by Charlotte Wile with Ray Cook.) However, sometimes ideas come just from thinking about holes or ambiguities in the system. For instance, one day she was playing around with different ways to write a movement of the lower arm. That made her think of the idea of “shifting” body parts and how that could be  used to capture the intent of a limb part moving as a block. In this case the idea did not start with an application. Rather it just came from thinking about the system in an abstract way. (See paragraph 2.61 in the January 12, 2010 minutes.)

1.25 Tina: Finding ways to express the intent of movement is the artistry of our roles as writers.

1.26  The discussion switched to how the ICKL Motif discussions should be implemented.

1.27 Charlotte wondered how people could be encouraged to participate. Guidelines don’t mean anything unless people actually write papers and present workshops that use the guidelines.

1.28 Zack said it is good to have a way to draw together the disparate people in the Motif Notation community who are mostly working on their own.  To do this it is important to let people know what they can gain from participating. Zack said that what would encourage him would be having the ICKL work include a complete description of the deliberations. ICKL papers are not that helpful unless you already know what the paper is responding to. Including such information would then make it possible to create a full description of Motif Notation.

1.29 Caity felt Zack’s idea was more appropriate for decision making discussions. She felt that the idea under discussion was not to have a document that is the “be all and end all” resource that people could consult. Rather, it is about finding ways that we can talk about our work, rather than making “rules.”

1.30 Charlotte said she has a fantasy of creating an online Wikipedia of Motif Notation. It would contain papers on theoretical issues, but also would contain papers or links to writings that relate to that topic. Having all the relevant material and links in one place would make it possible to more easily see the evolution of ideas.

1.31 Tina: The Wikipedia could grow over time with various people contributing to a given topic.

1.32 Zack talked about the usefulness of standardization in Motif Notation. He feels that many people assume that standardization would be restrictive and no one could deviate from it.  However, in other examples of standardization that is not true. For instance, in the online world there are all kinds of standardization around HTML and style sheets and things that are used by a whole diversity of browsers. Each web browser uses HTML, Java script, etc. in its own way according to its inspiration. In the same way each Motif Notator can use notation in his own way according to his application. The standard allows everyone to understand the ways that other people are deviating from that standard.

1.33 Tina said that in the larger Laban community there is presently a strong opposition to “rule making” in Motif Notation. She feels it would be counterproductive at this point to have guidelines be about making rules. The whole point is to get people around the table talking and sharing. What happens organically is if something is a good idea, people use it and it becomes common practice. If it’s a shaky idea, people don’t use it and it goes away.

1.34 Various ideas for the guidelines were discussed. These would just be suggestions, not requirements.

1.35 For example, Charlotte felt that Motif Notation and Labanotation are sub-scripts of the same notation system. Therefore, in creating new symbols and rules of usage in Motif Notation one needs to take into account what is already established in Labanotation. And vice versa.

1.36 Ray said that when people create new L/N symbols they always consider the roots of the system. The new symbols always grow out of what was already established.

1.37 Mei felt it could be useful for authors to include unresolved issues and questions they have about their proposal.

1.38 Caity said this could include pointing out what may be weaknesses or is potentially wrong with a proposal.

1.39 The photo below shows Tina writing a summary of all the suggestions.  (Click the photo to make it larger.)

2.1 TOPIC #2. -János Fügedi’s “Notes and Comments"

2.2 At the August 4, 2010 meeting we discussed Ann Guest’s paper “The Timing of A Step”. (Ann wasn’t at the meeting. She had emailed us the paper.) The discussion centered around Ann’s statement on page 1:
"In marking off the vertical units of time, it is not the horizontal bar line or the ‘tick' marks that show the beat, the count of 1, 2, 3, etc. These signs are dividers, the moment of the beat comes just after the bar line or tick mark. A small amount of space on the page has to exist to represent that moment, that time unit, visually. (See Your Move, 2008 page 275.) Thus, for example, the foot hook or end of a contact bow needs to be placed in this small area, Ex. 1a and 1b. This fact, long agreed upon, has been missing from the Labanotation textbooks. My apologies."
2.3 At the Aug. 4 meeting the group wondered if Ann’s statement applied to all symbols, including, for example, direction signs in the support column. If so, does that mean that the time value of the direction sign begins after the tick? Some people said yes. Others said that the slight gap between a direction sign and the tick mark is just a convention that is done so the tick mark or bar line will stay visible, but the timing of the direction sign should begin at the tick mark. In that case the beat corresponds with the tick mark.

2.4 Before the meeting János e-mailed "Notes and Comments".  The comments were about Ann’s "The Timing of A Step" and the August 4, 2010 minutes.

2.5 In paragraph 2 of his paper János wrote:
“AHG Timing, par.1.: ‘moment of the beat comes just after the bar line or tick mark’: It should be understood carefully – not really taking what was written but what intended to be written. I think AHG meant the following: ‘a sign indicating the moment of the beat comes just after the bar line or tick mark’. It definitely should be completed, that mainly in case of symbols which do not have the capacity to express timing, such as space measurement signs, foot hooks, dynamic signs, body part signs, etc, the list is long. In case of such symbols the musical role sort of similar to the musical notes in a musical staff. As in the score below, no one would think that the first notes of the measures should be interpreted later than the main beat. The indication is a convention.”
2.6 Charlotte: I feel János’s interpretation of Ann’s statement is clarifying: “…… a sign indicating the moment of the beat comes just after the bar line or tick mark”.

2.7 Zack wanted to know what “just after” means.

2.8 Charlotte said it means a hairline. Or if there are hooks there needs to be enough space so that the hook won’t be covered by the bar line or tick. At the August 4 meeting we wondered if Ann’s statement applied to all symbols, e.g., a direction sign in a support column, even when there is not a hook.

2.9 Charlotte still wondered if Ann’s statement should be taken literally, or if she meant something like what János said in his interpretation of her statement. Is it a good idea to assume that Ann didn’t mean exactly what she wrote?

2.10 Charlotte said that this discussion shows once again how important it is to be clear in our writings about the system. Just as Ray is always saying, one word, one comma can lead us astray.

2.11 Caity had a different interpretation of what János was saying. She felt that both Ann and János were saying that the tick marks are devoid of timing. Timing occurs in the white area between the tick marks. Do the physical tick marks have timing, or are they just distinguishing marks and the timing happens between tick marks?

2.12 Tina suggested calling Ann in London to ask her for clarification. We all smiled when Tina said it was tea time in London.

2.13 Tina called Ann and put her on speaker phone so we could all talk with her.

2.14 Caity told Ann that we had a question about timing and tick marks. Does the tick mark have timing? Ann replied that the tick mark is like a fence dividing two fields.

2.15 Charlotte asked Ann about direction signs in the support column. If the direction sign begins a hairline after the tick mark, does the timing begin at the tick mark, or at the bottom of the direction sign?

2.16 Ann: Why is there a hairline gap?

2.17 Charlotte: When we discussed your paper “Timing of a Step,” we assumed that you were saying that there should be a small gap for all symbols.

2.18 Ann: Usually the direction sign sits on the bar line. There usually doesn’t need to be a hairline gap unless you are separating the direction sign from another direction sign below it, in which case the hairline should come before the bar line.

2.19 Ray said that in the L/N book, the space exists where the tick or bar line is. It doesn’t come before or after. The tick itself makes the slight gap.

2.20 Ann: If there are such small gaps, it may be due to penmanship of the person who wrote the notation.

2.21 Charlotte: In notation which just contains tick marks, would the beat occur at those marks?

2.22 Ann: It would come immediately after the tick.

2.23 Caity: So the direction sign does not overlap the tick mark. It sits on the tick mark; directly after it.

2.24 Ann: That’s right.

2.25 Mira pointed out that in Labanotation, 4th edition, page 308, symbols seem to overlap the tick mark. You don’t see the tick marks.

2.26 Ann said the question is whether the direction signs need to be drawn so the tick marks can be seen. In this case, it is true that they cannot be seen. However, the kind of time that the tick mark would represent is absolutely nothing. We don’t go into that kind of minuscule coping with time. In any case, the drawing of the symbols in the book could have been better so the tick marks show. Perhaps on Calaban [the software used for the book] it is not that easy to do that. It’s easier to show them when you draw the notation by hand.

2.27 Charlotte said that one thing that confused her was that on page 32, it says “Fig. 28 shows how the center line is marked off at regular intervals by small ticks, each tick marking the beginning of a new beat. The space between the ticks represents the duration of the beat.” Charlotte wondered if this statement conflicts with the idea that the beat occurs after the tick mark.
2.28 Ann: The tick is like a fence that marks the boundaries of property. You have a field and you have a fence surrounding the field. The fence doesn’t belong to one person or another. It marks the boundary of the property.

2.29 Ann: Perhaps Fig 28 would have been more accurate if the bracket had been drawn a tiny bit shorter. However, this is what I would call splitting hairs [everyone laughed].

2.30 Ann: When it comes to the end of a bow showing contact, we take a very small unit, like one tiny square, where a foot hook is placed. Otherwise visually the hook wouldn’t be clear. [Note from Charlotte: See Ex. 1a in “Timing of a Step.”]

2.31 Charlotte: I think in our discussion everyone understood the logic of having a gap when there is a foot hook. I think the confusion and disagreement within the group came when that logic is applied to plain direction signs in the support column.

2.32 Ann ended by saying the discussion involved very specific thinking. It is a question of “where to draw the line” and literally “where to draw the line”[everyone laughed].

2.33 We said goodbye to Ann. It was wonderful to discuss these issues directly with her. Everyone was very grateful to her for sharing her tea time with us.

2.34 We discussed our conversation with Ann further.

2.35 Caity said Ann’s fence metaphor was what worked best for her.

2.36 Mira said it was good to hear Ann’s perspective directly from her. Based on her explanation, her analysis makes sense. However, because Labanotation, 4th ed. is written in Calaban, the notation doesn’t match her ideas. LabanWriter can do what she is saying.

2.37 Zack explained what he believes Ann was trying to say when she talks about the moment of the beat coming just after the bar line. As time proceeds through a tick mark, that tick mark, having no vertical length, has no time value. That is why it doesn’t represent time. It just represents a division in time. The timing begins at the tick mark. But at that moment it is as though a “drum strike” occurs. That sound has duration. That duration is shown by a little tiny space just after the tick mark. That tiny space is what Ann is referring to. Also, that space is what you have in exact timing when the symbol is written a little above the tick or bar line. Zack wondered how big the space should be.

2.38 Some people in the group disagreed with Zack’s analysis. They felt Ann had been clear in the phone conversation that the timing begins after tick mark.

2.39 Zack said that when you take a step in dancing and have the sense of doing something “on the beat”, that “ beat” takes time that goes above the tick mark. That is why when you write in exact timing the end of the symbol protrudes above the tick mark or bar line.

2.40 Ray said this is not what happens when you are dancing. When you are dancing you don’t wait to hear the beat. As a dancer you have an inborn pulse and you anticipate the beat. The beat doesn’t take space in time.

2.41 Zack reiterated that the “beat” that we hear or sense when we move takes a certain amount of time. That time is represented by a space above the tick or bar line.

2.42 [Addendum from Charlotte. After the meeting I had another thought about the timing and tick issue. When we talked with Ann she said that Fig 28 in L/N 4th edition, shown again here below, is drawn incorrectly.  She said in the bracket in Fig. 28 should be drawn shorter. (See Paragraph 2.29 above.) I’m assuming she means as in Ex. 1 here below. In other words, the gaps separating symbols would not be included in the timing.  Wouldn’t this present a problem when determining the comparative time value of simultaneous indications? For instance, if the gaps between the supports in Ex 2 are not included in the time value, the cumulative time value of the support signs will be less than the time value of the arm indication (Ex. 3).

2.43 Also, if the timing of one beat is slightly shorter than the distance between the tick marks, does that mean the basic unit needs to drawn slightly shorter too?

2.44 On the other hand, what if one says that the slightly shortened length of signs, as in Ex. 2, is only a convention that is used to separate symbols or keep them from obscuring the tick mark or bar line? In other words, the slight space between signs should be included in calculating the time value. This would mean the timing actually corresponds with the tick marks, as in Fig. 8. Then there is no problem. In Ex. 2 the total time value of the stepping signs then equals the time value of the arm sign.]

2.45 The discussion changed to paragraph 7 in János’s paper. János wrote:

“Minutes Aug. 4, 1.77: ‘Lynne reiterated that most step patterns never get to centered.’ It was interesting to see that the notion of ‘centered’ meant something else for Lynne compared to how the notion was used in AHG’s paper. AHG meant that the CofG was centered above the supporting surface, while Lynne seemed to take ‘centered' as the sagittal line of the body projected on the ground.”

2.46 Lynne said she used the term “centered” in several ways. This is discussed in the video below. (To know who is on the video, go to minute 3.17 on it. Charlotte has her back to the camera. Then going clockwise around the table you will see Tina, Ray, Caity, Lynne, and Zack. Mei talks in the background).

2.47 Charlotte said this is another example of how confusing it can be when one term is given different meanings.

2.48 Ray said the same can be said about the tick issue. It is confusing when the meaning of symbols is not consistent. The placement of symbols in relation to tick marks varies according to when the notation was written. Back in the 60’s you had to leave a hairline gap that was the width of the blue line in graph paper.

2.49 Lynne: That was what it was supposed to be. But sometimes people wrote differently because it seemed easier.

2.50 Tina said that when you separate yourself from movement and you’re just looking at the science of the symbols on the page, and you’re looking at absolute rules and practices, then it becomes a study in itself. But this disassociates you from movement. In a movement context a hair width of something represented on paper is really irrelevant. So if you’re studying this issue for the sake of studying it, the hairline question makes sense. But when you’re looking at the translation of the notation into “lets get the dance on the stage” and "the dancers in the right space" and "let’s talk about artistry," the hairline is not of primary concern.

2.51 Charlotte agreed that in staging movement the time value of the hairline would probably not be relevant. However, our texts and other materials that tell us how to read and write a score discuss such details. Ann made an issue of  the hairline detail in her paper. The discussion of details in the texts makes them seem relevant. So when you read scores, and sometimes symbols sit on the tick mark and sometimes they don’t, you wonder if that reflects when the notators studied notation, or the sources they used as a standard, or is it just careless autography.  If there is a difference in the way the symbols are placed within the same score, you may wonder if that means there is a difference in the timing of the movements. And fifty years from now people will read scores and certainly wonder if differences in scores or within the same score mean there is a difference in the movement.

2.52 Tina: Ultimately the notation needs to be reader friendly and you need to be able to distinguish what is on the page.

2.53 Caity agreed with Tina that one can get stuck in theory. It is important to contextualize what we are discussing.

2.54 Ray said he understood what Tina was saying. However, when he picks up a score he reads it literally with the rules he knows, unless told otherwise in the glossary. The rules he knows may not be the rules the notator is assuming he knows. Since the rules keep changing the notator may be using a different set of rules.

2.55 Charlotte said she feels that you can do a close reading of a score and also be sensitive to the meaning and context of the movement.  In interpreting and staging certain scores you may have to ignore ambiguous notation and just do what you think is appropriate for that dance. However, if inconsistencies, even if they are details, aren’t explained in the glossary, and different texts and materials give different rules, and you’re aren’t sure what set of rules the notator is following, you can be left with questions about what the notator really wanted to say.

2.56 Zack: This is one of the things that I encounter a lot. Since I am not a dancer, people tend to dismiss me when I say I don’t know what a symbol means because it could mean this or it could mean that. It’s not clear.

2.57 Lynne discussed the background needed to read notation. In some scores you need to know the style of the dance in order to read the score. Other scores are written in great detail so that people who do not know the style will get it from the score. Such detailed scores are not easy to read, but if you work through them you will see what was intended.

2.58 Mei: We say that Labanotation is a universal language. However, it doesn’t always serve the purpose of a certain style, e.g., as when János discusses Hungarian dance.

2.59 Lynne said the problems computer scientists had with the way steps are indicated in L/N is another example. Just a simple step symbol in beginning notation held them up. You can write what the animators wanted, but it will be very detailed and difficult to read. How can you make the notation for such applications readable? It’s like writing poetry for a Russian. You are going to write it differently than if you are writing for an American because of the cultural differences. In the same way, if you’re writing for someone in the Graham company, you’re going to write differently from how you would write for someone who doesn’t know Graham technique.

2.60 Mei: That is why we need be clear about how timing really works when it is applied to different styles of movement.

2.61 Ray: An example is Pluto’s ideas for indicting timing in Tango. You can write the movement without his idea, but the notation is complicated and cumbersome. His idea gives you a way to write it simply.

2.62 Caity said Pluto’s idea relates to the discussion earlier about the importance of putting theory ideas in a context. Pluto’s ideas grew out of a need in movement.

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