In preparation for Sydney Dance Company’s production, Synergy with Synergy, the percussionists of Synergy provided Graeme Murphy with a number of pieces from the percussion repertoire for consideration, selected for their potential compatibility with dance and dancers. For myself and the other members of Synergy, the most complicated part of the process at the time, was negotiating through our different instrumental set-ups during the on-stage performance. For Synergy with Synergy, we knew the music well before we came to rehearse with the dancers.
Graeme was keen to approach Free Radicals quite differently. Significantly, there was to be no existing or pre-composed music and no large instrumental set-ups that would inhibit touring, always allowing for technical speed and efficiency in all kinds of theatres and even outdoor venues. So, on Day One of our rehearsal period – no choreography, NO MUSIC! My priority was to find a common rhythmic language for both dancers and musicians. Dance phrases are often counted from 1 to 8, while musicians use both even and uneven counting systems. This can be quite confusing in an envrionment based entirely on rhythm without obvious melody.
After some simple clapping and counting exercises, we settled on a simple method of expanding and contracting numbers and rhythms. A basic rhythm of 3 was expanded to 4, then to 5. This combination of 3, 4 and 5 gave us a larger phrase of 12 beats. Different groups of dancers and each of the three musicians were allocated a different combination of the numbers: 5 4 3; 4 3 5; 3 5 4.
These number systems (sometimes in canon, sometimes backwards, sometimes in layers) became the basis for much of the music of Free Radicals and the key for real interaction between dancers and musicians.
Michael Askill (Composer & Music Director)
Free Radicals Brad’s Solo – Link to Full Score