Beneath the Skin (2006)
for cello, audio/video clips, Max/MSP/Jitter
Over the course of three movements this piece blends the cello with the female form. The movements become progressively less and less interactive as the performer is "merged" with the media rather than controlling it.
In the first movement each pizzicato attack causes an image to be displayed briefly. Certain pitches also cause audio samples to sound, with the software deciding which sample to play. As the movement progresses images of hands on the cello begin to be blended with images of hands on the body, symbolizing a blending of the two. The movement ends with a coda of sparse arpeggiations, triggering images of feet and hands.
In the second movement the volume of the cello controls how much of the female form we see at the beginning, and how much of a large eye is shown at the end. The critical point in the movement is when the eye first blinks: at that point we realize we are not looking at a photograph. The blinking of the eye references Manet's painting Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe, a painting in which the gaze of the nude female is directed at the viewer, reversing the roles of object and viewer. In my piece the blinking reverses roles and the audience is now being observed: this gaze is strengthened with the subsequent multiple eyes. Following that we are drawn completely into the eyes, accompanied by an ascending cello tremolo.
The final movement is a frenetic collage of audio and image, combining processed acoustic and electronic sounds with cello and body projections. The result is a disorienting flow of sound and light culminating in the performance of the now-merged body and instrument.