Science & Environment
11:37 am
Mon August 4, 2014

LISTEN: Convoluted Sounds of the Ocean Form Score for Dance

Dancers in Great Sippewissett Marsh, Falmouth, MA.
Credit Courtesy of Courtney Peix / Contrapose Dance

Dance inspired by turbulence and eddies, set to ocean sounds translated into music? This is one convoluted story you'll want to hear.

The ocean is constantly in motion. Waves swell rhythmically and break against the shore. Currents flow incessantly, spinning off eddies, and leaving wakes of turbulence behind them. Curves, deflection, continuity, climax. It's not hard to imagine how the ocean could be the inspiration for dance.

Two years ago, oceanographer Dr. Larry Pratt of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, teamed up with choreographer Courtney Preix of Contrapose Dance to create a dance piece, called HoverDive, based on principles of physical oceanography.

But they didn't stop there. They're also working with composer Amber Vistein, who's been creating a score based on ocean sounds - both archival recordings, and new recordings they've made themselves.

The thrumming of boat engines is one sound that takes some effort to avoid these days. Get away from it, though, and the ocean's movement, itself, can make beautiful and intriguing sounds. Then there are the animals who live there. Just as birds sing and dogs bark, it turns out fish croak. And, of course, there are the haunting songs and staccato clicks of marine mammals.

Amber Vistein has been using the mathematical process of convolution - using the common elements of two sounds to produce a novel, third sound - in some of her work. The results are unlike anything we've ever heard before, and well worth a listen:

HoverDive debuts at the Boston University Dance Theater on November 14 and 15, 2014.

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