Proof of Concept

for sextet, soundtrack, camera operator and video

2017

Performed by Distractfold Ensemble

 

Rocío Bolaños, bass clarinet

Daniel Brew, electric guitar

Linda Jankowska, camera operator

Zinajda Kodrič, flute

Alice Purton, cello

Emma Richards, viola

Christian Smith, percussion

Elliott Program Center

Stanford University, CA

April 8, 2017

A "proof of concept" is a small-scale, provisional realization of a method or product in order to demonstrate its feasibility. By definition, it is destined to always exist in a liminal state: between the initial idea and the actual finalization of the method or product. Therefore, Proof of Concept is related to the concept of "liminality" (from the Latin word limen, meaning "threshold"), which refers to a temporary, in-between state or space, characterized by ambiguity, hybridity, and indeterminacy. The concept was introduced by ethnographer Arnold van Gennep and anthropologist Victor Turner, who employed liminality to describe the transitory characteristic of rites of passage in various cultures. Proof of Concept adapts the notion of liminality and the three stages described by Gennep and Turner to the ritual of a music performance.

 

Preliminal (separation): the stage which marks the break from the old order and status before the individual or group come to terms with the new phase. The six instrumentalists are audio-recorded independently before the concert. Each of them performs an improvisation based on the score (notated with musical symbols, as well as text and graphic instructions) and the soundtrack (composed solely with electronic instruments).

 

Liminal (transition): the period in which a person or community exists between two distinct phases of life. During the liminal stage, the previously recorded sounds are separated from their instruments. The six instrumentalists play together, as an ensemble, with the electronic soundtrack and they perform the exact same improvisation from the preliminal stage—with the same intensity—but their instruments are muted, so only a small number of fragmentary sounds surface. The "ritual" is video-recorded by a seventh performer according to a prescribed sequence. After the performance is finished, the video is combined with the sounds from the preliminal stage.

 

Postliminal (reincorporation): this stage marks the end of the liminal phase and the reintegration of the people involved into their new social roles and identity. The unified audio and video recordings are presented to the audience in their new audiovisual form during the postliminal stage.