Rehearsal at Oxford House, London, March 2018
PIXERCISE premiered in March 2018 at Oxford House, London, at the Eavesdropping Symposium, and was recorded live for BBC Radio 3 Hear and Now. It is a work-in-progress collaboration with US-based composer Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh.
PIXERCISE is a new body of work that occupies a space somewhere between musical performance, physical theatre, performance art, and sport. Emerging from my current research project, Coming up for Air, which explores new work in relation to extreme physical limitation (to date, a number of new pieces limited to a single breath), PIXERCISE investigates possibilities that arise from the collision of physical exercise and piccolo performance; the performer’s behaviour serves as a physiological filter beyond traditional performance practice as the sound is affected by the extreme physical conditions.
This presentation was created through three months of intensive personal training, reading literature around exercise culture (including Dworkin & Wachs Body Panic 2009, Kennedy & Markula Women and Exercise 2011), and documenting and checking in on the other's exercise progress (or failings!). My personal trainer generously allowed me to bring my piccolo into some of our sessions so that we could experiment with a wide variety of exercises in which the piccolo could be held and played simultaneously or strategically placed in order to amplify the natural breathing sounds made during HIIT (high intensity interval training). In the performance I wore a collar throat contact mic so that a fragile and vulnerable sound world could be revealed, in stark contrast to the visual showcase of power and strength. Here is a listening guide to what I'm doing in the performance:
(each movement repeated x 2)
I) forearm plank x 2 breaths (piccolo head joint taped to a low-level box)
exhale crunches (assistant holds piccolo to my face and controls the piccolo keys - full exhale at top of crunch) x 10
II) leg lifts x Bolero extract (piccolo in my hands)
burpees x 10 (piccolo taped onto knee-level box)
III) push-ups x 10 (piccolo taped to low-level box)
sit-ups x 2 breaths (piccolo in my hands)
IV) playback from the last set recorded with throat contact microphone (I am now offstage)