In a week long residency at Sussex Downs College in Brighton, choreographer Sarah Alexander and composer and musician Guy Connelly, simultaneously created a new dance work and original music score, both using DanceSpinner. Sarah and Guy each followed the same set of suggestions given by spinning any combination of wheels, to not only influence movement and choreographic choice but to also develop a new way to compose music.

Listen to the tracks he created and see below for how Guy began composing music using DanceSpinner.

Dynamics Theme

Rhythm Theme

New and Old School Cranes





Music Development Stage 1

Theme Generation

To generate each musical theme, the direction & action spinners were used to create a sequence of 40 notes i.e.

...and so on.

The notes were then programmed into a computer, which played back the sequence. Immediately, some sections formed phrases of unusual and intriguing melody. These sections were developed and refined until a basic theme was formed.

The process was repeated a number of times, to generate a range of themes, varying in mood, tempo, complexity and instrumentation.

For the week at Sussex Downs College, four short themes were prepared. The students chose which of the themes they would prefer to work with. These themes were extended into short pieces inspired by further uses of DanceSpinner, as detailed below.


Rhythm Workshop

In the rhythm workshop at Sussex Downs College, a rhythmic pattern was created using the action spinner. The class clapped the rhythm together to learn the phrase. Then, splitting into smaller groups, challenges were set in order to make movement using the rhythm.

Once each group had created a movement phrase they were happy with, they then used the direction/letter spinner to select from a list of rhythm alteration challenges.

These were:

N.B. The complexity of each option can be modified to suit the ability of the group.

For example, a group spinning B (Change Start Point) may choose to start at a different part of the loop to begin with, before progressing on to two, three or more separate start points. Similarly, a group spinning D (double speed) may choose to perform both normal and double speed movements concurrently within the group.

For the more complicated rhythm choices (such as A: Reverse The Rhythm), a computer is very useful to calculate the adjustments required!

The rhythm created at Sussex Downs College can be heard in Rhythm Theme. At 0.32 the earlier piano theme is played as samples using the rhythm. Claps and percussion entering at 0.48 also play the same rhythm. At 1.20 additional claps and percussion are played using both double speed and starting on the second beat of the bar.


Dynamics Session

This time, the original theme was altered using dynamic spinner choices.

These were:

The first spin yielded E: Expand, so the original piano motif was widened with two layers of reverberant strings. This can be heard on Dynamic Theme at 0.26.

The second spin was D: Dab, so the original theme was processed into smaller units and re-played in pizzicato (1.15).

The third spin gave C: Compress, so the new rhythm was enhanced and tightened by adding a heavy beat and a version of the earlier string pattern (1.40).

The fourth spin was D: Dab, so I chose to remove the beat and strings, to revert back to the pizzicato rhythm to end the piece (2.07).

The dynamic commands from the spinner give the musician direction, whilst being less prescriptive than in Theme Generation and Rhythm Workshop. There is a much wider opportunity for free expression and composition. As such, the dynamics session is perhaps more suited to older or more advanced students.

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