Drum Solo

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The opening solo out of the performance 'Continuum, solo et duos sur place' by Brice Leroux

Factual Description by Jan Maertens

The introducing of the single beat kick-off of the Steve Reich's Drumming composition, makes the house lights dim to end up in pitch black surroundings. Almost immediately after, one starts perceiving the lighting up of a whitish rectangular canvas, heigh and narrow, somewhere deep on stage. And in relation to that canvas there is a shadow figurine standing in the same plane of the canvas. The musical beat doubles out step by step to slowly become a complex rhythmical and continuous phrase. With great precision, the figurine embodies the drumming beat by swinging its knees left and right while keeping the rest of its body totally immobile. Along with the musical intensity, the canvas seems growing very gently in light intensity, be it in absolute contrast to the total darkness of the surroundings. And the shadow figurine stays put while swinging its knees perfectly in pace with the music.

After a little while, we start perceiving an actual body lighting up from its shadow, as if the shadow figurine has moved from behind the canvas to the front of it. The body takes the same colour tone as the canvas: a coldish, greyish no-colour. Only the head stays a shadow. Nothing but the knees move and the arms stay stiffly aligned to the torso. The initial position is maintained: all happens 'sur place'. At first, one feels lights do not get brighter anymore (or does it get less bright after all?), but the big contrast with the dark surroundings makes clearly visible what needs to be seen. Though without clear notice, the canvas seems to slowly dim out and disappear from the focus to leave finally a fully dia-positive image of a weirdly kinetic body. There's only one unique focus for the eyes, marking only a knee shaking body on one's retina.

Along with its knees swinging to the beat, the upper part of the body now also starts to make gentle little vertical jojo movements as to express the ever growing complexity in the music. The full dia-positivity doesn't seem to have lasted long and the canvas is clearly lighting up again, be it this time with a different, warmer, colour contrast to the body... after which both body and canvas are slowly merging to one another's colour tone to finally but almost unnoticeably having shifted towards the opposite: a warm body onto a cold canvas.

The music starts to gear down in complexity step by step, resulting in a seemingly unwinding but still steadily knee-shaking body returning to becoming a shadow figurine again.... back to a single repetitive beat, back to the dia-negative image from the beginning, be it this time clearly much lower in light intensity. One starts to feel them eyes really at work and it becomes hard to judge one's distance to what is being perceived.

The beat starts doubling out again and the music slowly grows towards yet another form of complexity. Colour tones start shifting again. And when the figurine becomes a positive body once more, it is as if it has been moving through the canvas. The canvas seems to have become a layer from which we can almost define ourselves its opacity towards the body just by the focus and staring we guide our eyes to do with the very low intensities we ended up in by now. And while doing so, focussing and staring and again letting go, it seems that the body is moving in space: growing big and up front or growing small while moving backwards. Not knowing anymore framing things dia-positively or dia-negatively.

When the drumming music slowly grows towards a climax, the light slowly dims down very low, leaving us with a solemn focus onto a beheaded body that is unidentifiably positioned, or by time to time, even floating in the realm of total darkness. Now, also the arms come loose from the torso where they had been stiffly parked till now, to gently shiver in a similar way the complexity of the rhythm almost inevitably becomes melody. Doing so, and while working really hard with one's eyes in the ever darkening conditions, the kinetic dia-positive body gets surrounded by a genuine lighting halo following the events with a tiny delay ... before finally dissolving in the realm of the darkness for good, leaving a frozen halo image on the retina as a last memory.

On the last drum beat, we're back in total silent darkness. And as the house lights slowly dim up now, we're allowed to re-connect to time and space while wondering wether this trip was real or just a lighting fata morgana.

excerpt from the technical rider of DrumSolo-on-tour



MUSIC Steve Reich ('Drumming: part 1')

SOUND ENGINEERING Alex Fostier, Caroline Wagner

LIGHT ENGINEERING Hans Meijer, Jan Maertens


It must be said that Jan Maertens, in due time, was a technical collaborator to the creation and touring of Continuum, of which this Drum Solo is part of. It is therefor maybe important to understand that his factual writing here, some extended time after its actual presentation period, isn't based on a fresh memory upon having seen the performance purely from an audience point of view. What you read is somehow also the calibrating focus to an iterative technical preparing praxis of the performance on the eve before a series of shows: As plotting light intensities is always relative, to the hardware in the first place, but surely also to the venue's conditions including the audience perspective, it was needed to carefully and extendedly 'test-run' this technically delicate performance while re-interpreting things from an audience point of view in function of then (again) fine-tuning the intensity data.

So Maertens' factual description is both a based on vivid memories of multiple viewings as well as on a personal 'standard' to the factual result of the iterative process of the ad-hoc light plotting... And therefor somehow more the aimed-for (but hopefully achieved) experience of any audience's member.