Grand Sepia Taksim (2013)


software downloads (Max v6.0 or higher)

Grand Sepia Taksim (2013) is an interactive environment for belly dancer and 8-channel surround sound. Taksim, a genre of Turkish classical music, implies a form of several improvised sections. The piece was conceived for the dancer Eszter Édl, whose particular strengths as an improviser become very personalized in this setting. She is outfitted with an array of Arduino-based sensors that measure the acceleration of her arms and hips on x, y, and z planes. Her gesture data is then mapped onto control parameters governing the timbre and spatialization of sounds diffused in a multichannel sound field.

The piece elaborates a stylistic counterpoint of various Gyspy folk music traditions surrounding the locus of belly dance, whose history mirrors that of the Gypsies in its synthesis of European cultures. It unfolds as the faded memory of self-identity among the nomadic Roma. Turkish melodies, Flamenco dance rhythms and Sudanese sera rhythms pervade the texture but are supplanted by Bulgarian folk songs and familiar Balkan textures, such as a granulated Serbian style brass band. Interpolating spectral filters reduce the source sounds to their component parts and suggest the audible equivalent of faded memory. Eszter’s choreography combines Egyptian and Tribal belly dance and Eastern European folk dances, and thus also contributes to the interplay of related genres, cultures, and spaces.

Special thanks is extended to the following musicians, whose sampled contributions made this piece possible: Ozan Cemali (oud & baglama), Svetla Vladeva (accordion), Miguel Merino (douf), Sam Wells & Ben Taylor (trumpets), Alex Krawczyk (trombone), and Douglas Olenik (tuba). I can’t thank them enough for their passionate playing and willingness to lend their talents.

This piece contains a sample of a field recording made by and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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