This video showcases one of the iterations of the ensemble piece from “Respire” in its entirety. It begins with the musicians gathering on the fourth floor galleries, commencing an ambient prelude to the ensemble piece. As the dancers finish their group performances distributed around the museum, they join the musicians one-by-one. The musicians begin wrapping up their composition around the 18:00 mark, slowly dissolving into the museum’s vast space to prepare for the next round. Stephan Moore picks up at this juncture and accompanies the dancers, improvising with the ensemble’s recorded sound through a custom software system.
On April 29, 2017, CabinFever performed “Respire” at the Museum of Contemporary Art – Chicago (MCA).
A collaboration with Stephan Moore (sound designer, electronics improviser, and lecturer at Northwestern University), “Respire” was part of the performance component of MCA’s exhibit “Common Time,” which explored the life and work of world-renowned dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham.
The performance repeated four times throughout the day. Each iteration began with three separate groups of CabinFever’s musicians activating MCA’s enormous central volume of air with sound, within which the company’s dancers explored themes of collective experience and identity through movement. One-by-one, the musicians and dancers peeled away from their respective groups, slowly dissolving them in the process. The artists then made their way piecemeal to the fourth floor galleries where they performed a 20-minute ensemble piece featuring the entire company.
Using a custom software system, Moore captured the output of CabinFever’s musicians during the ensemble piece, introducing modulated samples throughout its performance. Following this segment, Moore concluded each iteration of the performance by rebroadcasting the CabinFever ensemble’s sound, reversing the composition’s trajectory through electronic improvisation while the dancers engaged in a movement-based improvisation. Meanwhile, the musicians began dissolving back to the museum balconies to prepare for the following iteration.
This framework captured CabinFever’s site-specific approach to composition and performance, delving into MCA Architect Josef Paul Kleihues’ intent to design a space that preserves and interprets collective history. The audience experienced “Respire” from different angles and witnessed various aspects of the overall piece during separate iterations of the performance. These experiences imitate the subjective interactions that museum visitors have with a given curatorial space, as the works contained therein acquire new meaning and significance with the passing of time and the continuous flow of new visitors.
Additionally, “Respire” embodied Cunningham’s concept of “Common Time,” which posits that distinct components of music and dance can be both independent and interdependent without contradiction. Surrounded by sounds cast forth into the immense open space of the MCA, CabinFever’s dancers and musicians contended with new and uncontrollable moments throughout the day. While creatively autonomous, each artist inhabited a space that was subject to the sound and movements of other company members stationed throughout the museum.
Moore’s contribution further underscored this concept. The ensemble piece – written by CabinFever’s musician-composers Doug Barber, Lia Kohl, Gavin Price, Evan Anderson, and Patrick Glennon – provided raw material for Moore to reinvent its themes and passages. This created artistic vulnerability, exposing each musician to reprocessed manifestations of their individual sounds and each dancer to constantly evolving interpretations of the musical accompaniment.
More than 1,000 visitors experienced “Respire” throughout April 29, making it a watershed performance in CabinFever’s 6-year history as a company.
In addition to the performance at the MCA, CabinFever previewed the work at the SoHo House – Chicago. The company’s musicians also performed the ensemble piece at Northwestern University’s recording studio for an audience of students and faculty, resulting in a number of recordings that the company will publicly release in the coming months.
Stay tuned for more video excerpts and full footage of the performance, as well as online recordings and physical releases of the music from “Respire.”