Dancing to an Invisible Beat

Brandon LaBelle: Notes Toward a Sketch of a Sonic Body

In Notes Toward a Sketch of a Sonic Body, sound artist Brandon LaBelle explores the sound of dancing bodies. But there’s a catch: he’s taken away the music they were dancing to, leaving only the audible traces of their movements. The work is made of audio recordings of dancers listening to music on wireless headphones. Microphones placed around the room picked up the sound of the movements made by the dancers in response to what they were listening to. As a further layer of the work, LaBelle asked participants to explore these initial sounds through movement without the mediating layer of electronics.

 ‘The different approaches outline an energetic territory determined by listening. The recordings form acoustic identities, highlighting dance as a heated sonic. The Sonic Body is a work that aims for a total embodying of sound, as a sensual micro-event.’

In the exhibition the audio recordings were projected back into a space through wall-mounted loudspeakers, leaving the audience both to reconstruct this performance from its auditory archaeology and (perhaps inadvertently) to add a further layer of sound of their own as they walk around the space. What I really like about this work is that it throws bodily presence in front of musical presence, subverting the usual relationship between body and beat, but removes the visible presence that would normally mediate the relationship between body and audience. Instead it offers only faint traces of both movements and moments of listening.

A recording of the work is now available from Errant Bodies.

You can read a review of the CD from Neural.

Find out more from Image Music Text Gallery, which hosted the exhibition.

Read a  review of the exhibition by David Yu at Artslant.