site-specific composition

site-specific composition

the Rolling Band

actionPosted by hansroels.be Oct 07, 2018 21:27
On June 23rd 2018 there was a performance of the Rolling Band in Ghent (Belgium). I didn't make a score for this work (yet) but these are the core ideas:


<1> In advance a 'click track' is made with (simple) rhythmic patterns in successive sections. The sections have different tempi.

<2> In advance a route is searched for, with quiet environmental sounds and diverse street stones and surfaces.

<3> During the performance one performer carries an audio transmitter which is sending the audio click track, the other performers receive and hear this track via one earphone. Each performer walks with his/her trolley suitcase along this route and tries to play in the tempo of the click track, by stepping faster or slower and/or by pulling the suitcase with another speed over the street stones.
More information on the click track

The durations of the sections with different tempi varies from 15 to 90 seconds. There is one main tempo (88 bpm) that returns after 1 or 2 sections with different tempi, the other tempi are 52, 70, 121 and 154 bpm. The sections with the main tempo have the longest duration (between 30'' and 90''), the ones with the very slow (52 bpm) and very fast tempo (154 bpm) have the shortest duration (between 15'' and 40''). Playing with the trolley suitcase in the very slow tempo is almost impossible but I chose this tempo also for visual reasons: you clearly see – as in a slow motion – that the performers are trying to synchronize the suitcase, street and their body. If sections return in the click track (for example the main tempo 88 bpm), I create simple changes in the rhythmical patterns, for example by stressing another beat.

More information about the route and date

The changing, diverse surfaces are obtained by choosing streets with different street stones, cobble stones, pavers, clinker bricks, etc. The state of the road surface can also differ: one street can have more holes and patches than another. There are also bridges and tunnels that might be constructed out of wood, steel or ribbed material and sound different if you walk on them with a trolley suitcase.

(Of course, all the individual trolley suitcases also sound different...)

Next to the diversity in street surfaces, the trajectory should also be acoustically suited to hear the trolley suitcases (for example, not too many noisy cars). In general it is important to discover the sound (performance) affordances of the route in advance. During the preparation questions pop up such as: is the sound environment not too loud? Will you be able to hear the trolley suitcases? Are there narrow streets ('city canyon') tunnels or parkings with a specific sound or reverb that could be used?

Related to the choice of the route, is the choice of a date and hour. Some streets could be used and have softer environmental sounds on a Saturday morning than during the peak hour on a week day.

The performance on June 23rd, 2018


The synchronisation between trolley suitcase, foot steps and the patterns in the street stones can't be fully or perfectly realized: foremost, it is an attempt to play together with the other performers, the streets and suitcases. Sometimes the synchronisation succeeds, sometimes not; mostly it works to a 'certain degree': the timing of the produced sounds 'overall' fits together, like the many sound layers of an old, mechanical train driving, slowing down, stopping and taking off again.

The performance on Saturday June 23rd was a try-out with three performers (Nicolas Leus, Thomas Van den Eynde, Hans Roels). At the end of this blog there is a link to the full recording (.flac, 374MB), followed by the timing of the trajectory (on the recording) in Ghent. This is a shorter fragment (mp3 file) when the performers were walking in the Donkersteeg and Onderstraat.

The performance required more concentration (of the performers) than expected to synchronize your body (steps), the trolley suitcase and the click track. As a performer you do not have a full sound image: you mainly hear the click track and (your own) rolling suitcase. The plan for a next performance is to let the audience walk in between the performers of the Rolling Band (for a part of the trajectory), giving them the opportunity to listen to the trolley orchestra and the sound environment. The choice of the date, time, trajectory and the duration of the tempo sections (in the click track) worked well in this try-out. Perhaps I will add a new main tempo after a while in the clicktrack (for example, after 20 minutes) and also gradual tempo changes (for example, going from 88 bpm to 52 bpm in 30 seconds).

This is the full recording of the tryout performance on June 23rd 2018 made by Bas Hendrickx who was walking with the performers (the microphone was a Classic M MkII stereo, made by Johan Vandermaelen).

2'00'': Donkersteeg

3'00'': Gouden leeuwplein

6'00'': Stadhuissteeg

7'45'': Graffitisteeg

9'50'': Onderstraat

12'00'': Langemunt

13'04'': Straatje zonder einde

14'38'': Langemunt

15'39'': Onderstraat

20'37'': crossroads Onderstraat and Belfortstraat

21'49'': Zandberg

22'58'': Baaisteeg

24'32'': Sint-jacobsnieuwstraat

24'51'': Oude schaapmarkt

26'03'': Houtbriel

28'40'' : Kalvermarkt

29'44'': Nieuwpoort

31'37'': Ijkmeesterstraat

33'19'': Sint-jansdreef

33'39'': Oliestraat (steegje)

35'37'': Steendam

36'31'': Dodoensdreef