Songs of Experience (1993)

Duration: 5’
For live piano and pre-recorded tape
Choreography: Rachel Lopez de la Nieta
Lighting Design: Pete Bull
Sound Design: Ian Gibson
First performed at the Minerva, Chichester, as part of the 1993 annual Ballet Central Tour

As one of her first professional pieces, the recently graduated young dancer/choreographer, Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, created a short work for the 1993 Ballet Central programme. Choreographed for a quartet of female dancers, it is an essay in the opposite of innocence, (hence the Blake reference), a study of insatiable greed and almost bulimic acquisitiveness. Feeney’s score, written at the same time as the opening scenes of Northern Ballet Theatre’s Cinderella, shares some of the dark nature of Act one of that score.

The music is built around a slowly accumulating phrase on the track, which the live piano reacts to with sudden striking gestures, flying arpeggios, and isolated hits that ratchet up the tension. This gradual unfolding of a phrase at a slow pace while maintaining a constant tautness and gripping tension was a feature of Feeney’s style of playing for contemporary dance class at that time, in particular Bill Louther-style adagios – in fact in the ballet Feeney composed for Louther, The Still Point, there is one such example, and another, although with a different, less ominous quality, occurs towards the end of the second act of Didy Veldman’s A Streetcar Named Desire some fifteen years later.

The circular phrase is made up of a rising scale, and is played on a keyboard harp sound from the Roland D550. The track was also constructed out of very high, impossibly high, sampled timp sounds, played out of register on the Akai S950. This creates an unknown, perhaps Eastern, sound, that creates an ancient Gamelan ritual effect, perfectly in tune with the sense of fable that this short work suggests.

photo by Bill Cooper