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25 May 2015

Kate Neal's Semaphore

Kate  Neal Image: Kate Neal  

In her latest work Semaphore, composer Kate Neal collaborates with choreographer Timothy Walsh and director Laura Sheedy, creating 'an intriguing multimedia exploration of signalling, communication and miscommunication'. Director Laura Sheedy tells us how she approached Kate Neal's music in this production, showing in Melbourne on Wednesday 27 - Sunday 31 May.

Director Laura Sheedy.

How do you respond to Kate Neal's sound world?

Kate's compositions are both aural and visual works. She not only composes for the musicians and their instruments but also for their physicality creating an entire vocabulary of gesture which is performed at the same time as the music. So, as a director working with Kate, a lot of theatricality is already present in the score from the outset, and that immediately gives me a lot to work with. Kate has often worked with dancers, and she has developed a keen eye for the language of movement, which is really clearly present in her composition now.

How did the collaboration unfold?

Kate and I have been friends and colleagues for many years. Around 2008 - 2009, we both moved to the US: Kate to Princeton to begin her PhD and me to New York to work as a theatre director. As we were living only two hours apart, we were able to continue our working relationship.

Kate has been writing material for this show since then, and trialling performances of these bits of material, and I've been present at the workshopping of these bits and pieces, helping to shape them. What Hath, one of the pieces of music featured in the show, was written for the students of Princeton University's Sõ Percussion Summer Institute, and I was able to assist the students in realising their performance.

How do you approach music as a theatre director?

I have been very fortunate to work with a number of exceptional composers over the last few years - Kate, Wally Gunn, Julia Wolfe, Sō Percussion, as well as the cohort of graduate student composers at the Department of Music at Princeton University. All of these composers are interested in drawing out the theatricality of musical performance. It is as if the music itself becomes a character to be shaped and conversed with during the creation of the performance.

Would you tell us about the work and the rich world of symbols that seems to be the guiding principle?

Semaphore is the culmination of Kate's deep exploration of codified language and communication; Morse code, semaphore flags, pennant flags, light coding. These codes, and systems of dots and dashes, not only informed the way in which Kate composed the music for this show, but also the way it has been created both visually, via the design, and physically, via the choreography of the three dancers. The culmination is a one-hour live performance of nine musicians, three dancers, story recordings, film animation and a thematic lighting design. Semaphore is a show created from codified communication forms and creates a platform for interdisciplinary art-form conversation.

Event details

North Melbourne Town Hall (Arts House)
from Wednesday 27 May to Sunday 31 May 2015
Composer: Kate Neal; choreographer: Timothy Walsh; animation: Sal Cooper; director: Laura Sheedy
Full event details (AMC Calendar)

Subjects discussed by this article:


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