Reflections on the presence of music in contact jams


I am acknowledging that the responsibility of the musician is huge, as the one in charge of shaping the sonic spectrum that the whole space will be experiencing and be influenced by. This is a delicate task that requires openness towards the surroundings and special antennas tuned into space, time and their movements. Such a focus, makes this kind of musician a rare animal, not largely available on the ‘market’.

It is our responsibility as musicians operating in the field of dance to be aware of what sound does to the surroundings. I’ve noticed wonderful virtuoso musicians who performed at contact jams without paying much attention to the space, nor questioning what the moment required. Such kind of parameters should be taken into consideration by the event organizer, when booking a musician for a contact jam. On the other hand, we all somehow experienced how unfocused contact jams can be, and let’s face it, it is not just because of the music. I’ve noticed a common pattern: whenever the chattery increases, I am often asked by the organizers to ‘push it’ a little, and create a ‘more dancy’ energy to bring back the focus on dance. In these cases, my instinctive reaction would be to just stop and see it for what in some cases it becomes: a social meeting, where the sound I am projecting in the space is not used as a partner, but more as a metaphoric flaster, or as an entertaining background feature. When this kind of energy is present, I don’t always feel connected to the space in its wholeness, resulting in a vicious circle of mutual disconnection. How to break that? Certainly, from the musician’s side a degree of listening skills are crucial, along with a mindful approach in terms of quantity and quality of the sound projected onto the space.

And what would be needed from the dancer’s side, co-responsible of creating the space?

Becoming conscious (me, as dancer) of my potential influential power, of how I make choices, and how these choices affect the collective space (myself, the other elements in space and the sound). It could be a general principle which can be used by beginners as well as more advanced dancers, and does not involve judgmental categorizations. In this sense, along with the question “how can I introduce silence without everybody stopping to dance?” I would also add: “how can I be responsible of my own dancing experience without reacting automatically to external stimuli?”. If one joins a jam where sound is present, this question should be considered.

As far as I know, contact jams with live music in Berlin cover about the 25% of the scene, which I think still leaves a lot of space for silent experiences as well.

An important input could be given by the event organizers, by defining a clear artistic outline of their jams, or a manifesto, in a way that the participants would know in advance what to expect.

About the idea of alternating sound/silence: I am not sure about the idea of setting a framed time limit, since the jam is a fluid context in constant motion, however I certainly agree in leaving considerably more space for silence.

Sometimes, I also lose awareness and get sucked by what I am playing. Since the learning process is never-ending and life is somehow short, you are welcome to approach me during jams and give a constructive feedback on how the sound experience could be improved… I know that at the end of the day we can’t fulfill everybody’s expectations.

Looking forward to read the opinion of the other dancers and musicians.