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Penélopé (II)


Lambswool and cotton yarn; digital projection.

Three-dimensional notation and graphic score.

Collaboration with Belfast City Choir and the University of Leiden Academy of Creative and Performing Arts.

Created for Belfast citywide event Belfast Culture Night, September 20, 2013.

Programme notes

In the 19th century, Dutch lace-making connected to the Ulster textile industry, as expensive linen pieces were trimmed with Dutch lace and linen thread used to make fine lace products for the home. The earliest example of a printed crochet lace pattern for public use is a pattern in the Dutch ladies’ magazine Penélopé (1824, issue 3), from which the work received its name. This project was the second textile score in the UnRavel series.

 The score for Penélopé was based on an adaptation of the crochet patterns in the 1824 magazine. It was a piece of multi-coloured crochet in simple block motifs, based on the colours and style of the purse project suggested in the 1824 pattern. The score would be unraveled during the performance by two dancers.  The dancers were to respond to the unpicking of the crochet score, their movements pulling the yarn, progressing the score, and playing with the rhythm of the performance. The choir was to respond to the rhythm of the unraveling stitches and the dancers' movements. I used colours as a visual direction to indicate changes of musical tone/timbre for the choir and changes of mood for the dancers. The performers collaboratively selected the moods of each section during rehearsal.


(Partially unraveled score. I first created a separate textile for rehearsals, identical to the final score design. It was partially used in two rehearsals.)

Performance Instructions

Originally, Penélopé was going to incorporate a theatrical setup of yarn "reaching through" the video screens. When I conceived the work, through three-dimensional graphic notation made from patterns crocheted in yarn, I sought to create a continuum between the two sites by connecting the voices in song and the visuals in an illusion of line. The yarn would wind onto a ball in the middle of the Belfast performers from a line that extended straight into the screen showing Leiden. On the Leiden site, a ball of yarn hidden directly below the transmitting camera would wind, pulling yarn from the crochet and producing the illusion that Belfast’s yarn was streaming from Leiden’s lacemaking. This setup proved superfluous to the performances by the two ensembles (vocal & dance) and was cut out of the performance plan. Instead, the dancers would have the free, tangled threads of the score to play with during their performance, in addition to the pulling motions of unraveling the intact part of the score.

The rehearsal video was created to help communicate the concept and mechanics of the textile score between the sites. Neither group -- Belfast City Choir or the University of Leiden dance students -- had previously participated in my UnRavel series of projects, so the idea of unraveling as a musical score mechanism was new to everyone. For the video, I partially unraveled a Penélopé rehearsal score and did some vocal improvisation; my colleagues Enrico Bertelli and Makoto Nomura (who would collaborate with me on the next UnRavel project, Silver Cord) both played assorted percussion.