Experimental Music and Movement Send Out Signals at Miami Theater Center

Juraj Kojs is a Slovakian-born composer, performer, multimedia artist and presenter. Trained as a classical pianist, he is co-founder of the Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts (FETA), whose goal is to cultivate interactive experimentation in composition and performance. He's intrigued by mankind's evolving relationship to technology and how it affects our psyches, our senses, our natural and man-made ecology.

Describing a 2013 multi-media performance that utilized motion-sensitive electronics to detect and deliver sound, he says, "We live in a time of transition, where our daily routines ebb and flow among digital processes. We change them and they change us."

Currently in residence at the Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores as part of the Sandbox Series, he has conducted a preparatory series of public workshops designed to deliver an immersive experience of how music can be conceived and created, combining household objects and technology. He is again collaborating with choreographer Carlota Pradera and visual artist/costume designer Kim Yantis to create a new piece called Signals that will premiere Friday, Feb. 14.

We asked Kojs about the new work.

Artburst:Describe the performance.

Juraj Kojs: The performance is a mixture of fixed and live elements. These are sonic and visual, some requiring tactile engagement. The piece is structured as a series of short scenes.

How would you characterize the development process?

The focus here lies on creating something that can potentially travel, or that I can perform by myself with some help from the audience and venue. The residency has just started, and the roles are being defined as we speak. I came to the theater with some ideas, but it is truly during these three weeks that the piece manifests itself.

How does Signals accord and depart from your recent body of work -- and specifically TouchMeHear, that you created during your Inkub8 residency?

TouchMeHear was about engaging the movement and sound on stage. In this work, the focus is on sonic exploration of various non-speech signals. There is a clearer narrative in a form of short stories presented here, that may remind one of an old genre of radio drama. These stories are about a little boy and his travel in life and world -- taking something from Saint-Exupery's Little Prince.

How do you work with such traditional notions of melody and rhythm?

My education is in classical music, and thus the desire to expand the music parameters such as pitch, rhythm and timbre always boils in the back of my head. But there is also a true desire to incorporate the movement and body that has been increasingly becoming an important area of musical studies: no movement promotes silence! In Signals, you will hear some traditional Slovak melodies as well as tracks derived from popular music. And, of course, animal sounds, sounds of technologies and environmental sounds.

How will sound be delivered during the performance?

We have a four-channel audio system. That means some very nice sonic spatialization. Besides electronic sounds (pre-recorded and live), there will be acoustic instruments such as a piano and Slovakian folk instruments, and I believe some vocals as well. And of course some everyday objects, such as a set of six hand dryers.

The collaborators' first intensive session of performance research and character building has now begun to flesh out this work in progress. "We came together and listened to Juraj's personal journey, based on sound, storytelling and imagery," says Yantis. "Once on site, we began to stage a series of props, creating spontaneous sets for each vignette that combined the old with the new. Hints of formal furnishings contrast with shiny contemporary forms, and folk song blends with contemporary electronic compositions in a space where we move the audience through instruction and interaction. Pradera created movements that often replaced narrated sections of the work."

It's an invitation to challenge our customary relationship to performance, perhaps leavened by the charm of the Little Prince.

Signals, Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 14 through March 1, at Miami Theater Center's Sandbox, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami, at 8 p.m.; cost is $20; 305-751-9550; mtcmiami.org.

Another February workshop in the Knight Arts grant-funded Sandbox series is resident choreographer Octavio Campos' four-session Performance Lab that consists of "physical exercises that release tension and emotional blocks," Monday through Thursday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.; cost is $120 for four sessions of 12 hours.

-- George Fishman, artburstmiami.com

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