Jonathan Burrows mentioning Christian Wolff

I had the pleasure of going to see Jonathan Burrows and Adrian
Heathfield last Monday at Toynbee Studio as part of Performance
Matters (


Burrows mentioned Christian Wolff’s four dictums of writing music:

  • A composition must make possible the freedom and dignity of the performer.
  • It should allow both concentration and release.
  • No sound or noise is preferable to any other sound or noise.
  • Listeners should be as free as the players.

They are also listed in a book called ‘Audio Culture – Readings In
Modern Music’, edited by Cox and Warner, which is a mighty fine read.


I was particularly drawn to allowing “both concentration and release” – which is the one that Burrows talked most about on Monday. So much of my training as a choreographer/dancer has been about ‘filling’ an audience with an experience and although I understand that sonic and visual perceptual systems are different, there is something liberating (both as an audience member and a performance maker) about the possibility of allowing for (perhaps even desiring) time and space for ‘release’.

rhythms of performance

I am currently running (walking?) an MA level module called “Dance Practice as Research”. As part of the early stages of their research, I thought it might be useful for the students to try and write a brief artist’s statement. This has followed a series of short conversations (with each other, with themselves – “self-interviews” – …

The task was shared as “I’d like you to prepare and share (love a rhyme) an “Artist’s statement” for this blog. It should be a concerted effort to write clearly about your choreographic/performative research interests. Be succinct (3-4 sentences ought to do it).”

The students will start posting in the next couple of days and you can take a look here:

Here’s mine:

As a dancer and choreographer, I’m interested in exploring the psychology of human experience, and particularly ideas related to memory, time and death. I try and keep the audience-performer relationship in the very foreground of my projects. I’ve developed a cross-disciplinary (and highly collaborative) practice – words, movement, mediated image – and am curious how these different activities alter the rhythms of performance, and also the interpretative experiences of audiences.


Me and my Dad (Ian Graham Ellis) – reckon it’s February 1995. 
He died in December that year. 
He’s looking cheeky, I’ve got a terrible haircut.