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Soundpainting is the live composing sign language created by New York composer Walter Thompson for musicians, dancers, actors, poets, and visual artists working in the medium of structured improvisation. At present the language comprises over 750 gestures that are signed by the composer/conductor indicating the type of improvisation desired of the performers. Direction of the composition is gained through the parameters of each set of signed gestures.
Soundpainting developed as a method of communicating with the musicians during a performance without having to shout above the music. In its early days, the technique was primarily used as a tool for keeping the windows of improvisation close to the style of the notated music.
Using the soundpainting language, an entire concert, dance or theatre work, film score, or educational presentation can be realized spontaneously. Because the conductor can direct all of the performers through this unique vocabulary, the concept of an orchestra swells to the point where a comparison to the experience of flipping through a television with a hundred channels is not far-fetched. In fact, flipping through a hundred channels at random and then creating meaningful patterns from the musical, textural, and visual associations might be one way to approximate experiencing of soundpainting.
Thompson shapes these fragments into a larger architecture so that familiar aspects of theater, such as character, or elements of music, such as a waltz, might be combined with choreography, film clips, or lighting, creating a constantly evolving collage.
Soundpainting is frequently performed in Chicago, Illinois by Weave Soundpainting Orchestra, under the direction of Sarah Weaver.
- Weave Soundpainting Orchestra