MbUS description

the Underscore
danced practice

Combined USs
workshop video

Discovering a MbUS
Masters thesis (pdf)

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The Music-based Underscore has been adapted from the Underscore, devised by Nancy Stark Smith for contact improvising dances.

The Music-based Underscore (MbUS) builds on a freely improvised approach to music-making that places less emphasis on any specific musical language or level of expertise, but instead a heightened attention to listening that enables each musician to balance his/her input with the input of the other members of the group.

The MbUS framework introduces a number of states of awareness that have come from 'Contact Improvisation', which have been adapted for musicians to include:

- simply listening without playing, (Skinesphere)
- listening and playing just to yourself, (Kinesphere)
- exploring your sound in different parts of the performance space while engaging briefly with others, (Grazing)
- playing freely with the others, while having the choice to revisit any of the previous states at any time in response to your personal need or desire. (Open Score)

Where as dancers generally prepare collectively in a 'dance class', musicians tend to practice and prepare privately before coming together. But these states of awareness introduce the musicians to a preparatory process that has led to a range of new ways that musicians feel they can play together.

These include:
- less compulsion to play 'all-the-time', as a result of the emphasis on listening, set up in the first stage of the process,
- permission to move around the performance space rather than sit in the same seat for the entire performance, which leads to ;
= individual and small groups of musicians playing simultaneously from different parts of the space, and
= more attention to the acoustic and physical nature of the performance space,
- a natural ebbing and flowing between the musicians stopping to listen while others are playing and then these roles reversing.

The experience of the audience (when it is performed) is also different, as they too have permission to move around and experience the performance from different vantage points. There is also no formal interval, but rather performers and audience members are invited to take a break at anytime during the performance, with the understanding that the process is continuing and even in their absence they remain part of the improvised proceedings.

To find out more about the practice of both the Music-based Underscore and the danced Underscore, please may contact via email or through the facebook page where scheduled practices will be advertised.