New music for a contortionist – an evening of Inexplicable Acts

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Delia duSol - contortionist

Delia duSol - contortionist

Contortionist Delia DuSol will be bending her body into some extraordinary poses and squeezing herself into a tiny perspex box at Richard Wiseman‘s first night of Inexplicable Acts, Thursday 12 Feb. This season of shows at the Wellcome Trust will explore the psychology and physiology of circus performers’ bodies, including the sword swallower, the juggler and the exceptionally flexible Delia.


The new piece

On request from Richard, I’ve created some music for Delia’s act. It’s a 7 minute piece, weaving fragments of a conversation with Delia, along with handbells, theremin and other noises. I find Delia’s act simultaneously beautiful and unsettling – and I’ve tried to create a simple, cabaret-style dance piece that reflected those feelings. It’s very tense watching Delia in some of her poses – like a gymnast on the beam, she seems to be concentrating hard, making continual, minuscule adjustments to her body as she maintains some terrifying balances. I hope the slight detuning of the bells and the natural (ahem) wobbles on the theremin give the piece a sense of theseĀ  continual adjustments – a detail that adds a charming, human quality to her act.

For those of you who don’t know Richard’s work already, he’s an experimental psychologist and author with a great eye for scientific experiments that are likely to capture the public imagination. Here, he talks about the history of contortion and explores what was discovered when Delia’s contorting body was examined in an MRI scanner. His blog is always a good read as he updates it every day or so with conundrums and scientific oddities, gleaned from just about everywhere.

Before and after

Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve written music for Delia. Around five years ago, I made a first attempt, using a voice recording that Richard had made very hastily in a rehearsal space (where the acoustics weren’t great). I didn’t get a chance to see her act before I wrote this early version – and that’s probably why the later piece seems a better match. This earlier piece was used at various events, including Wiseman and Singh’s Theatre of Science (where I made an appearance on theremin and saw). Here it is anyway, for the sake of comparison.

The new and old pieces