ISTD: Dancing In Silence

This project is a submission to ISTD 2012 (International Society of Typographic Designer) and was awarded a commendation and a membership. In response to John Cage’s silent composition of 4' 33", this project explores the sounds in a silent environment of a dance studio. My aim was to create a performance that showed the continuity in silence and produce a book in response to the event. In my thorough research on Cage’s compositions, silence is perceived from a very different perspective. As quoted, “There’s no such thing as silence”, that aspect of silence is translated into the choice of performance. After multiple recordings in various silent environments, a recording in an empty dance studio led me to experiment the comparison of sounds in incorporating a ballet dancer into the environment. In the performance, the role of the performer was reversed, letting the sounds be the performer while the dancer, the supporting role.

Thus, this book developed into a representation of sounds in the performance by her silent dance movements in the surrounding environment. Titled ‘Dancing In Silence’, this project is a narrative description of the ballet dancer’s solo performance without any accompanying music in the duration of four minutes and thirty-three seconds.

This post will be mainly about the finished book. For more detailed specifications and further elaboration on this project, do check out >The Development

A quote by John Cage screen printed onto silver cardstock

The concept of continuity in silence is first introduced with a mute icon on the front cover, which is attached to a ribbon that runs through to the very end, signifying although seemingly silent, there is no absence of silence in the entire performance.

The concept of continuity in silence is first introduced with a mute icon on the front cover, which is attached to a ribbon that runs through to the very end, signifying although seemingly silent, there is no absence of silence in the entire performance.

The structure and making of the book also help to capture the essence of the subject as well as the concept of this project. The book’s introduction requires the removing of the belly bound which reveals a mute icon on the front cover. This eases the reader into discovering what the subject of the book is and progressively invites the reader to engage with the sounds on each of the pages. As each page is turned, the ribbon engages with the pages reflecting movement within the performance.

The following page introduces its title- ‘Dancing In Silence’ and the elimination of the word ‘IN’ from the title but yet visible reflects the idea of ‘no absence of silence’.

The concept of capturing the sounds in the silence is also represented by the use of colours. All inner pages of the French fold pages are in black, representing silence and the folds that display sounds are in white. The only coloured element is a beige ribbon; a representative element of a dancer’s ballet shoe and it supports the concept of continuity in silence.

The use of mirroring text displays the very essence of a ballet performance and components that you associate with and find in a dance studio.

The content of the book was self-written and generated from the recording of an actual performance in a dance studio in Northumbria University. The book content contains two levels; first, the interior and exterior sounds that existed within the silent movements takes centre stage in telling the story of the performance, then a secondary level of information narrates her movements to relation to which each sound occurred. The entire performance of 277 seconds is broken down into 18 individual French-fold pages, each page recording 20 seconds of the performance. The division of time are separated into three sections, a reflection of the construction of Cage’s three-movement composition.

As the book progresses, the circles decrease in size, marking the coming to the end of the performance.

The circles in each French-fold pages were individually hand cut before putting together with an accordion-fold spine. Within the circle elements, the performance was translated typographically through the use of info graphics and mainly the layout of a clock in displaying time, a similar indicator of time in Cage’s composition.

A combination of typefaces in various type sizes in the body text shows the hierarchy of information. In the body text, each sound representation contains three level of information- the sound, a description of what the sound is and the volume of each sound that occurred.