Global Research Bytes Episode 6: Myths of the Left with Molly Joyce


Global Research Bytes Episode 6: Myths of the Left with Molly Joyce

Molly Joyce performing
Transcript of Interview with Molly Joyce

Emily Mellen 0:08
Welcome to the seventh episode of our podcast series, Global Research Bytes. I'm Emily Mellen and I'm here with Molly Joyce, a first-year PhD student in the Composition and Computer Technologies program in UVA's Music department. Hi Molly.

Molly Joyce 0:21
Hi. Thank you for having me. 

Emily Mellen 0:23
Your current project “Left and Right: Exploring Myths of the Left Side through Dance, Music, and Disability" is an interdisciplinary collaboration between music, dance, audio description, sign language, and projection to examine myths of the left side through disability perspectives. Can you tell us a little more about this project? 

Molly Joyce 0:41
Sure. So, the project began about two years ago as a part of a Toulman Fellowship through NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts and National Sawdust, a venue based in Brooklyn. The commission and fellowship overall was focused on collaborations between composers and choreographers or music and dance. So, with that, we had the kind of premise to create a new work with music and dance and I knew that I wanted to involve my frequent collaborator Jerron Herman. We've collaborated several times and a lot of our kind of interest in working together stems from our interest in disability and the arts and, I'd say, disability and creativity overall and also a kind of shared embodiment experiences.

So, we both have impaired left sides yet through different sources. So, I have an impaired left hand from a car accident about 25 years ago, so, acquired disability. And then Jerron through congenital disability with cerebral palsy. So, in a lot of our works we like to explore that shared terrain through different sources. So, with this commission, I knew I wanted to involve Jerron and we've explored different topics in our works before, like the difference between acquired and congenital disability or dealing with those differences. And also Jerron always had this idea of, you know, the myths of the left side in a way, like even left in latin translates to sinister. There's a lot of stigma around left-handedness and whatnot. And I thought that was a like amazing idea to delve into further and it was really fascinating to me the more, like, preliminary research we did for the project, how much across time periods and cultures, etc. there's always a stigma around the left hand. like it's viewed as dirty or a demon or a monster and the right hand is often viewed as kind of sort of a purifier. 

So, that kind of set up the concept and overall research for the piece and with that too I also knew, I really wanted to strongly incorporate accessibility elements. And by accessibility, I mean, at least for artistic contexts, having kind of multiple sensory outputs of the material available. So, not placing primacy on the music or the dance, but having them equal and also providing access especially to blind and deaf audiences, either through audio description, that describes visual movements for blind and low vision users, as well as American Sign Language interpretations and captions for deaf and hard of hearing users. So, we involved several accessibility collaborators throughout, especially one at the beginning, namely Max Greyson, who's an audio describer and specializes in kind of creative or artistic audio description. There's often audio description in an artistic context and even if you like toggle it on Netflix, you can hear it a little bit, you'll notice that it's quite dry in a way, which some users prefer, there's nothing wrong with that, but Max specializes in creating it or making it more poetic and artistic. So, that's kind of how the work started and then it was very much a video version at first, very much a COVID project, and then last year, with the support of the YoungArts Foundation, which is from Miami, and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, which is in Omaha, with a residency I had, we developed a live performance version of the work, so took it to the stage, and that premiered last summer in National Sawdust in Brooklyn and then also traveled to Belgium at deSingel in December with the support of UVA's grant.

Emily Mellen 4:00
Can you tell me a little more about one of these myths of the left? 

Molly Joyce 4:05
Sure. So, one specifically that comes to mind is this bucket and cone concept, which is from the Mesopotamians, and, if i'm recalling correctly, there's a bunch of images out there of the bucket and the cone. The bucket is being held by the left hand and sort of viewed as like the waste, or collecting the waste from the body. And then the so-called cone is like the right hand elevated, which is viewed as like a sort of purifier. So, we incorporated that, specifically in the second section of the piece titled “Overuse/Underuse,” with which Jerron, in the video and live performances, he carries like a metal bucket in his left hand and constantly elevates his right hand.

Emily Mellen 4:42
That's really interesting. How does this project relate to your broader course of study at UVA?

Molly Joyce 4:48
Sure. So, it definitely advances my overall interest in disability as a creative source. Disabilities are really kind of infinitely generative to me, just through, again, exploring like, narratives of acquired versus congenital disability or exploring artistic exploration or integration of accessibility elements. And also, with music technology, like, even my performance in December, I incorporated this music gestural sensor device that sends accelerometer or motion data to the computer and makes music from it, which definitely stemmed out of my time at UVA. I'm just finishing up my first year, but I feel like already my incorporation of technology has greatly advanced, which is major motivation for coming here. And yeah, excited to do more with it. 

Emily Mellen 5:33
And on that topic, what are your next steps with this project and at UVA? 

Molly Joyce 5:37
Sure. So, the project will be traveling to UCLA, Los Angeles, about a year from now in May 2024 and I think there's still some other performances that might happen as well with that or I guess also, now that I recall, it will be streaming in Japan on some special channel this summer, I think. I can't recall the exact details but it'll be translated into Japanese, which I think is exciting. And then overall, of course, with my time at UVA incorporating more music technology, I hope to build like a glove for my left hand and also kind of advancing my research interest in virtuosity from disability.

Emily Mellen 6:11
That's fantastic. Well, we look forward to hearing more from you as you go through your career here at UVA and thank you for talking with me today. 

Molly Joyce 6:18
Thank you.