BIZARRE ACTS

Two performances about the non-discursive

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Bizarre Acts

 

2 Table of contents

 

3-4 Introduction

 

5-10 Terminology

5-6 The New Musicality

6-9 Experimentation, Machination and Stage-Fright

10 Ritualisation

10 Linguistic Regimentation

11 Musical Regimentation

 

Bizarre acts 1

12-13 Programme

Experimentation and Machination

14 Brief Description

 

Bizarre acts 2

15 Programme

Machination and Stage-Fright

16 Brief Description

 

17-21 Bizarre acts 1

Detailed description of each work in the concert.

 

22-28 Bizarre acts 2

Detailed description of each work in the concert.

 

29 contact information

 

introduction

 

Bizarre Acts

Experimentation, Machination and Stage-Fright

 

This is a collection of short theatrical and musical pieces forming part of a two concert programme. These two performances explore some of the major themes behind radical avant-garde performance art in Europe in the twentieth century. Three major forms of impetus are taken as the basic forces behind this type of artistic creativity: Experimentation, Machination and Stage-Fright. These terms will be defined further on in this document.

 

The basic underlying theme of these concerts, in all its contrasting methods of realisation, involves artistic creation and human musical expression as dynamic processes which function as tools of human comprehension or 'machines' for making sense of the world. The purpose of this document is to explain the theoretical and practical realisations of these short cabaret-style performances, such as Dadaist 'simultaneism' and short Beckettian mimes.

 

 

 

 

Two performances result from a combination of the forms of artistic stimuli introduced on the previous page:

 

[1] Bizarre Acts 1: Experimentation and Machination

[2] Bizarre Acts 2: Machination and Stage-Fright

 

The major theme of both of these concerts is the exploration of avant-garde artistic behaviour, although other factors also unite the concerts. Many of the works include the exploration of musicality in a theatrical context and the adoption of narcissistic narrative (a meta-theatrical device which involves the discourse pointing to its own existence, allowing the audience to see the borders of its frame). Concert [1] directs the audience towards specific movements in contemporary European performance, including Futurism and Dada. It functions to highlight the repressive cultural environment which forced these radical forms of artistic expression into existence. Concert [2], in contrast, deliberately transgresses the territory of some of the major contemporary forms of avant-garde theatre including the Theatre of the Absurd. The major themes in many of the works are rethought in a contemporary context and there is no strict division separating the concerts. Both Bizarre Acts are involved with what I refer to as regimented musicality, musical texts which function to restrict the way we behave. All of these themes will be discussed in more detail in the following pages.

 

Terminology

 

To begin the following terms will be discussed: [I] The New Musicality, [II] Experimentation, Machination and Stage-Fright, [III] Ritualisation, [IV] Linguistic Regimentation, and [V] The Regimented Musical Text. Term [I] is important because the whole notion of musicality rethought as a dynamic cultural process (rather than a static object) to be analysed which effects the way we respond to our world. It is the author's opinion that musicality-interpreted as a way of thinking or a type of behaviour rather than an object-effects the way we behave both as artists and in everyday life. The terms in [II] refer to the three major forms of impetus that have influenced twentieth century avant-garde performance art. The last two terms refer specifically to the tools used by society to influence the way we think, act and communicate with one another. After this definition, a basic outline of the concerts is included and then a description of each of the individual works.

 

 

 

 

The New Musicality

 

Behind almost all of the compositions of the Australian/Belgian composer Zachar Laskewicz is the notion that musicality is process rather than product-based. I have entitled this the 'new musicality' because it deliberately demonstrates a contrast to the view of musicality which is perpetuated in certain divisions of our culture. Product-based realisations of musicality involve a belief that music can be analysed in a static form, i.e. as a score or on another permanent medium such as a CD. This stands opposed to a process-based approach to musicality because the 'end product' (a musical act) is considered more important than the action of music-making which leads to its production. On a practical level, however, this term has more applications. It assumes that the complex cognitive processes that lead to our reception, comprehension and appreciation of music involve more than solely our hearing: we are indeed multimedial beings with five senses, and when appreciating music we use more than just our ears. In summing up, the new musicality considers 'music'

to be far more than simply the sound it makes: it is a tool we use with our body and minds to comprehend the sensuous universe which surrounds us. This is significant with relation to these concerts because many of the compositions presented explore human behaviour in terms of musical systems, often playing on the border separating music from theatre, using multimedial elements to create musical compositions. The new musicality basically considers the social and communal act of music-making, i.e. what goes on in a complete sociocultural context, as equally if not more important than the result: music is therefore 'more than the sound it makes'. Further, the new musicality allows (or even demands) a multimedial approach to the realisation of music. The sociocultural process that goes into music-making involves more than just sound: the environment, movement, smells and sometimes even taste can play an important role in musical signification. In relation to these concerts, 'musicality' is seen as a tool which restricts or regiments our behaviour on the one hand, and on the other as a dynamic tool which we use to subvert such systems of regimentation. The way it makes use of musicality to achieve these political goals is certainly an important aspect of this document.

 

 

Experimentation, Machination and Stage-Fright

 

In the following paragraphs we define three terms which relate to the Bizarre Acts: Experimentation, Machination and Stage-Fright. They refer to three contrasting types of stimuli which result in artistic creation forming part of a process of negative interaction. The intention of using these terms is to demonstrate that art doesn't 'echo' life, providing some kind of static response or commentary on what is occurring in the stimulation or oppression of a people at a given place or time, rather that art provides a head-on confrontation with society, forcing us to face those things we have developed no other way to cope with. In other words, avant-garde artistic behaviour can be a dynamic tool used by individuals to help them understand their reality.

 

 

 

 

With the term 'society' I am referring to the complex array of interlocking systems formed from a combination of cognitive processes and practical necessities. Being able to communicate with one another through the use of signs, we are given the tools to perform social functions and interact with one another as well as being provided with the basic material with which we can form an image of ourselves in relation to those around us. Society is responsible for imposing many of these systems, resulting in certain ways of thinking or viewing the world. Whether we like it or not, this is a natural part of being the member of a culture. This is important to understanding the first two of the three terms: Experimentation and Machination.

 

Before we begin with the definitions of these two areas, however, I would like to further define the bracketed adjectives preceding the three terms in the title. These adjectives signify the general way in which those artistic movements which took place around the turn of the century (and which are used as source material) have tended to receive active expression. In other words, in terms of avant-garde art, when 'experimentation' takes place it is often of an extreme nature. Movements such as Futurism, Dada and Surrealism demonstrate this. This is represented particularly in Bizarre Acts Concert 1, including many of the short pieces of Italian Futurist theatre and the aleatoric compositions simulating Dadaist 'simultaneism'.

 

[radical] Experimentation

In the past I have referred to 'Top-Down' and 'Bottom-Up' sources for the understanding of artistic behaviour. If an existing societal or ideological structure is seen as rigid or conservative, groups of artists often begin to come together to create a code of signifiers which is intended to provide some sort antidote to this conservatism. These artists, unsupported by society, work from 'Bottom-Up', without the assistance of a societal ideology: they often create their own and are seen as 'radical' experimenters. In Bizarre Acts I, experimentations of this kind are used as a basis for the performance. This sort of artistic behaviour leads to 'Top-Down' enforcement from society, often resulting in some sort of oppression. On the same token, radical experimentation can result in its own restriction, seeing that the means of communication become limited when one has no boundaries to hold one back (it is an anomaly: restriction providing freedom in its own way). In this concert works are included which were influenced by [radical] Experimentation, and some represent actual examples taken from experimental literature from the turn of the century. This includes the comic and kitsch aspect of Dada improvisation or Italian Futurist performance.

[enforced] Machination

This term is used in the title of both concerts. It is used to demonstrate the thin line connecting the different forms of artistic stimuli. In Bizarre Acts I this element is used to demonstrate the conservative ideological forces which result in 'Bottom-Up' experimentation. Society applies forms of dogma-religious, natural or political-to stifle and/or oppress artists This is what I refer to as 'Top-Down' artistic influence. This type of oppression often results in mechanisation or machination of the human form, often restricting artists and their media in some way. This is justified in terms of what should be 'natural' for the body to do or what should be good (politically) for the society in question. Unfortunately, but inevitably, this machination is most often 'enforced', sometimes via subtle indoctrination, sometimes via less subtle physical methods (from imprisonment to torture). Machination, however, can result from other cultural stimuli. Stepping outside the codes imposed by society leaves a given artist with any number of choices about how to control the way he or she interacts with the world. Imitating the mechanisation of others, or realising that one's actions are not independent but rather societally imposed, can be seen as another major stimuli of avant-garde art. I refer to this process as Stage-Fright, and it will be explored below. The new composition DaDaDa! (in Bizarre Acts I) comments directly upon societally imposed restriction, represented particularly in the work of Charms who was stifled by communism. The senseless chaos of free improvisation offered by the Dada movement in Switzerland and French Surrealism represent the sort of chaotic societal phenomenon which has the potential to induce self-imposed machination.

 

In Bizarre Acts II machination is used to demonstrate metaphorically the restrictive codes imposed by society which result in the more complex phenomenon of Stage-Fright. Here machination is used to demonstrate how on achieving Stage-Fright (defined in detail later on) we are led to see how controlled our lives are-the meaningless series of rules and restrictions we follow unquestionably-demonstrating the constant patterning of life as it passes us by.

[involuntary] Stage-Fright

This third source of artistic stimuli has defied, and for many still defies, clear explanation. It has expressed itself in many different artistic forms, including the Theatre of the Absurd and the New Music-Theatre. The term Stage-Fright itself is actually taken from Geertz's interpretation of the Balinese culture, specifically the fear the Balinese have of their 'masks' being removed showing ultimately who they really are rather than who they have created themselves to be. In terms of our own model, the third corner of the triangle refers to the moment the artist, otherwise embedded in one or both of the artistic environments described above, out of the corner of his or her eye notices that the structures imposed either from 'Bottom-Up' or 'Top-Down' are only that, a system of empty signifiers in the Saussurian sense, a structure without ultimate purpose. This brings about what I refer to as [involuntary] Stage-Fright where the intention of the artist becomes the questioning of the very apparatus in which that structure is created. Beckett, perhaps the most ideal exponent of this approach to artistic expression (and whose work is used in both Bizarre Acts) creates worlds filled with characters who cannot communicate, or who attempt to define their reality with very limited means. Here the theatre becomes a frightening metaphor, expressing the fear of what would happen if we woke up without any means to comprehend our world, facing reality without a discourse. It should be added that the very process of Stage-Fright demonstrates a ridiculous world with inane rules individuals are forced to follow, and hence the coupling of Machination and Stage-Fright. For our concerns, then, Stage-Fright involves the fear of being faced with what lies behind the [enforced] Machination: the menacing unknown of the Other. The new composition by Laskewicz called [dreadful] Metronomy deals with this theme: 5 characters are stuck in a world restricted by the beat of a metronome, every new count resulting in a new set of restrictions to the bodies of the performers.

 

The following three terms actually refer to different kinds of 'machination' of human behaviour. Ritualisation involves voluntary 'musical' behaviour which is an important part of interaction with one's living environment in which we achieve some sort of communion with our environment providing us with important significance or highlighting certain periods, helping to represent and regiment the life we lead (which is basically controlled by cultural factors).

 

Ritualisation

 

Of all human behaviour, ritualisation is perhaps the most complicated and least understood, at least in terms of psychological and social purpose. We do understand that ritualisation provides us with structures we can use to better understand our world, enhancing the codes which surround us, helping us to better understand it. As mentioned above, ritual provides us with a unique 'musical' insight: thanks to ritual, our unconscious is also stimulated to comprehend a kind of structure which simply cannot be translated into words. This approach to musicality is better explained under the New Musicality heading where music is defined in terms of what it does rather than what it is. (process rather than product). Ritualisation is best expressed in Bizarre Acts II, particularly in Beckett's Come and Go which has three characters desperately searching for ritual states, and Laskewicz's [cyclical] Vociphony which uses the ritual structures of a card-game to create a musical composition.

 

Linguistic Regimentation

 

Many of the works in this concert also involve to some degree what I refer to as lingual regimentation. Regimentation of course refers to the machination of human behaviour; this is metaphorically referred to in most of the pieces in Bizarre Acts II, and some of them in Bizarre Acts I. We as human beings are restricted by our (lingual) boundaries. In other words we can only comprehend completely the things we can find the words to describe. Society functions to regiment the languages we speak through adjusting the education system, at least theoretically, and thus lingual regimentation has been a form present in contemporary literature, an expression of a bleak metaphor. I refer to this as linguistic mechanisation. It is based on the understanding that we are, at least to a degree, what we say; man is largely a by-product of language, eternally ruled by the parameters of his or her discourse. Language is taught in the home and contemporary psycholinguistics has demonstrated that language acquisition is involved with dynamic interaction with the world. Society, however, does have some say over how language is perpetuated within culture through control over educational institutions, in addition the control it has over forms in which literature is perpetuated, especially in literate cultures such as our own. In this well-known novel 1984 George Orwell presents a frightening vision of linguistic mechanisation. It is set in a future world where language is gradually reduced restricting the forms of discursive expression (in the form of a language from which words are continually erased: newspeak). In both concerts this type of regimentation is referred to directly in a number of works, particularly ZAUM-1 (by Zachar Laskewicz) in Bizarre Acts I and Beckett's What Where in Bizarre Acts II.

 

 

Musical Regimentation

 

These concerts involve particularly this form of machination, a form of mechanisation of the human form which is brought about by 'musicality' (in the new sense). As humans our environments provide us with a constant array of contrasting forms of musicality, whether we create them ourselves by applying musicality to our environment or they are forced upon us by our environment (a strong example being the much loathed musical text referred to as muzak. We are not forced to assume these forms of musicality which function to regiment our lives in some way, but often they are so loudly expressed that we cannot ignore their pulse, such as the rhythmic monotony of much contemporary disco music. Our environment creates environments where the humdrum of musicality becomes the one and only pervasive element. Although it isn't always the case, musical regimentation is often evoked by society to enforce or assist the reinforcement of particular ways of thinking and behaviour, designed for specific cultural purposes, perpetuating a particular belief system to such an extreme that the experiencer of the musical text is forced to move with and to learn from the text, or to reject it. The musical restriction set up by the perpetuation of marching texts played for the military (or even the Salvation Army) has a very particular significance involved with its regimentation and it is not necessarily a bad thing: feeling part of a community, as one within a collection of people with similar intentions and goals, can be uplifting and help us to comprehend our own role within our cultural restraints. This explains the popularity of a lot of regimented music such as disco music with a continuous commanding power over its audience. In a dynamic sense, 'musicality' is often adopted in the expression of a cultural text to assist the communication. Here the musical regimentation becomes a tool to help express the message, one that could be inherent in the music or embedded in the text. A great deal of rock music, as mentioned, is highly regimented, and a great deal of it is uninteresting because it perpetuates continuously the same type of message. At the same time, a lot of pop music can communicate a message which represents a break with the regimentation inherent in society or musical systems already in existence. Thanks to these cultural texts change can take place. In terms of this concert, musical representation is expressed by demonstrating the restriction placed on one's movements by rhythmic patterns found in more traditional 'musical' texts. This can be seen both as a restriction and a liberation: thanks to musical regimentation we have a frame in which our movements make sense. Many people who may very well love expressing themselves musically in dance are unable because of the 'restriction' placed on them by having a free choice as to which movements they would produce (such as in free disco-dancing). Forms of folk dance can be liberating even though the movements are very restricted. These aspects are explored in both concerts. Laskewicz's Zaum-2 (in Bizarre Acts I) and Meanwhile on the Tower... (in Bizarre Acts II) explores regimentation, the latter work particularly the way we search for regimentation in our environment any way we can. Beckett's Mime for Two Performers in Bizarre Acts II also involves to a degree musical regimentation or ritualisation.

 

Bizarre Acts 1:

Experimentation and Machination

 

Act Without Words 1

(mime for one performer)

by Samuel Beckett

 

2. The Body That Ascends

(for five performers)

by Umberto Boccioni

 

3. ZAUM-2

(for five performers and tape)

by Zachar Laskewicz

 

4. [repetitive] Fabrication

(for five actors)

by Zachar Laskewicz

 

5. Red +Violet + Orange + Grey

(for five actors)

by Bruno Corra and Emilio Settimelli

 

6. Aria

(for one performer)

by John Cage

 

7. Weariness

(for one performer and sounds)

by Angelo Rognoni

 

8. DaDaDa!

(for 5 performers, tape and slides)

by Zachar Laskewicz

 

 


Bizarre Acts 1:

Experimentation and Machination

Aleatoric Expressions of Musical Theatricality

 

In this concert, the first of a series of two, radical avant-garde theatre and music forms the basis. The term avant-garde refers to the fact that the theatrical expressions are deliberately standing against 'top-down' enforcement as described earlier in this document (see pages 6-8). As far as Dadaist and Futurist artists are concerned, it was thanks to the driving force of art that progress could be made against the distant and aloof conservatism behind the existing systems. The Italian Futurists confessed to glorify the future through worshipping its technology and war machines. The Dadaists rejected not only existing forms of art, but art itself, professing only to respect aleatory (chance processes) in its extreme form, enjoying what came to be known as 'simultaneism' (mixed media free improvisation). Their 'freedom', however, formed its own restrictions: as discussed, being free to adopt all possible human behaviour makes artistic communication, of the comprehensible kind, highly difficult. Any meaning to be found in the performance had to be found there by the audience. Avant-garde art typifying this period didn't stop with this, however. The Russian Futurists, often confused incorrectly with the Italians, dreamed of a form of primeval communication that would transcend traditional language resulting in the formation of musical compositions out of words (referred to today as sound poetry). In addition other forms of linguistic experimentation included children's language, primeval calls and other forms of onomatopoeia. All in all, however, no matter how varied these avant-garde reactions were, they each expressed a similar reaction against conservative forces. It is this basic underlying theme which is explored in this concert, some of the works becoming infiltrated with elements of conservative 'machination' or violent reactions against it. This means spanning the space between complete control (linguistic and musical regimentation, typified by the new machine-like technology glorified by the Italians) and complete chaos (aleatory, typified by the Dada movement). The performance style is cabaret-like in that a number of separate and short pieces are presented which each express a different aspect of experimentation and machination in early avant-garde art, often in a comic fashion. The concerts combines futurist and cabaret-style aesthetics. Avant-garde art explored in this concert explore both ends of the artistic psyche.

 

Bizarre Acts 2:

Machination and Stage-Fright

 

1. Act Without Words 2

(mime for two performers)

by Samuel Beckett

 

2. Meanwhile on the Tower. . .

(for performer, tape and two slide projectors)

by Zachar Laskewicz

 

3. What Where

(for four actors and tape)

by Samuel Beckett

 

4. Pas de Cinq

(for a group of performers)

by Mauricio Kagel

 

5. Come and Go. . .

(a dramaticule for three performers)

by Samuel Beckett

 

6. [cyclical] Vociphony

(card-game for 8 players)

by Zachar Laskewicz

 

7. Quad. . .

(for four players, light and percussion)

by Samuel Beckett

 

8. [dreadful] Metronomy

(for five performers and tape)

by Zachar Laskewicz

 

Bizarre Acts 2:

Machination and Stage-Fright

Avant-Garde Theatre and the New Musicality

 

In this second concert the primary theme involves the metaphorical expression of both linguistic and musical regimentation. Social life presents us with a complex array of codes and signifiers which we are free to apply to our lives with the purpose of making our possible behaviour and the behaviour of others comprehensible. We are not forced to use these systems, but we (and most others in our predicament) have the tendency to apply similar roles to doctor their behaviour as it relates to their interaction with the outside world. This is a natural part of human culture. One of the unfortunate aspects is that even such a vast series of habits, behavioural roles and other systems cannot cater to every individual, and very often individuals feel trapped within the restrictions of such systems, not able to find a form of expression that suits their needs. In concert one, we demonstrated how individuals can react against this conformity-[radical] experimentation. The themes explored in this concert, however, are not involved with experimentation. Through interacting with the complex matrices around which we trace our lives, some artists achieve a state I refer to as Stage-Fright. This is, as discussed on page 9, a condition aroused when a given individual, trapped in one of the complexes of [enforced] Machination observes that this system is but that, an empty series of signifiers, and that beyond that awaits only the desperateness of the utter terror of nothingness, total incomprehensibility in which one can become lost. States of Stage Fright often leads artists to use the stage as a horrifying metaphor of the emptiness or loss one must face under the influence of this condition, or use it as a way to demonstrate our own entrapment by presenting one even more restricted reality on the stage (a highly enforced form of machination around which its victims cannot escape). Beckett's writing, in particular, expresses this theme, observable in the strict almost robotic regimentation of What Where. Other compositions covering this area include Laskewicz's [dreadful] Metronomy and Beckett's Quad which has performers stepping out the shape of a square on stage (being unable to step beyond it or interact with their environment in any other way). Parody is often used as a tool to play with our long accepted realities we create around us with a great deal of help from our societal and social environments. Laskewicz's Meanwhile on the Tower. is a particularly good example of parody used in this way: the audience is tricked into searching for signification in an otherwise absurd setting. Another theme presented in this concert involves the exploration of ritualised behaviour. In [cyclical] Vociphony a card-game-a means of social intercourse and a communal ritual-is presented and becomes the basis for a vocal composition: we are after all players of some absurd game for which we know only the rules and not the ultimate purpose. Avant-Garde theatre invoking Stage-Fright, however, shouldn't only be seen as something negative. It is thanks to linguistic and musical regimentation that we are provided with a sense of freedom: without them we'd lose touch with any type of reality. This is the humanist face to Stage-Fright, something also explored in this concert (present particularly in the Laskewicz's Meanwhile on the Tower. and Kagel's Pas de Cinq.

 

Bizarre Acts 1: Experimentation and Machination

 

Description of Individual Works

 

Act Without Words 1

(mime for one performer)

by Samuel Beckett

In this composition Beckett creates a world consisting only of the stage, inhabited by a single character who remains trapped in this restricted environment. An absurd reality is presented which constantly plays with its single character, tempting him with various objects that he can never quite catch hold of or attain. Even if the player attempts to leave the stage, he is only thrown back onto it. Every gesture is an effort to realise an ultimately impossible goal, becoming a rather unpleasant metaphor for the world which restricts our behaviour, functioning to question the whole purpose and ultimate futility of human existence.

 

2. The Body That Ascends

(for five performers)

by Umberto Boccioni

This short and highly absurd piece of theatre was composed by Boccioni, a member of the Italian Futurist movement. As part of their glorification of a future which involved increased speed and productivity, they envisaged a new and dynamic form of theatre which involved short and powerful pieces each communicating concise and forceful messages. The basic functions of this dynamic and new form of theatre included radical fragmentation of large-scale western dramatic forms, an almost utopic romanticism (especially of the image of the 'artist' in society and the power of romantic passion), and finally the celebration of speed and other products of new technology at the beginning of the industrial age. This composition corresponds to both the romantic and technological aspects of Italian Futurist theatre. In this particular work, a group of tenants in a building wonder at a body which is witnessed ascending outside their windows. An absurd physical phenomenon is explained in an even more absurd context: a woman sucks him from the ground through her glance, this becoming an expression of the futurist ethic of extreme passion. In the context of this concert, this composition is presented primarily as a means to demonstrate the kitsch aspect of such over-expressive romanticism, played for laughs rather than sincerity.

 

3. ZAUM-2

(for five performers and tape)

by Zachar Laskewicz

This composition is the second part of a three part composition about a particular type of Russian Futurist poetry based on and around 'non-discursive' language which they entitled zaumni yazik or 'zaum' in its shortened form. Russian Futurism contrasted considerably to avant-garde art movements occurring around the same time in different parts of Europe, and was in fact a deliberate step away from Western influence. The resulting work reflected a dichotomy: a vision for the future, and an interest in ancient history. This expressed itself through their highly innovative ways of rethinking language. These linguistic innovations certainly extended beyond merely the meaningless stringing together of Russian sounds and into areas of communication that had rarely been seriously considered. This included the theatre: Alexei Kruchenykh (1886-1969), one of the primary theoreticians of zaum language, said that he saw zaum as the only possibility for use in the new theatre and cinema and it is upon his work that Zaum-2 is based. In this composition, as in Kruchenykh's work, traditional meanings are stripped from already existing gestural and vocal models and new and ridiculous 'meaning systems' are presented in their place. Vocal material taken from a fragmentation of one of Kruchenykh's zaum poems sets the boundaries for the language invented for prerecorded voices. The names of the five characters on stage are actually formed from this sound pool, and these characters are constantly referred to by five voices on tape who are using a nonsense language based similarly on the Kruchenykh fragments. The names become primary signifiers for the five performers involved. the composition begins with performers adopting potentially 'meaningful' gestures which form into an amusing musical pattern (almost without sound), just as the composition ends after a musical vocal composition develops into a performance that alludes to Russian 'slapstick' theatre. The purpose is to explore points of ambiguity between 'musical' and 'theatrical' communication.

 

 


 


[repetitive] Fabrication: a musical production line

(for five performers and tape)

by Zachar Laskewicz

In glorifying the dynamics of the new technology the Italian futurists attempted to make an art form which emulated the relatively new production-line factories which were ushered in by the industrial revolution in the early twentieth century. Some of their theatre works, similar in some ways to the artwork glorifying the mechanical figure in the Bauhaus theatre, attempted to use the human body as a tool to represent their fascination with machines. This composition, combining electronic sound with the voice of live and prerecorded voices, attempts to imitate some of the aesthetics aimed at by the Italians who produced plays which emulated machinery such as the printing press. A group of five players become a construction and a constructor as part of the same theatrical motion. Some of the performers become parts of the assembly line, some parts of the construction itself and others the people that operate the machinery. These roles change as the composition develops on stage. An aural environment combining nonsense Italian word fragments, machine noises, voices and electronics surrounds the audience.

 

5. Red +Violet + Orange + Grey

(for five actors)

by Bruno Corra and Emilio Settimelli

This is another typical Italian futurist short and absurd theatre piece which tries to present an aesthetically realistic form of communication in the theatre. This particular play is described as being 'a net of sensations'. A patient complains to his mother of terrible pain in his limbs, begging for his life. Typical of the Theatre of the Absurd and the Italian Futurist movement, the audience becomes involved in the performance as the actor playing the patient accuses one of the audience members as the performance falls into chaos and the Stage Director rushes on stage to calm the excited happening. A final message towards the audience involves the patient pointing to the fact that he was incorrect and that the murderer of his brother 'had one eye less'. This short composition plays with the frames set up in traditional theatrical discourse.

 

6. Aria

(for one performer)

by John Cage

Cage, a landmark American composer, introduced many innovations into the world of music, often crossing the border to other art forms such as theatre. Similar to the Dada movement, however, Cage is perhaps best remembered for his contribution to the development of aleatory in music (based on random or chance processes). Reacting against the conservative systems for determining what should be considered as the 'correct' type of musical behaviour, Cage brought theatrical elements, 'found' instruments, graphic scores and free improvisation into an otherwise strictly confined and regimented area of human understanding. This composition stands against all these conservative ideals: by taking a form usually embedded

in an almost mechanised social system (an opera aria), Cage experiments 'radically' with graphic notation and adoption of language. The singer of this 'aria' discovers the musical text anew at each performance, and the audience has to attempt to find signification there according to his or her own devices.

 

7. Weariness

(for one performer and sounds)

by Angelo Rognoni

Described as a physical state written as a script, this short work involves a single actor on stage and various background sounds as increasingly absurd actions begin to be realised on stage, counterpointing the figure of an old man on stage as he slowly falls to sleep. This is undoubtedly intended to represent the rapid thought processes going through the man's mind as his 'weariness' sends him off to sleep. It is a very typical piece of Italian futurist theatre which attempts to grasp the dynamic of a moment in a theatrical instance.

 

8. DaDaDa!

(for 5 performers, tape and slides)

by Zachar Laskewicz

This performance involves primarily the work of Russian radical experimenter Daniil Kharms. Kharms and his school helped to change the face of Russian literature after the radical cubo-futurist phase had had its heyday, and it is against many of the radical ideas from this movement that Kharms and colleagues reacted against. This doesn't mean, however, that their work was not equally if not more radical in the sense that they presented valid alternatives to existing literary models, based on contrasting and diverse concepts of reality and/or forms of communication. Kharms and his school, unfortunately, came after the upheavals had led to communist machination, and it is repression brought about by the censoring of his works that brought about his downfall. In this composition two discourses-forms of theatrical representation in a temporal/spatial sense-occur simultaneously on stage. One of the two discourses represents Kharms and his irreverent but all the same unique and important school of writing. Various texts are performed on stage in various languages by different actors each playing a contrasting aspect of Kharms' character. On the other hand, communist ideology and its accompanying machination is represented by a 'communication' lesson which teaches the audience the correct way to hold various forms of social intercourse. Through contact between the two contrasting discourses, Kharms becomes entrapped like a puppet in the almost game-like discourse representing linguistic and musical regimentation. Bizarre Acts 1 leads the audience towards this composition which concludes the concert.

 

Bizarre Acts 2:

Machination and Stage-Fright

 

1. Act Without Words 2

(mime for two performers)

by Samuel Beckett

Similar to Act Without Words 1, this mime for two performers uses conventions of avant-garde theatre to represent the restrictions life puts upon us as we relate to our world and interact with other people. In this mime two contrasting characters exist in a limited world, crawling in and out of sacks on a small strip of the stage sunken in radiant light. People become tools of expression of a 'mechanised' external reality, which they manage to adapt to in contrasting ways (one efficiently and the other laboriously). Action on stage is stimulated by an external agent flitting across the stage. It has been suggested that the two characters actually play two parts of the same human entity, being the inner and outer selves of a single being in the Jungian sense. The whole mime represents the emptiness of a life which consists of an alternation between the two split persons of a single character. On a small piece of stage which the characters are restricted two contrasting characters attempt to deal with this reality as best they can, one of the two appearing more efficient than the other. Undoubtedly the whole ritualised process of dressing and undressing is a metaphor for the continuous series of tasks daily life requires of us.

 

2. Meanwhile on the Tower. . .

(for performer, tape and two slide projectors)

by Zachar Laskewicz

Meanwhile on the Tower. is a composition in which the text itself becomes the musical material. The performer, using a selection of various communication systems including sign language, text, sound effect and the use of images, attempts to tell a story which becomes increasingly hard to follow as the text fragments are repeated and the story begins to make less and less sense. The disintegration of the text questions the purpose of the language, and the controlling function of the musical form suggests the existence of 'musical' structures that we are not even aware of when approaching discourse. Its primary function, however, is to demonstrate the complex rules supporting such discoursal structures and the way we are taught to seek signification even with the smallest amount of significative material: we are trained to recognise in nonsense a type of sense even though the systems used to achieve this goal are entirely arbitrary.

3. What Where

(for four actors and tape)

by Samuel Beckett

In this short play by Samuel Beckett the four characters are indeed trapped in an enforced form of machination which affects everything from their clothing to the limits of their verbal and musical discourse. These characters move on an off stage in a frightening regularity and according to specified time structures. This is an exploration of that moment of Stage-Fright one encounters on discovering how limited one's own resources actually are as tools to interact with a world we barely understand. This work also poses some of the questions plaguing the existential school of philosophy

what is true human experience? When do we actually experience emotions? Are such emotions only chemical states in the brain or do they contain a greater level of human significance? This short and brutal play doesn't relate so much to the past or the future, but relates better to a nightmare world of constant regularity and presence. The performers, dressed minimally and almost indistinguishably, create a Kafkaesque world in which the same pattern repeats and an inhuman loudspeaker becomes an omnipotent director of the stage action.

4. Pas de Cinq

(for performers with walking sticks)

by Mauricio Kagel

Stage-Fright also presents itself as a strong artistic stimuli in the new music-theatre genre, observable particularly in the work of Ligeti and Kagel. In Kagel's important early theatre work called Sur Scne (1959-1960) essentially 'meaningless' text is framed in the context of a positively 'meaningful' environment, that of a lecture on the state of new music. The audience, in other words, are led to believe that they will hear something significant, but by gradually decomposing the textual aspect musically the composer forces one to see it as an empty institution. His work Pas de Cinq, however, involves a contrasting stage dynamic. A 'musical' composition is created on stage by the creation of rhythms which are tapped out by players with walking sticks as they move between the corners of a pentagon. Comparable to Beckett's Quad compositions (see further), these performers are trapped within the boundaries of the pentagon, destined only to experience what is possible within that realm. This is another clear expression of Stage-Fright. Kagel's work represents on the one hand imprisonment within musical discourse, and on the other the celebration of the new musicality.

5. [cyclical] Vociphony

(card-game for 8 players)

by Zachar Laskewicz

The most fitting description would be to say that this is a performance composition involving an exploration of the ritual function of 'games'. When we play games, we allow a ritualised series of movements, events and words to take place, involving the use and manipulation of certain objects and based on a strict set of rules which affects how the performers interact with one another and treat the concerned objects. The fact that these 'social performances' are cyclical and repetitive, structured by socially determined rules, makes the system comparable to that of a ritual. When players allow themselves to be involved in such a social performance, they are already aware of the sorts of interactions that will be taking place as well as the system of rules which will be shaping the performance. Without this awareness, they simply wouldn't be equipped to take part. Although each 'performance' of a game produces alternative results, the events within the whole occur at a predetermined pace and involve a predetermined amount of interaction. Although the path through the game event is not strictly determined, the general shape of the path most certainly is, and although the final result of such a game performance (the winner of a single performer or group), the essential structural function of game events remains the same: the performers become involved in a social ritual which allows them to enjoy contact with one another, to fill up time in a social manner and (perhaps most importantly) to compete. The results of this composition are also ultimately the same. Those involved are dealt cards, must follow strict rules of play and get the chance both to 'fill up time' and to compete with one another. The primary result, however, is the creation of a vocal composition created by the same stochastic rules that result in a game event. Although every 'game'-performance is different in its own right, the general structure remains the same, and is expressed as the basic underlying feature of this game/composition.

6. Come and Go. . .

(a dramaticule for three performers)

by Samuel Beckett

Like in Beckett's What Where this second composition for the theatre involves a similar metaphorical expression of a world lost in its habits and rules, so much so that characters are almost indistinguishable from one another. The one syllable names of each of the three characters emphasises this impersonal expression of a horrific case of Stage-Fright. In this play, however, there is a more humane aspect that comes to the fore: the individuals, although caught in strict sets of ritual behaviour, do try to maintain some sort of contact with their world, and the play itself climaxes in the three characters attaining some type of togetherness, expression and a small celebration of each other's presence (no matter how deep the play seems seeped in formalised behaviour). The character's discuss at the conclusion the possible joy of discussing the 'old days' (an almost unknown time) by realising a physical ritual in the present tense: holding hands in the old way. In this work, shades of the past become present, rituals become terribly and desolately stale, almost robotic. There seems to be a past which they have some vague connection to, but staid tradition and the habit forcing lethargy which enforces individuals into certain practices leaves the individuals with only a memory of what the past may have been like; stale objects with only placid meaning. Shared feeling of grotesqueness exaggerates this ritual expression.

 

7. Quad. . .

(for four players, light and percussion)

by Samuel Beckett

In many of his plays Beckett demonstrates the limitations Stage-Fright places on us by having the boundaries of the stage as the boundaries of the existing world for the characters involved in the discourse. I refer to this type of restriction as enforced spatiality. A prime example is his short play Act Without Words 1 introduced in Bizarre Acts I: if the character attempts to leave the stage, he finds himself only thrown back on again, suggesting that any form of transcendence is impossible. Another unique example of this expression of Stage-fright is his short play Quad in which no words are spoken. Paths have only been mapped out for a number of characters. Four hooded figures move in a series of triangles around two sides of a square and diagonally across the centre. Movement to the edge of the square seems to send the players into the middle of the square, just as an approach to the middle seems to push the players back out again to the edge. Like comets they are drawn repeatedly into the gravitational pull of the square, only to be flung off into outer darkness at the end of their courses. This is an extreme expression of the metaphor of a world filled with rules which we ultimately can't transcend, the edges of the square forming the boundaries for the existence of the players beyond which they will never transgress. Also possible expression of the new musicality.

 

8. [dreadful] Metronomy

(for five performers and tape)

by Zachar Laskewicz

As the conclusive work for the concert series, this composition constantly skirts on the frightening boundary of chronic Stage-Fright. Five actors on stage are entrapped in a form of musical regimentation from which they seem never to be able to escape. A continuous metronomic tone dictates their every movement, and every movement becomes an expression of this deadening rhythm. At various times possibilities are explored of means to escape from this regimented enforcement, but the result is always the same: the performers are drawn continuously back into they rhythmic pulse which led ultimately to their creation within that discourse. This is also used as an opportunity to express the new musicality in vital forms of movement and expression as the performers attempt to make the best of their limited environment. The following text taken from the composition describes the metaphoric universe created within this dreadful monotony:

 

 

"They have always said the same,

Play up, play up and play the game"

 

"Opgesloten in een cel,

Speel op, speel op en speel het spel"

 

NIGHT SHADES

Music-Theatre-Language

NACHTSCHIMMEN

 

This document was produced by Zachar Laskewicz as part of a NIGHT SHADES New Music-Theatre Collective programme.

 

The author can be contacted at the following addresses to enquire about

performance details, budgeting, requirements and other aspects related to

these concerts:

 zachar@nachtschimmen.eu

NACHTSCHIMMEN

Muziek-Theater-Taal

 

Zachar Laskewicz, March 2001, Australia