concert of new music-theatre organized by Zachàr Laskewicz in Perth 1992

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Songs of Incantation

New Music-Theatre


Music-Theatre is indeed an ambiguous term, a catch-phrase that has been defined and redefined according to current thought as to its genesis.One of the primary errors of musical criticism in the twentieth century is to eagerly label something as a distinct artistic trend; creating categories into which the musical phenomena can painlessly disappear.Contemporary music-theatre is not a stylistically fixed form of theatre existing alongside others, but rather the application of musical thought to the elements of theatre.Here there is no simulating or describing as it remains an invaluable characteristic of music-theatre that no continuous plot is necessary in order to convey musical completeness.This desire of music criticism to define and classify has resulted in a tradition of music-theatre that becomes more ad more rigid as time passes, even though it has for so long defied classification.In our concert we are hoping to present works that show the true diversity of the genre.


Any important movement in art has its historical antecendents, and music-theatre could arguably have the most prolific and contradictory base.Rather than in the Gesamtkuntswerkof Wagner's opera, it is through the revolutionary work of Kandinsky that music-theatre has evolved.He created performance through the abstract combination of musical sound, movement, and colour.Other formative influences include Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism.The subconscious and irrational surged into the foreground and persisted there, while traditional ideas of form and structure, through narrative in prose and development in music, were superseded by a muliplicity of alternative forms.Songs of Incantationis a concert presenting four new music-theatre works that show highly contrasting ways of looking at and utilising the genre.In these works, a common thread can be seen by observing that influences of the past, both theatrical and musical, are not blindly rejected but integrated into a new and relevent form.The title of the concert, which is also the name of one of the works in the programme, alludes to Artaud's first Manifesto on the Theatre of Cruelty.He wrote in 1930: "What the theatre can still take over from speech are its possibilities for extension beyond words."He asks for incorporation of cries and onomatopoeia into the language of the stage and for the inclusion of oriental expression that changes "words into incantations."Songs of Incantationutilises these concepts, and also his revolutionary ideas about the use of musical instruments in combination with dramatic performance:"To be used as objects, as part of the set."


Other works in the programme have contrasting but equally important influences.The piece by Ron Sims and Paul Young, local acoustic artists, uses the radio-drama as its basis for the exploration of music-theatre.Acoustic art has become increasingly important, fundamentaly depending on a particular kind of clarity that dispenses with the need for things to be made visible.Sarah Collins, a local composer currently studying in Adelaide, has composed a work borrowing from both the traditions of music and theatre.Jane Prendergast's composition uses light, colour, choreographed movement, and slides.The drama consists here of the complex nature of inner experiences of the spectator.


- Zac Laskewicz









1The Dreaming Tree

††† for movers, projected images, and tape

††† by Jane Prendergast



2A Romantic Paradox

††† fora dancer, 2 speakers, and an instrumental ensemble

††† by Sarah Collins


- interval -


3A Passage

††† A radio feature by Ron Sims and Paul Young


4Songs of Incantation

††† for 8 performers and tape

††† by Zac Laskewicz
The Dreaming Tree

Composed and directed by Jane Prendergast


The Doors to the kingdom of dream have been closed too long . . .

I hear a voice calling me awake . . .

It is myself . . .

Will I wake ?



Dreamer — Bronwyn Turnbull

Dream Ego — Fiona Tholet

Voices of the Tree — Debra Reynolds, Julia Lark, Francesca Meehan, Jane Prendergast, Karen Melzack

Child of the Tree — Yelena Meehan-Raser


Tree painting projected during performance — Debra Reynolds

Tree painting cover design — Lolita Skye-Lark.

Dance created by Bronwyn Turnbull, Fiona Tholet, Jane Prendergast

Introductory music by Chris Norman

Sound recording and design — Andrew Beck with assistance from

Chris Norman

Lighting and design — David Fussell

Performers in The Dreaming Treealso provided the voices for the tape


Special thanks to Peter Wilson and staff of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre for the use of their building during rehearsal, Stella Brown, and Janet Lee for great assistance with the movement.
A Romantic Paradox

Composed and directed by Sarah Collins


A Romantic Paradoxexamines violence within a relationship by the juxtaposition of music, text, and movement.The excerpts from Shakespeare's sonnets, quoted out of context, take on different meanings and show how literature's images of love and romance can be used to manipulate others and justify physical and mental abuse.A situation is created where each partner accepts the abuse as the normal state of the relationship, preventing either from escaping the situation.This sets up a neverending cycle of abuse, remorse, and forgiveness.


Choreographer/Dancer - Kim De Lury

Readers - Sarah Collins, Zac Laskewicz

Recorder - Romola Brennan

Clarinets - Evan Kennea, Maria Lscsei

Bassoon - Elizabeth Jennings

'Cello - Alia-Enor Bath


Thanks to Beresford and Irena Collins, and Janet Lee for invaluable assistance.


3.A Passage

A radio feature by Ronald Sims and Paul Young


Radio is unique in its ability to describe a vast canvas of experience, emotion and imagery using a limited palette: Sound.In A Passagethe artistic ploys of radio are manipulated to describe fragments of memory and crucial moments in the lives of two women in seperate rooms, 560 years apart, bonded by a common desire and a faded painting.


A Passagefeatures the voicesof Madeleine Bonaire, Felicity O'Hara, Ingolf Rutterman, and Ronald Sims.


The directors of A Passagewish to thank the Australian Broadcasting Commission for their assistance, and Cedric and Pat Baxter for the use of their brand new room.
Songs Of Incantation

Composed and directed by Zac Laskewicz


Songs of Incantationis a new music-theatre work examining the liminal zone between music and theatre.The theatrical context of the work examines the ritual nature of music-theatre performance, discovering a common point in the freedom of methods of representation and avoidance of traditional conventions.Something resembling an ancient rite is performed, but what begins as a clearly theatrical event gradually dissolves into musicalstructures as the lighting dims and instruments are revealed, highlighting the ambiguous nature of the performers/instrumentalists.


I am particularly inspired by the archetypal nature of the horrific themes and events presented in Ancient Greek tragedy powerful events that, even though they may have occurred in a distant mythical past, have repercussions that affect the way we think about things in contemporary Western society.†† The use of Ancient Greek text provides a basis for this thematic material through the incantation of ancient violence.†† Using the music-theatre medium frees the text from the restrictions of semantic meaning, allowing the words to exist in a sound world where every vocalization has equal importance— a whisper, a moan, a scream.


The text is always moving between three extremes:Use of the text in its original "declaimed" style (relying on the onomatopoeic nature of the words), setting the text to music based on Ancient Greek musical thought, and a totally deconstructed form where the words have been fractured into single syllabic sounds and stripped of meaning.


Performers 1-8

Evan Kennea, Alia-Enor Bath, Maria Lscsei, Megan Griffiths, Justine Thornley, Samantha Jones, Elizabeth Jennings, Romola Brennan


Sound recording and design by Andrew Beck

Lighting by David Fussell


Tape performers

Solo voices - Judith Maitland, Denise Murray, Lee Shew-lee

Furies - Anna Brockway, Tanya Vidigal, Francesca Meehan, Jane Prendergast, Bronwyn Turnbull, Fiona Tholet

Instruments - Zac Laskewicz, Perry Greenland





Special thanks to Judith Maitland for assistance with the Ancient Greek, Mark Homer and Murdoch University for use of rehearsal space and equipment, David Pye and UWA Music Dept for loan of instruments.















The cast and organisers of Songs of Incantation would like to thank Lynne Mitchell and Evos Music for their support, Colin Haydock for assistance in the PICA Performance Space, and Glenn at Stagecraft.


†††† 11/91