Liminality as a Dynamic Creative Force in the New Music-Theatre

abstract by Zachàr Laskewicz

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Standing against the existing musical traditions, a new genre of music has developed, one based on a fragmentation and questioning of a stifling conservatism within the field of western music. There have been a large number of composers spread around the world have provided major contributions to this movement, the best known of whom include Berio (Italy), Maxwell-Davies (Great-Britain), Ligeti (Hungary) and Kagel (Germany). This movement, as recognized by the participants, is not one which composers conform or contribute works to: it is a dynamic and vital form which receives new experimentations in each new performance. For the composer of New Music-Theater performance, the restrictions of a 'pure' European musicology where the performers become merely tools for the expression of a composers purely musical ideas are questioned and the theatrical space in which the musician stands becomes a vital theatrical space where the potential for cultural expression becomes an enormous potential, a liminal zone in which the composer suddenly is liberate to deal with his musicians in a living, breathing form. One of the basic underlying characteristics of this movement, although forms of expression are completely open, is the realization of dynamic liminality in the performance space and the possibilities for 'theatrical' expression in the movements of a musician. Major influences to this movement include avant-garde movements in the performing arts around the turn of the century, including Dada and Futurism, in addition to influence from absurdist theatre which moves towards musical expression in the theatre rather than simply the strict representation of narrative. Absurdist theatre demonstrated the ontological questioning of the theatrical form: when is smething music? When is it theatre? when is it a ritual? How should the performer's become involved in the performance? How should the audience interact with the performance? these are some of the questions posed by the New Music-Theatre genre. Ritualisation of human behaviour and a connection between ritual structure and music were also influences to both movements like Dada and The New Music-Theatre. The liberation to musical expression provided by these movements filtered down to musical world, hence the dynamism of the new music-theatre movement.


In New Music-Theatre performances, the stage becomes a liminal space for the performers (musicians) and audience members, and when the strict traditions of western musical performance are broken a unique process of liminality is reached: the composer achieves a unique sense of dynamism and liberation, changing the perfoermer's and the audience's interaction with their temporal and spatial environment. Works like Kagel's Con Voce is a prime-example, where the performers play their instruments, exaggerating the movements, without actually making a sound. questioning the nature of musicality is a basic liminal issue: wen does music stop and the theatre begin? the performance sets up an environment in which this can occur, leading to the previously mentioned theatrical dynamism made unique by this movement. Like a ritual, the performer is 'betwixt and between' different forms of expression, and the whole dynamism of this potentiality become a unique questioning of existing traditional forms.





May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)*
Send mail to zachar@nachtschimmen.eu with questions or comments about this website.

September 27 2013.



Major Writings