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       MUSIC THEATRE  is indeed an ambiguous term, a catch-phrase that has been continuously defined and redefined in relation to current thought as to its genesis.  It became common in the 1960s, particularly among composers, producers and critics who had artistic or social objections to the cost of traditional grand opera and the conservatism of grand opera companies and their audiences.[1]   One of the primary errors of theorists in the twentieth century is to eagerly label something as a distinct artistic trend when it has not had time to develop into something cogent, or is actually part of a much larger artistic movement whose form is not yet clear or understood.  Mauricio Kagel, an important European composer regards the term ‘music-theatre’ as one which avoids this tendency, sensing that a fundamental feature of contemporary art has been in the breaking up of traditional boundaries of genres and typologies, presenting a dynamic and volatile form.  A gradual change in attitude to music-theatre has also been accompanied by a dramatic change to the treatment of vocal music, using the voice in ways other than exclusively in the traditional singing mode.  These include spoken, whispered, murmured, and hummed delivery, combined with such marginal sounds as coughing, sighing, and audible breathing.  Certain works use a single language; others employ more than one, even many.  Some works are composed using a new language invented for the purpose, while other use seemingly meaningless vocal noises.[2]   In contemporary theatrical-performance music, prioritising of the voice over other theatrical actions is totally avoided: an action takes the place of a note or a sound.[3]   The indeterminate music of John Cage saw combination of sound and movement with equal emphasis on each of the elements.  These attitudes to music, theatre and performance are important not only to these movements, but to contemporary artistic thought.  As well as looking at the work of  composers and theatre practitioners who have played an important role in the development of music theatre as a cogent genre, I will be looking at the genesis of these attitudes, realising that their work didn’t come into form ex nihilo , but rather a logical development resulting from a tradition (or a reaction against tradition).  Any important movement in art has its historical antecedents, and music theatre could arguably have the most prolific and contradictory base.   It is necessary to examine and discuss the complete historical background in relation to important movements in music and theatre.  Whether the definition of music-theatre is through a reaction to the conventions of opera, a breakdown of traditional forms of representation, or used as a means to fragment language and extend the power of vocal sound,  there is no doubt that movements in modern art were pondering matters of these types before the phrase ‘music- theatre’  came into acceptance.

 

      Opera, as we know it, arose out of the attempts of a group of artists and scholars in 1600 to recreate Greek drama, which was believed at the time to have been sung and not spoken.  Recitative or the sung narrative was a new device and was the precursor of dramatic dialogue.  The conceptual foundations of opera were laid when music began to carry the burden of dramatic development instead of merely comprising incidental ornamentation and ballet music. Gradually more  characters were introduced into the plots, the size of the orchestra grew, dance was incorporated, and scenic effects became ambitious.   Gradually, the disparate elements which made up such a spectacle were to become more unified and individual as the social function became more detached from the work of art itself.  Music became more central to the drama, while the libretto shifted from allegorical, pastoral and magical themes to tackle more substantial topics.  Thus opera in the later 18th century outgrew the Renaissance classical themes, and began to comment on real life and its problems, for instance Joseph II banned Le Nozze di Figaro  for being too liberally peppered with revolutionary issues.  Despite historical changes of style and idea, the cohesion of drama and music continued well into the Romantic period.  Wagner believed that music and drama had not achieved a real unity either in the Renaissance or through later reforms.  The culmination of this strong drive toward unity and cohesion in music and drama was Wagner’s ideal for the art of the future, the Gesamtkuntswerk..[4]   His work was highly influential to the development of the operatic form, although his glorified visions have been brought under much criticism because of its preservation of the traditional and elaborate conventions of opera rather than a true fusion of the arts.

 

     At the end of the 19th century a form of salon entertainment became all the rage in Europe.  It was the ‘melodrama’, which - contrary to popular usage - was a precise artistic form:  the recitation or declamation of a poem or dramatic story by an actor accompanied by an ensemble or a piano illustrating the text.  Berlioz, Schubert, Schumann and Liszt composed melodramas, and the form was well suited to both concert hall and salon.[5]   These melodramas  were engendered by a yearning for certain kinds of expression, by a love for the beauty of the speaking, declaiming voice, by a desire for the heightened intelligibility of the text, as well as by the wish to create a more subtle interpretation than was thought possible through traditional operatic delivery.[6] 

 

     Schoenberg’s revolutionary Pierrot Lunaire  (1912) was subtitled “a melodrama for speaking voice,” and was highly important because of its combination of two very opposite aesthetics: The developmental formal processes of the German art music tradition and the popular music forms of the day found in cabaret.[7]   The traditions and conventions of concert-hall performance, performed in relatively stiff immobility with a passive audience, were being questioned.   This was also the first use of his ‘Sprechstimme’,  a form of vocal notation that combined speech with song, but the expressionistic melodrama was a logical development resulting from a tradition of melodramas.  Schoenberg had already contributed two interesting and influential attempts at setting drama to music in Erwartung  and Die  glŸckliche Hand  (the lucky hand). [8]   Die glŸckliche Hand  was an overt cry of despair by the artist against his society, bringing together during its visual and symbolic action, a score for the stage lighting, expressionistic dance-like movement and a chorus speaking interior thought.[9]   Schoenberg’s text consists for the most part of directorial and lighting directions; in the midst of these, a meagerly plotted, heavily symbolic action develops.  Framed by a chorus which seems almost antique, it shows first of all the painful encounter of the Man (as the embodiment of the intellectual, creative being) with the other, everyday sphere of life, which is represented by the Woman, the Gentlemen and the workers. Closely connected with Erwartung, a monodrama about a woman symbolically lost in the dark realms of her subconscious trying to find someone whom she fears is murdered, Die glŸckliche hand  is still almost a monodrama  since there is only a single sung role, that of the Man.  Schoenberg did not win many friends with the text for Die glŸckliche Hand.  Adorno appraises the music as “perhaps the most significant which he accomplished,” but the text is an in adequate makeshift.  Adorno further explains  that the text “cannot be separated from the music.  It is precisely the coarse compactness of this text which gives the music its compressed form, and therewith, its depth and effectiveness.”  Schoenberg’s work was not performed until more than a decade after it was composed, and even when it was performed it was largely misunderstood.

 

      The almost unprecedented intellectual ferment between 1900 and 1914 produced a great variety of artistic movements: symbolism, bruitism, expressionism, cubism, nunism, imagism, simultaneism to name a few.  Artists, composers and writers not only showed a vivid interest in each other’s work, but also crossed media boundaries and worked in different domains.[10]   It is interesting to note that Schoenberg’s revolutionary theatrical work was composed in collaboration with Kandinsky, whose essay’s severely denounced the Gesamtkuntswerk  of Wagner to the extent that it only served to unify by external means - never really aiming at true fusion:  At times making the music prominent, at times the text,  and never considering colour and pictorial form.   In 1912, Franz Marc (a 40 year old painter) and Kandinsky edited the publicationThe Blaue Reiter Almanac , in which two of his own documents were published.  The first was called On Stage Composition  and was designed to accompany a transcript of his revolutionary stage work Der gelbe Klang  (the yellow sound).  In On Stage Composition  his criticisms of Wagner were made manifest.  He describes the external development of stage works into three classes: Drama, Opera, and Ballet.  He saw this as a consequence of materialism which resulted inevitably in restriction of artistic expression. He continued to describe how his own work broke down these restricting barriers, and created another three distinctions that were used for their inner value rather than for external means:

 

1. Musical sound and its movement.

2. Bodily spiritual sound and its movement, expressed by people and

     objects.

3.  Colour-tones and their movements (a special resource of the

      stage).

 

     Thus ultimately drama consists here of the complex nature of inner experiences of the spectator.  From opera has been taken the principle element music as the source of inner sounds, which need in no way be subordinated to the external progress of the action.  From ballet has been taken dance, which is used as movement that produces an abstract effect with an inner sound.  Colour-tones take on an independent significance and are treated as a means of equal importance.[11]  Music, sound, voices, forms and coloured lights would move, assemble and decompose.  They would work their effects sometimes simultaneously, sometimes separately.  Forms would appear, develop and vanish, while colours changed through shifting lights.  The colour and light would not serve to illustrate the music more than the music served to comment on the drama - all would rest precisely on the action common among all elements.  The method allowed for numerous combinations of effect: collaboration, contrast, or the three “movements” running in entirely separate, externally independent directions.  Der gelbe Klang  goes beyond the anti-naturalistic experiments of Jarry, Apia, Strinberg, Craig and Panizza in its almost complete elimination of dialogue, plot and sequential action, and its reliance on light, movement, and the abstract  dances of figures to fill the space of the stage and the duration of the performance.  Thomas von Hartmann (composer) was right when he predicted that Der gelbe Klang   would “only be presented  in the future”.  The play has been objected to, misunderstood and dismissed.  Only Schoenberg among his contemporaries seems to have provided Kandinsky with an unequivocally positive reaction to the play.[12]

   

    Kandinsky’s work onThe Blaue Reiter Almanac   in 1912, set forth an aesthetic philosophy involving a merging of the arts through their common disposition to abstraction and pursuit of inner nature.  This became a rallying point for modern artists of the avant-garde, including Schoenberg.[13]   Unfortunately, even though it may have been regrettable that Die glŸckliche Hand   had its first performance more than a decade after its completion, it was never granted to Kandinsky.  Der gelbe Klang  obviously belongs among those avant-garde, difficult works which will only be understood after about two generations.  In the light of our knowledge of Der gelbe Klang,  it is interesting to observe the development toward abstraction which proceeds parallel to the development in Kandinsky’s painting.  Even the human being, who in Schoenberg’s production is already deprived of individuality, and functions as a nameless prototype, is more and more reduced to a bearer of colour and movement. When Schoenberg compares Kandinsky’s stage work with his Die glŸckliche Hand,  he calls its renunciation of a realistic plot a “great advantage” and affirms that he had fundamentally wanted the same thing.  However, in Schoenberg’s work crass collisions between purely symbolic action and frankly naturalistic passages occur, whereas Kandinsky carried out fully what is only found sporadically in Die glŸckliche Hand.  In the context of his striving towards abstraction, he gives up all claim to a plot in the usual sense and attains a random play of colour, movement and noise.  In regard to the dramatic use of lighting, Schoenberg and Kandinsky made just as abundant use of the stage possibilities, and they were the first to give lighting an independent role in the stage action.  Schoenberg and Kandinsky gave to the German expressionist theatre its most significant impetus and , with their own stage works, opened new creative possibilities to the professional theatre.[14]

 

     The next major musical work for the history of music-theatre was written between 1917-1918 by Stravinsky, L’histoire du Soldat.  The difficulties of the war, lack of theatres and financial means suggested a work which could travel around the countryside, be set up in the open air with a small stage, simple sets and a few musicians and actors.  These conditions precluded the possibility of elaborate naturalism or illusion, and brought about a breakdown into the basic constituents in theatre similar in its divisions to the beginnings of opera in the Renaissance.  The musicians are visible, the narrator tells the story which is danced, acted and played.  The easy balance of all the elements assembled with great skill and wit marked the birth of a new genre which is still evolving today.[15]   Also, in 1923 Sir William Walton, a British composer, composed the work Facade,  an interesting experiment with the use of poetry accompanied by music, interesting purely because of the manner in which the performance was arranged.   On a curtain a monstrous head was painted with an enormous mouth fitted with a megaphone through which some poems of Edith Sitwell were declaimed by a reciter  to the accompaniment of Walton’s music.  Sitwell’s poems are not written to develop an idea or pursue a line of thought; on the contrary they play on words which are connected by free association, sometimes of assonance, sometimes of sense.The flow of images is determined by exigencies of rhyme rather than idea: the sound makes the sense.  The poems are spoken in level tones and with strict metres - they are set in the score to pitchless notes of definite time values - so as to depersonalize the voice as far as possible, the megaphone and concealment of the reciter being further devices to achieving the same purpose.[16]   L’histoire  andFacade  are only isolated influences and therefore do not reflect a general movement in the arts. 

 

     The most formative influence on music-theatre in the 20th century came not from within music but from an amalgam of different sources including the visual arts, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, silent movies, music-hall and the Theatre of the Absurd.  The onslaught upon art of Dada and the later Surrealism altered artistic concepts radically.  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 multiplicity of alternative forms.  Silent movies made an indelible impression on modern sensibility, and their own blend of surrealism brought a new freedom and audacity in the face of theatrical convention.  AndrŽ Breton , one of the French Surrealist groups, described them as “pure American Dada humour”. 

 

     In 1909, the year Schoenberg’s Erwartung   was composed, a new voice appeared, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement in Italy.  In hisManifesto of Futurism  he speaks of risk-taking, of the love of danger, of courage and revolt.  Through a disjointed and feverish language Marinetti was able to capture something of the mood of a human crowd in motion, one of his claimed objectives.[17]   In 1912 Marinetti published his theory of “free-word” poetry, in which evocative words printed in varying types faces and sizes, linked by mathematical signs rather than grammatical connectives, were scattered dramatically over the page.[18]   In an article published in 1916, Dynamic and Synoptic Declamation,  he describes in some detail the ‘new Futurist lyricism’ in terms of how the person should speak, stand, move his arms and hands; his facial expressions; his displacement in space during the recitation; the use of several speakers at the same time; the employment of design, and the use of instrumental accompaniment.  Marinetti’s work was very effective and probably highly influential to the Dada movement that would follow the tracks of Futurism.[19]       

 

     When war broke our, a number of artists in Europe left their homelands and took refuge in Switzerland, which offered them peace, shelter and an opportunity for free exchange of ideas.  A group, in 1916, formed in Zurich a movement that was to be known as Dada, finding expression primarily through experimentation with performance.  Dada was meant to be principally a focus for an abstract art, and it had an absurd expression.  Tristan Tzara, an important founder of the movement, wrote: “Dada is our intensity: it sets up inconsequential bayonets the sumatran head of the German baby; ... It is for and against unity and definitely against the future.”[20]   The Dada performers set up a performance space called the ‘Cabaret Voltaire’, where most of the early experiments took place.  Performance at the Cabaret Voltaire included dances and skits - many employing masked performers, work with rhythm,  music and “natural sound” (those sounds which the human voice and body is capable of making without the aid of extensions of any kind), noise music (bruitism) and the reading of typically Dada poetry.   The Dada performers at the Cabaret Voltaire had taken up a path of deliberate provocation and inevitable scandal was to accompany their performances.[21]

 

     Hugo Ball, an important Dada poet, invented poems without words or sound poems,in which he composed with the sonic qualities of vowels and consonants as the composer does with tones and instrumental timbres.[22]   Ball was particularly influenced by the work of Kandinsky and his publication The Blaue Reiter Almanac.  Here new thoughts were forcefully presented and Ball encountered the theories of Robert Delauney’s ‘simultaneism’ which was to affect his concept of simultaneous poetry and therefore the entire nature of Dada performance.  The importance of simultaneism was in its new grasp of structure - a structure which is the ‘opposite of narration,’ which representing “an effort to retain a moment of experience without sacrificing its logically unrelated variety.”  Simultaneism wanted to present a plurality of actions at the same time.  Abridged syntax and unpunctuated abruptness tended to merge disparate moments into an instance.  Passages were set one next to another to encourage feeling conflict between them rather than the link.  From here it is a short jump to obscurity, illogicality and abruptness, therefore surprise, shock and ‘chance’.  It was the Dada who took simultaneism to its most complete extension in the area of performance.  On March 30th 1916 the first simultaneous poem was performed at the Cabaret Voltaire:

 

A contrapuntal recitative in which three or more voices speak, sing, whistle etc., simultaneously in such a way that the resulting combinations account for the total effect of the work, elegiac, funny or bizarre.

 

   Experiments in simultaneity led to multiple voices reading poems and manifestos, and the simultaneous reading of unrelated texts (often in different languages).  This “psychological space-time,” evoked by the juxtaposition of unrelated words, verbal free-association, and “inane sonority” comes close to Sergei Eisenstein’s concept of “inner speech”: a montage concept based on the collision of images.  The montage concept is helpful in looking at much of Dada performance.  The collision impact in performance is not due to the verbal element alone.  There was something visual ‘going on’ on stage as well.  At the very least there were the facial expressions of the performers as they moved their mouths and focused their eyes in their reading of the texts.The phonetic poem had become “an act of respiratory and auditive combinations, firmly tied to a unit of duration.”  The performers wheezed, gasped, wailed and sputtered out the letters and sounds.  Some of these experiments in language may be looked at against a religio-mystical background.  The ‘magic’ in religion has often been bound up with power-words like ‘abracadabra’ whose meaning and linguistic provenance is obscure.  Here impressiveness derives from unintelligibility.  Ball ascribed two-thirds of the “wonderfully plaintive words that no human mind can resist” to “ancient magical texts”.  In Kandinsky’s experiments with poems devoid of semantic meaning, called KlŠnge  (sounds), the sound of the human voice was applied in pure fashion, “without being darkened by the word, by the meaning of the word.”  Poems from this collection were recited for the first time at the Cabaret Voltaire.  The common linguistic denominator of the group was absolute sound, and when he was ready to transcend sound, the Dada-poet performer moved onto noise.

 

Noises are existentially more powerful than the human voice .    The noises represent the inarticulate, inexorable and ultimately decisive forces which constitute the background. The poem carries the message that mankind is swallowed up in a mechanistic process.  In a generalized and compressed form it represents the battle of the human voice against a  world whose rhythms and whose din are inescapable.

 

     Ball composed a noise-concert for shawms and little bells, baby rattles, and chants for a human chorus.  He was perfectly aware of the primitive and ‘magical’ import of his metrical phonetic experiments:

 

We have charged the word with forces and energies which made it possible for us to rediscover the evangelical concept of the ‘word’(logos) as a magical complex of images.

 

     Both in their theatrical exploration of simultaneity and the art of noise, and in their early attempts to agitate the audience, the Cabaret Voltaire was not treading on entirely new ground.  Noise had already been christened as an art form by the Futurists.  In 1913 Luigi Russolo had written a manifesto entitledThe Art of Noise,  which posited that Western culture to date had accepted only a narrow segment of those infinite possibilities of sound that make music. All sound should be acceptable material for music.  Many common elements are to be found in Dada and Futurist performances.  Short theatrical pieces, simultaneous and phonetic poetry, declaimed manifestos and bruitist music were part of the programmes of both movements.  The futurists were even more extreme than the dada in their use of the techniques of simultaneity.  In Marinetti’s play I Vasi Communicanti   the action on stage goes on in three different unrelated locations at the same time.  Linear and homogeneous time was out; in its place stood a new dynamism to be achieved by the simultaneous reduction and overlapping of time and space. 

 

     The elements of “chance” and the “spontaneous act” took on a new significance for the performing artist.  Chance was the basis of Tzara’s paper-bag poetry, and much of Arp’s as well.

 

I tore apart sentences, words, syllables.  I tried to break down the language into atoms, in order to approach the creative . . .Chance opened up perceptions to me, immediate spiritual insights.

 

      Avant-garde performance in Paris that occurred around the same time as Dada performance in Zurich created some interesting and contrasting ideas about performance and theatre, resulting in the first Surrealist plays.  Pierre Albert-Birot had named his own study of a new type of theatre ‘nunism’, derived from the Greek word ‘nun’(now).  In a number of brief articles which he published in 1916, Albert-Birot described his theatre: having left the three unities behind, it would now focus on acrobatics, sounds, projections, pantomimes, and cinematographic elements.  It would be a ‘grand simultaneity’ encompassing all the methods and all the emotions capable of communicating life in its vitality and intensity to the spectator.  In order to convey this intensity, multiple actions would take place simultaneously onstage as well as in the auditorium.  Being bound to no unity of time or place, these scenes could take place “in Paris, in New York, in Tokyo, in a house, beneath the sea . . .”  The scenes would therefore be set by light alone, using a wide palette of colours to create the appropriate atmosphere.  Guillame Apollinaire, the main French impresario of the avant-garde chose the term ‘Surrealist’ for the plays he wrote for this new theatre, and thus began the Surrealist tradition in performance.  In 1924 AndrŽ Breton published his first manifesto on surrealism, beginning with a definition of the term:

 

SURREALISM.  Psychic automism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express - verbally, by means of the written work, or in any other manner - the actual functioning of thought.  Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

 


ENCYCLOPEDIA. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested plan of thought.  It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.

 

     In the summer of 1919, six months before Tzara arrived in Paris, AndrŽ Breton and Philippe Soupault sat down to write what Breton was later to call the first surrealist text:  The Magnetic Fields.  This was to be done according to the principles of automatic writing - the direct transcription of thought, “in the absence of critical intervention”.  In his emphasis on automatic writing Breton was moving, as did Dada, to stress the importance of process over product - to allow the artist to shift into an entirely different gearing of the mechanics of creation. When he came to writing S’il vous pla”t  (if you please), one of the sketches fromThe Magnetic Fields,  Breton records the following sequence:

 

         Gilda:            are your eyes really that colour?

   Maxime:                     Elbow on the table like naughty children.  The fruit of                              a Christian primary education, if books didn’t lie,                                everything is golden.

         Gilda:                  In the huts of fishermen one finds those artificial                                  bouquets made up of periwinkles and even a bunch                                   of grapes.

     Maxine:            The globe must be lifted up if it is not transparent                                      enough.

 

     Here are the multiple ‘short-circuits’ which Breton discusses in his Second Manifesto of Surrealism, here is the sabotaging of the usual ‘insanities’ which form the realistic current of life.

 

     It was in 1925 that Antonin Artaud began to be involved with the Surrealist movement.  In 1931, at the Colonial Exhibition in Paris, Artaud saw the Balinese dancers who were to have a profound influence upon his concept of theatre. In 1937 he was certified insane and not released until 1946.  He died two years later.[23]   The visionary conceptions of Artaud, relating to the use of language in the theatre, came to fruition only after the end of the Second World War.  In 1930, in Theatre of Cruelty (First Manifesto),  he wrote: “What the theatre can still take over from speech are its possibilities for extension beyond words, for development in space, for dissociative and vibratory action upon the sensibility.  This is the hour of intonations, of a word’s particular pronunciation”.  He asks for the incorporation of cries and onomatopoeia into the language of the stage and for the inclusion of Oriental expression that changes “words into incantations.”[24]   Equally important to the development of music theatre are Artaud’s thoughts about the combination of the use of instruments with dramatic performance:

 

     These will be used as objects, as part of the set.  Moreover they need to act deeply and directly on our sensibility through the senses, and from the point of view of sound they invite research into utterly unusual sound properties and vibrations which present-day musical instruments do not possess, urging us to use ancient or forgotten instruments or to invent new ones.  Apart from music, research is also needed into instruments based on special refining and new alloys which can reach a new scale in the octave and produce an unbearably piercing sound or noise.[25]

 

     Conditioned as we are to anti-theatre, to expression of the futility of attempts at communication, to attacks on the audience, we may tend to underestimate the impact and unsettling nature of Dada and Surrealist performance in its time.  Such shocks as the Dada-Surrealists attempted to perpetrate on a usually placed audience are no longer repeatable.  However, the performance techniques which Tzara brought to the founders of Surrealism, created more than a destructive movement.[26]   They undoubtedly changed the face of contemporary art.  Expressions of suggestive unintelligibility and absurdity from Dada were made into powerful artistic statements by such composers as John Cage and Mauricio Kagel.

 

     During the 1910s and 1920s members of a group of poets of Russia, who came to be known as the ‘Cubo-futurists’, were also engaged in linguistic experimentation aimed at renewing poetical language in response to what they saw to be changing sociopolitical realities.  The Cubo-futurists were possibly influenced by Marinetti, became interested in simultaneous recitation.  In the turbulent world of the early years of the Russian revolution, theatre, life, and political theory often merged into a single experience.  As the revolution improvised on the social life, so the theatre reflected it through mass improvisation.  The simultaneous recitation of the cubo-futurists had only this revolutionary theatre to model on.  The desire was to actively engage the mass - mass meaning individuals untrained in acting, who might be effectively employed as members of a chorus.  It was held that in these events “the personality of the mass must predominate  . . .  The mass must form a chorus resembling the ancient Greek chorus to express the misery and triumph, social and political.”  Similar theatrical developments also took place in Germany after the 1918 revolution there, creating the first unequivocal information of the speech-choir as an organized, autonomous, and significant performing medium.  Gustav von Wangenheim’s Chorus of Work  (Chor der Arbeit) was written for the speech-choir of the Communist party organization in Berlin in 1923.  It specifies the exclusive use of workers for the choir, but allows the use of trained actors for the difficult solos.  Wangenheim indicates that “in general the chorus does not recite more than two to three consecutive words.  The collision of the diverse voices and choir segments, as well as the mechanically imitated short and long syllables, attenuations, intensifications, provide the effect . . .  The chorus might speak in its totality, and it can divide itself into a larger or smaller number of high and low voices, men and women; the tone might come from various places in the hall, different tones might create the effect of confusion . . .  The absolute precision and stillness during pauses and the unified attack is of decisive importance; this can be achieved by the adoption of numbers, words or sentences, which are to be spoken in the mind only.”[27]  

 

     It is difficult to recall these efforts in controlled collective recitation without wondering about the relationship between the medium and its social milieu or thinking about the carefully composed vocal mass-structures of Ligeti, Xenakis or Lutoslawski, and the use of spoken choral recitation in music-theatre.  There seems to be a link between the central European speech-choirs of the early 1920s and these recent works.

 

     Another outstanding innovator who undoubtedly influenced the development of music-theatre was Bertolt Brecht, who practised and formulated his own theory of the separation of the elements.  “Words, music and setting must become more independent of one another.  So long as the expressionGesamtkuntswerk   means that the integration is a muddle, so long as the arts are supposed to be fused together, the various elements will all be equally degraded, and each will act as a mere ‘feed’ to the rest,” he wrote in 1930.  Brecht already had experience ofDie Dreigroschenoper   behind him, notable for its separation of music from all the other elements.  The orchestra was placed on stage, and for the singing of songs a special change of lighting was arranged: the orchestra was lit up; the titles of the various numbers were projected on the screens at the back, and the actors changed position before the number began.  He was not isolated in his approach, but was part of a far larger movement.  There was a definite tendency for the arts and sciences towards analysis and the exhaustive examination of small units.  This was the period leading up to the great discoveries of micro-physics and nuclear science, thus the urge to break up entities into their basic elements and reconstitute them in new relationships was mirrored in the arts.  Brecht was altering the relationships between these separated elements to create new meanings and associations in the resultant structure with a new emphasis on music.[28]   His use of the alienation effect and the formation of his epic theatre was important in relation to the development of music-theatre because they shared such similar ground.  The epic theatre form, in its use of multiple realities and non-naturalism, created a new attitude to theatre that affected and continues to affect contemporary composers and theatre practitioners.

 

     Music Theatre has a longer history in the United States of America than in Europe.  European tradition clings to conventional ‘concert’ presentations, continuing to aim at music of high aesthetic quality, whereas in the United States a fair proportion of young composers recognize that if they write a symphony or opera it is unlikely that it will ever be played.  John Cage is the primary proponent of American music-theatre.  When he suggested that the terms sound and music were interchangeable (any sound is music and any music is sound), he revolutionised the musical world.  Therefore, all sounds are legitimate and admissible, whether conventionally musical or otherwise. For Cage, music is action.  A player’s body, gestures, speech, and actions are an extension of his instruments, an enlargement of its personality.  Cage’s music can therefore involve players in speech, movement, and gestures; in theatricalisms which are quite alien to the almost impersonal “white tie and tails” tradition of formal music.  He is one of the first composers to so openly include theatrical elements in his compositions.  HisTheatre Piece  (1960) may be performed by from one to eight performers.  Actions are to be made within certain time periods, the actions being chosen from a range of twenty nouns or verbs.  The result is a display of unassociated actions and situation, an assault on the senses of incoherent and inconsequential material which must be observed impartially and dispassionately. [29]   Meanings that are found are purely there because the listener has found them.  Cage’s work involving indeterminacy, chance, and  simultaneous events must be observed in relation to the Dada movement.  The initiative of theatrical performance art and music, which have been for a long time in formulation, seem to have been redefined, after Dada and Surrealism, by his guidance; the practice has spread widely,  revealing new aspects and fresh possibilities not only in music, but in painting, sculpture, literature, dance, and drama. [30]   Cage made an entrance into Europe in 1958, and composers were thrilled by the glad tidings of structurelessness and aleatoric music, which contributed substantially to the demise of strict musical forms and the development of European music-theatre.

 

     The formation of music-theatre as an independent and cogent genre did not actually happen until after the Second World War.  Composer Hans Werner Henze remembers the  immediate post war years as a time of stifling instability:

 

We were assured by senior composers that music is abstract, not to be connected with everyday life, and that immeasurable and inalienable values are lodged in it (which is precisely why the Nazis censored those modern works which strove to achieve absolute freedom) . . .  Everything had to be styilized and made abstract: music was regarded as a fossil of life . . .  Expressionism and surrealism were mystically remote; we were told that these movements were already obsolete before 1930, and had been surpassed . . .  As Adorno decreed, the job of a composer was to write music that would repel, shock and be the vehicle for ‘unmitigated cruelty’.’[31]

 

     The years during the war, the stifling nightmare of fascism, fashioned a composer who wanted to use music as a political tool, as a means of resistance.  Hans Werner Henze found expression through theatre and the music-theatre medium. It enabled him to relate to an audience on a number of different levels: including a narrative level, an image-related level and (most importantly) a musical level.  His most famous music-theatre work is called called El Cimarr—n - Biography of the Runaway Slave Esteban Montejo,  and it was composed in 1971.  The composition of this work derived from his interest in composing political songs, but the resultant form was far from a song cycle.  It is a ‘recital for four musicians,’ which can be taken on two levels: the recital of a group of instruments (instrumental performance) or the recital of text.  The four performers are a singer, a flautist (with a number of different flutes), a percussionist, and a guitarist whose part was supplemented also by bongos, marimba, wood blocks, cow-bells and other instruments.  These percussion instruments could intervene in the improvisations that were planned and produce some of the many quotations of the Cuban rhythms.  It is a piece for instrumentalists working under unusual conditions.  The players must invent many things  in the score themselves; there are points where only a graphic image serves as a clue, stimulus or signpost.  Below is an excerpt taken from the score:

 


     The composer had arranged to meet Esteban Montejo before he composed the work, which had a profound effect on him.  His composition is filled with many powerful musical images.  It begins with a musical description  of the landscape of Cuba, its climate and natural catastrophes, which is a bridge to the tale of the origin of slavery.  This is followed by an extended piece for the guitar, like fragments of an old song, representing the transfer of African culture to the Caribbean. This is softly accompanied by a Yoruba rhythm (Yoruba is one of the African religions that have survived in Cuba, but whose rites were prohibited under the Batista dictatorship).  The rhythms are all derived from this Yoruba motif.  Parody crops up at several points.  In the second piece there is a habanera, sickly and sentimental, when the gastronomic delights of the rich whites are mentioned.  Theatrical moments include the ‘Ave Maria’ in the third piece ‘Slavery’.  It is a cry of hatred, and the sound of bells is none other than the rattle of chains.  Torture is described by the wailing of a flute.  The escape-plan, hatched during sleepless nights, is represented by a nervous drumming of the fingers on flute keys, the body of the guitar, and wooden drums - rising and falling.  The machine scenes in the second part are based on early cinema, in particular the factory scenes from Chaplin’s Modern Times.  The percussion is arranged is such a way that the body of the performer seems to become a machine while he plays.[32]

 

     Composer Gyšrgy Ligeti’s attitude to reflection of the society in music contrasts greatly to Henze’s and this is reflected in two of his important music theatre works.  Ligeti has said this about his attitude to politics and music:

 

when aspects of society are ironized by being assembled  in a new way, indeed caricatured and demonized, this takes place without any political slant.  It is precisely a dread of deep significance and ideology that makes any kind of engaged art out of the question for me.

 

     In 1962, Ligeti composed a work called Aventures,  a work in which the comic and horrific possibilities of singers singing nonsense are fully exploited.  There is no text, only a vast spectrum of sounds and syllables from which Ligeti chooses to help shape his musical events, and very often to underline an expressive effect.  There are three vocalists in the work, soprano, contralto and bass, as well as a total of seven instrumentalists.  The different musical-dramatic atmospheres of the piece are various as this variety in the ensemble makes possible: a crazy ‘conversation’ for the three singers alone, an ominous echo in which the double bass holds a note in the extreme bass, and a chattering hubbub interrupted by isolated cries from singers and instrumentalists to name a few.  As Ligeti has said, the result is “an imaginary stage action that is undefined as to content but precisely defined as to the emotions displayed . . .”  The composer has used an incredibly complicated system of notation to determine exact vocal sounds, including an alphabet of phonetic symbols and an array of emotional states the performers have to imitate.  Within its duration of about eleven minutes, Aventures    keeps chopping from one emotional state to another quite different:  it is the first of several Ligeti pieces that have something of the character of strip cartoons, the succession being one of sharply focused pictures of encounters and mental conditions. Aventures,  which undoubtedly has a basis in Surrealist and Absurdist theatre, uses a cross cutting of many different narratives and situations.  Inevitably, one looks for explanation of these unreasonable goings-on, and the explanation that occurs is similar to that made explicit in Beckett’s Happy Days,  first performed in 1961 and so belonging to very much the same period.  Like Winnie in the Beckett play, Ligeti’s three characters are terrified by silence and emptiness and so they find little activities to fill up the time.  They tell each other stories; they whisper together; they play games.  They are only alive when they are making a noise:  Silence is the ultimate embarrassment, the reminder of death.[33]    Below is an example from the score:

 


    The music theatre work of Peter Maxwell-Davies has greatly affected the popular view as to the nature of music-theatre, if only because of the dark and macabre accessibility of his work, and his clever use of parody techniques.  Undoubtedly, his most famous work is Eight Songs for a Mad King  (1969),although 1968-69 was his most creative period music-theatre wise which led to the production of two other important works in this genre Missa Super l’Homme ArmŽ  (1968, revised in 1971) and Vesalii Icones  (1969). Eight Song for a Mad King  is in fact Davies’ first real work of music theatre, as Missa Super l’Homme ArmŽ  became a theatre piece in 1971 when it was revised.  It is also his most spectacular, with the mad king ranting at his caged musicians, and yet this is far from being a Bedlam sideshow to titillate an audience - for the audience has come to be entertained by a show of madness, and the perturbing character of the work is due not merely to its startling depiction of insanity but more to the fact that it obliges us to acknowledge that the madhouse does exert a terrible fascination.  The king’s crazy pronouncements would not be completely meaningless if they did not sensibly connect with more normal mentality, so that we are not only voyeurs, but voyeurs at our own potential extremity.  The work was composed for the ‘Pierrot Players’ ensemble, and has many less than accidental allusions to Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire,  in fact the work grows as music-theatre from the possibilities suggested by Schoenberg’s work.  Schoenberg’s reciter speaks of Pierrot sometimes in the first and sometimes in the third person, whereas Davies’s vocalist identifies himself as King George III but leaves the audience unsure as to whether the work is intended as a study of that monarch or of a madman who believes himself to be the King.  Furthermore, Davies makes the audience more aware of the relationship between the vocalist and the instruments by using Brechtian techniques of detachment and assimilation.   He does this dramatically by placing the instrumentalists in cages, and musically by providing ensemble material which hardly ever supports the voice but instead proposes a stream of images sparked off by the hysterical vocal line.[34]   The nature of the theatre is both amusing and darkly powerful, and relates to the composers use of the voice and his suddenly contrasting use of musical parody.  The parody presents itself in the work in many forms, including the king’s historically authentic quotations from The Messiah   which evoke a mocking response in the instrumental parts - the stylistic switch is unprepared for, and arouses an aggressive reaction from an audience.  The composer regards the work as a collection of musical objects borrowed from many sources, functioning as musical ‘stage props’, around which the reciter’s part weaves, lighting them from extra-ordinary angles, giving them an unexpected and sometimes sinister significance.  In song six, (‘The Phantom Queen’) an eighteenth-century suite is intermittently suggested in the instrumental parts.    The flute, clarinet, violin, and ‘cello, as well as having their usual accompanimental function, also represent the bullfinches the king was trying to teach to sing.  The king has extended dialogues with these players individually in different songs in the piece.  The percussion player stands for the kings keeper.  Just as the music of the players is always a comment upon and extension of the King’s music, so the ‘bullfinch’ and ‘keeper’ aspects of the players’ roles are physical extensions of this musical process - they are projections stemming from the king’s own words and music, becoming incarnations of facets of the king’s own psyche.  The climax of the work is the end of song seven, where the king snatches the violin through the bars of the player’s cage and breaks it.  This is not just the killing of a bullfinch - it is a giving in to insanity, and a ritual murder by the king of a part of himself, after which he can announce his own death.[35]   This all outlines the freedom of representation that a music theatre composer has, never necessarily being restricted by the confines of narrative or expression of semantic meaning.  The Brechtian detachment the performers have from their roles as ‘instrumentalists’ allows them to freely become the king’s bull-finches in the eyes of the King and therefore the audience.  Also, through the use of powerful imagery, vocal sound and involvement of instruments within the set, this composition suggests considerable influence from Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty.   Below is an example from the score:

 


   In Eight Songs for a Mad King  Davies has taken the voice beyond the word by using elaborate extended vocal techniques, and has created perhaps the most influential of all music-theatre works composed in the twentieth century.  The work was composed for the voice of Roy hart, a soloist of the highest calibre with an extended vocal range, and a capacity for producing chords with his voice.  Roy Hart’s work on extending vocal techniques for use in the theatre has been quite influential to other theatre composers and theatre practitioners, and it is not surprising that composers such as Hans Werner Henze and Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote for this unique instrument.  There were many who, hearing for the first time the eight-octave voice of Roy Hart, or the sounds created by his company, were disturbed as  such sounds reject all the traditional sounds of beauty and create raw vocal dissonance of great power and energy.  Roy Hart once observed, “Those who can hear without fear know that these sounds which are commanded to come forth are under conscious control.”  The Roy Hart Theatre, now based in France, grew out of the work of Alfred Wolfsohn who was born in Berlin in 1896 and escaped from Germany in 1938. He died in London in 1962.  Believing that the voice is the audible expression of a man’s inner being, he devoted his life to trying to discover why in most people the voice is shackled, monotonous and cramped.  Through his research he learned that the voice is not the function solely of any anatomical structure, but the expression of the whole personality.  Working with a great variety of people he proved that the human voice is restricted only by the psychological restrictions of the individual and that conversely, the voice is a way through which all aspects of an individual can be developed.  His work with singers and actors and ordinary people led to an increase in the vocal range from two to eight octaves, and even nine. Roy Hart was one of Wolfsohn’s most talented pupils and it was considered an inevitable development that he would take over the group after Wolfsohn’s death.  Since the tragic death of Roy Hart in 1975, the theatre has continued to research and perform work internationally, and below is a French critic’s reaction to one of their recent productions, a version of The Tempest:

 

“Tempest - yes : Shakespeare - no” . . . then we understand.  We are present at an exceptional performance and interpreted, shall I say acted, spoken, danced, sung, shouted and whispered - by a troupe equal to the delirious ambitions of the captain: to make theatre with only the body and the voice of the actor. . .  Animal cries, logs, which crack, birds which whistle and call and all the instruments, they all do that ! And “A Capella”!  And they are capable of sounds which are raucous, burring guttural, rasping like a file or smooth tenuous diaphanous threads in the sun (an it is here we think of Japanese Noh theatre).[36]

 

     The distinctive vocal style that composer Luciano Berio created in the sixties has received more critical attention, and attracted more imitators than any other part of his work.  Two sides of his work are most interesting to our discussion, and that is the way he deals with text and language in his works, and the way he uses the medium of the theatre.  Compositionally, his work on the deconstruction of texts is  highly detailed, and can be seen as extension of the work done with phonetic and simultaneous poetry earlier in the century.  An early example is his tape work Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)   - a homage to James Joyce, where  he used a text from James Joyce’s Ulysses.  The work focused on the phonetic borderline that divides sense from sound, and upon relative comprehensibility as a structural component.  He used phonetic sounds to explore the borderline where sound as the bearer of linguistic sense dissolves into sound as the bearer of musical meaning.  In his next important tape work, however, he went one step further and dispensed with text altogether, concentrating purely on the dramatic element of the voice.  Visage   is a work that is based on a repertoire of vocal gestures and phonetic material suggested by a given linguistic model, but in fact uses no words from language.  Yet like any foreign conversation overheard in a train or a cafŽ, they were far from meaningless, and graphically conveyed ‘content’ by gesture and intonation, reminding us of the Dada nonsense language poetry.  Out of these materials Berio built a montage so rich in suggestions of psychological drama that  the radio station for whom it was originally composed for, banned the work from the air waves because of its ‘obscene’ nature.[37] 

 

     During the seventies and eighties stage works have assumed a central role within Berio’s output.  In one sense these transpose into the opera house a ‘theatre of the imagination’ whose essential features he had established long before.  Passagio  (1962), an important and powerful theatrical venture, established the foundations for a form of music-theatre that he has continued to develop to this day, in which the narrative provides at best no more than a skeletal framework for a proliferating network of verbal and visual images.  Berio’s initial plan for this work centred around the image of a woman slowly crossing the stage, and stopping from time to time to sing.  It is the tension between the highly subjective fragments of fantasy and memory sung from the stage, and the responses of groups in the auditorium ‘speaking for’ the audience that create the dramatic substance of the piece: the visual component is simply an adjunct to a theatre of the mind.  On stage is the single female protagonist.  In the orchestra pit is a substantial ensemble (predominantly wind and percussion) and an eight-part choir that comments on the action from different standpoints.  The speaking groups in the audience provide a devastating counterpoint.  They invoke social order, abuse and lust after the protagonist, pray that they may be saved from the wrath of the poor, auction a ‘perfectly domesticated woman’, and recite lists of consumer goods that turn into a horrifying catalogue of weapons (while the protagonist lies on bed and starts to strip).    Its super-imposed layers of a verbal material oblige listeners to find their own paths through the aural jungle, and to embrace that singular mixture of aesthetic alertness and receptiveness that springs from the half understood.  This work evokes memories of expressionist theatre, and the power of the Futurist’s group recitations.

 

     Berio’s next major project was a full-length theatre work called Opera,  which was composed in 1970. It is an essential point of reference for further development in Berio’s stage works.  Opera   was built around the relationships between three contrasted layers of dramatic material that are united by a common theme.  All three are narrations about death.  The first consists of fragments from Striggio’s libretto for Monteverdi’s Orfeo.  The second offers a sardonic dramatized documentary about the sinking of the Titanic.  The third derives from a then current production by Jo Chakin’s Open Theatre of New York, Terminal, that parodied our treatment of the dying.  The materials from Terminal   and the Titanic project are presented with Brechtian detachment, but there are various points when the work breaks through and commands immediate empathy e.g the image of two panic stricken children being hunted down by searchlights.  Even though dramatic means are used, structure is otherwise based on a musical sensibility.  The score consists of a series of separate numbers and the patterns created by them form the basis of the large-scale structure.[38]   Opera   is a highly interesting work because of its presentation of dramatic elements being underlined by musical structures, creating dream-like ambiguity similar to the early Surrealist sketches.

 

     Artaud’s theories about a new use for language and instruments in theatre have seen expression in the work of two important contemporary proponents of music-theatre, Peter Brook and Harry Partch.  Peter Brook, an important theatre director and writer, in 1971 created a new theatrical language, both literally and metaphorically.  To enable the 25 actors of ten nationalities and as many divergent cultures to find a common phonetic, aesthetic and sensual mode of expression, Brook got his author Ted Hughes to concoct a specially adapted language which they called ‘Orghast’.  This was also the name of the two-part drama that emerged from the phonetic boiling pot.  Orghast   became a play upon words.  It harnessed the consonants, vowel sounds and syllables of the constituent vocabulary to a complex-seeming tonal scale and onomatopoeic sound-structure.  The company spent months learning to master the language, and the guttural and plosive consonants and exotic musical intonation on which Orghast   is based.[39]    The production introduced revolutionary methods of using language in theatre, and relates directly to what many music-theatre composers have been attempting to do through breaking the barriers between language, sound and meaning.

 

     Harry Partch (1901-1976) is an American composer, instrument maker and performer.  Largely self-taught, he pursued independent researches into natural tunings of the past; these, together with a predominant concern with the physical ‘corporeal’ aspects of music, led him to reject all modern Western scales and techniques, necessitating the invention of his own tuning system and instruments, and the training of his own performance group.  Most of Partch’s work is designed for the theatre, with instructions to involve the instruments and their performers in the stage setting. [40]   The instruments are visually striking (some of these seven feet high, as Artaud wished), the musicians play from memory, and the whole theatrical effect arises directly from the production of the music.  Partch’s music permits all gradations of expression from speech, to chant, to song, to shout, to scream.  His work Delusion of the Fury   (1969) has a vocabulary of only some fifty words, responding to Artaud’s desires.  Those elements of Partch’s dramatic works which often stir contempt because they lack that type of professionalized difference from ordinary life and speech the stage-accustomed intelligence expects, are the elements he shares with Artaud’s prophecies.  Below are some extracts from Harry Partch’s description of his musical drama, Delusion of the Fury.

 

The instruments must be on stage, and they must not be pushed back into corners.  They are  the set . . .  The approximately 20 musicians (with conductor)  are  the chorus.  There are 21 instruments on stage, but never do the 21 play simultaneously.  The tacit musicians may thus become actors and dancers, moving from instruments to acting areas as the impetus of the drama requires.[41]

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Partch and some of his instruments.[42]

 

     Mauricio Kagel, Argentine composer, filmmaker, dramatist and performer, is undoubtedly the one composer who has been working systematically and continuously in music-theatre from the very beginning of his career, and by virtue of his output and ideas has produced a new and entirely individual body of work with over 25 pieces of music theatre.[43]   Kagel’s output includes films and plays for radio and the stage in addition to his music, a many-sided activity whose aim has not been the creation of a Gesamtkuntswerk,  but rather an exploration of means by which ideas and forms might be transferred from one medium to another.  If his plays and films are subjected to a musical approach implying musical forms, equally, he dramatizes music.  ‘Instrumental theatre’, of which Kagel has been the most determinant and influential exponent, proposes a music in which the action of performers contribute as much as their sound.  The dramatic source for such overlap situations may often be in straightforward everyday activities, while Kagel favours unusual low-pitched and exotic instruments, or for an unaccustomed use of conventional instruments.  Sometimes the whole musical drama is suggested by Kagel’s experiences under the influence of mescalin or LSD.  Although he has objected to being labelled a ‘dadaist’ or ‘anti-composer’ the question of accepted values is one of the most significant impulses behind his work, directed to making doubt and negation fruitful.  It is also true that Kagel has brought into use new means of producing and structuring sounds.  Indeed, his work suggests an enlarged understanding of the concept ‘music’, an understanding which not only covers all sounds but also phenomena and visual effect.  The roots of Kagel’s art are to be found in Expressionism, Surrealism and Dadaism, although he is also aware of Brechtian detachment and cinematic technique - his films show a clear attraction to the cinema of the 1920s and 30s.  Much of his early theatre work is influenced greatly by the aleatory of John Cage, while the influence of Beckett[44]  is clearly evident in his dramatic work.(18)  It is also interesting to note that his theatre work Phonophonie  (1963/64),  concerning the seemingly accidental events of human existence, are actually four melodramas.[45]

 


     His nine part work Staatstheater  (1967-1970) is an important composition because of its negation of opera, and questioning of the whole tradition of music theatre.  The nine movements are highly contrasting and present different aspects of a similar theme. The section called Ensemble  calls for a 16 vocal ensemble representative of every vocal category from coloratura soprano to basso profundo.  Each singer is clad in typical opera costume, yet without any attempt to adapt to the costumes of other performers.  There is no scenery, simply a set of plain screens - representing the alienation of each costume from its ‘natural surroundings’ (which anyway are totally unnatural).  Furthermore, the singers are also denied the possibility of dramatic movement, since they are confined to their chairs.  Perhaps the most provocative section of Staatstheater   is Repertoire,  a collection of 100 brief scenes (without text or plot).  One scene is simply entitled ‘Scratching’:  an actor comes on stage with a gramophone record held in front of his face - a sort of mask.  He turns to face the audience, suddenly producing a nail, and viciously scratches the surface of the record. [46]   Kagel’s aim in these pieces is to present situations with diverse interpretation possibilities, keeping the audience frustrated as to the purpose of the actions.  The scratching piece could affect the audience by its implication of self mutilation, or by the presumption that he is wilfully destroying a consumer product, or any other possible interpretation.  Below is an excerpt from the score:

 


     This is only one example of  the great variety of styles he has developed in the music-theatre format, and would require a separate document to even begin to discuss them all.  For Kagel, music theatre is not a structured form, but is representative of the the various branches of traditional theatre (stage-play, melodrama, opera and ballet) dissolving out of their rigid divisions into a continuous scale of scenic representation.  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.  It has primarily to do with a musicalising of the forms of representation and of the relationships between the players.  Here there is no simulating or describing, and scarcely any narrating.  It remains an invaluable characteristic of music- theatre that no continuous plot is necessary in order to make the scenic representation convincing, since musical completeness can be conveyed with the residue of a plot. [47]   From this survey of music-theatre in the twentieth century two broad streams can be distinguished:  the hybrid theatrical event; an assemblage or collage of drama, text, movement, plastic and visual elements to which music belongs not as an added element but as a necessary one.  The attitude to text and language can be redefined in a musical context, involving fragmentation of the words, or texts can be avoided altogether.  Works of the second stream specifically dramatise and comment upon aspects of musical life, be they concerned with creation, composition, the instrument, performance, gesture and convention, rehearsal and fantasy or any related aspect of the musical performance.  Opera came into its own as a powerful form through the total fusion of its constituent components: now out of their fragmentation and isolation emerge the different organisms of the new music-theatre.

 
Details of score excerpts:

 

1  Hans Werner Henze,El Cimarr—n,  Biography of the Runaway Slave Esteban                                    Montejo

                   1969-70 Edition Schott 6327

 

2  Gyšrgy Ligeti, Aventures

                   1964 Henry Litolff’s Verlag

 

3  Peter Maxwell Davies, Eight Songs for a Mad King

                   1971 Boosey and Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.

 

4  Mauricio Kagel, Phonophonie, vier Melodramen fŸr zwei Stimmen und andere Schallquellen

                   1963/64 Universal Edition.

 

5  Mauricio Kagel, Repertoire   from Staatstheater

                   1971 Universal Edition


[1] Stanley Sadie ed., Òmusic theatreÓ, The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Macmillan Publishers 1980.

[2] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[3] Peter Yates, ÒTheatrical-Performance MusicÓ, Twentieth Century Music, George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1968.

[4] Nouritza Matossian, Òthe new music theatre,Ó Music and Musicians, (Sept. Ô76).

[5] ibid.

[6] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[7] Richard Vella, ÒMusic/theatre as a theatre of ideas,Ó NMA 8, 1990.

[8] Nouritza Matossian, Òthe new music theatre,Ó Music and Musicians, (Sept. Ô76).

[9] Peter Yates, ÒTheatrical-Performance Music,Ó Twentieth Century Music, George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1968.

[10] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[11] Kandinsky and Schoenberg, Letter, Pictures and Documents, Faber and Faber Ltd,  translation published 1984.

[12] Annabelle Melzer, Latest Rage the Big Drum: Dada and Surrealist Performance, UMI Research Press 1980.

[13] ibid.

[14] Kandinsky and Schoenberg, Letters, Pictures and Documents, Faber and Faber Ltd, translation published 1984.

[15] Nouritza Matossian, Òthe new music theatre,Ó Music and Musicians, (Sept. Ô76).

[16] Frank Howes, The Music of William Walton, Oxford University Press 1942.

[17] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[18] Herschel B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, University of California Press 1968.

[19] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[20] ibid.

[21] Annabelle Melzer, Latest Rage the Big Drum, UMI Research Press 1980.

[22] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[23] James Roose-Evans, Experimental Theatre, Faber and Faber Ltd, fourth ed. 1989.

[24] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[25] Antonin Artaud, First Manifesto on the Theatre of Cruelty.

[26] Annabelle Melzer, Latest Rage the Big Drum, UMI Research Press 1980.

[27] Istvan Anhalt, Alternative Voices, University of Toronto Press 1984.

[28] Nouritza Matossian, Òthe new music theatreÓ, Music and Musicians, (Sept. Ô76)

[29] Reginald Smith Brindle, ÒTheatreÓ, The New Music, Oxford University Press, Second ed. 1987.

[30] Peter Yates, ÒTheatrical-Performance MusicÓ, Twentieth Century Music, George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1968.

[31] Hans Werner Henze, Music and Politics, Faber and Faber Ltd 1982.

[32] Hans Werner Henze, ÒEl CimarronÓ, Music and Politics, Faber and Faber Ltd 1982.

[33] Paul Griffiths, Gyšrgy Ligeti, Robson Books 1983.

[34] Paul Griffiths, Peter Maxwell Davies, Robson Books 1982.

[35] Peter Maxwell Davies, Eight Songs for a Mad King, Boosey and Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd 1971.

[36] The Theatre Papers, ÒThe human voice and the aural vision of the soul: Documentation and interviews.Ó

[37] David Osmond-Smith, Òfrom words to music,Ó Berio, Oxford University Press 1991.

[38] David Osmond-Smith, ÒBerioÕs Theatre,Ó Berio, Oxford University Press 1991.

[39] Ossia Trilling, ÒPlaying with words at Persepolis,Ó Peter Brook in Persia.

[40] Stanley Sadie ed., ÒHarry PartchÓ, New Grove Dictionary of Music, Macmillan Publishers 1980.

[41] Peter Yates, ÒAppendix B and C,Ó Twentieth Century Music, George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1968.

[42] Stanley Sadie ed., ÒHarry Partch,Ó The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Macmillan Publishers 1980.

[43] Nouritza Matossian, Òthe new music theatre,Ó Music and Musicians, (Sept. Ô76).

[44] It is particularly interesting to note the remarkable similarity between KagelÕs non sound based work Pas de cinq  (1965), and BeckettÕs non text based short play called Quad  (1982).

[45] Stanley Sadie ed., ÒMauricio Kagel,Ó The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Macmillan Publishers 1980.

[46] Richard Toop, Òsocial critic in music,Ó Music and Musicians, (May Ô74).

[47] Mauricio Kagel, Òon an artistÕs self-understanding and tasks,Ó NMA 1, (1982).

 

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