Home Feedback Saling Asah Table of Contents Nachtschimmen



The ZAUM Project
















Language without meaning or
meaning without language?
Zachar Laskewicz:
Composer and performer of
experimental music-theatre

the lights are dark
the hat is on the floor
he has already come down the stairs
now he's under the spotlight
he makes faces
his eyes move from side to side
like a puppet on a string
his hands are loose like in a
shadow play - like a marionette
the nonsense sentences, the hat,
the figure lying on the floor, motionless,
he seems to be no human at all . . .
my god - who is he?
black and white figure

-T. Laitakari, Helsinki (1996)

Zachar Laskewicz was born in Western Australia in 1971. As a child he showed great interest in theatre and music, and he has since received a Bachelor degree in theatre and drama studies, a first license in experimental composition from the Royal Conservatory of Ghent and a graduate diploma in language studies from Edith Cowan University in Perth. He is currently preparing his dissertation on multimedial musicality in contemporary Balinese performance.

Zachar's primary area of interest is experimental music-theatre and multimedia performance where the working tools of the composer include theatrial elements: language, movement and staging. Concerts of his music-theatre compositions have been presented in Autralia, Russia, Belgium, Finland and Lithuania. He has worked as a composer, director, performer, theoretician, translator, lecturer and language teacher. He is currently preparing his doctoral dissertation on a multi-medial semiotic approach to Balinese contemporary performance, and is in this way working on making a connection between his practical work as a composer and his theoretical work as a researcher.
You can contact him in relation to perormances at the following address:



ZAUM is a type of sound-poetry invented by the Russian cubo-futurists around the turn of the century. This was basically a form of poetic communication that redefined language itself, but not in terms of 'meaning' in the translatable sense: poetry was extended to include non-referential sounds that could nevertheless by enjoyed by themselves, an attitude previously confined to music. The multimedia composer Zachar Laskewicz uses the theory of the ZAUM poets to create a new type of performance language based on musical concepts.

This musical language can give us an entrance into the major thematic material underlying the composer's work. The composer begins with the notion that 'reality' is essentially unfathomable, but that we attempt nevertheless to approach this reality by imposing sign systems, which include verbal language and music. Although these sign systems are the artificial constructs of human culture, we often still consider that they can give us a direct insight into that 'unfathomable' reality. One of the major themes of Zachar's work, therefore, is to demonstrate that the sign systems we surround ourselves with provide us with only one of an infinite number of ways to approach that reality. The composer uses stylised performance of vocal and visual signs to demonstrate that our sign systems limit us by allowing us to experience the world in a certain way. Although this has negative overtones, the composer also attempts to demonstrate that these sign systems also have a liberating function: they provide us with a means to understand the world. Without them we wouldn't have any means to interface and interact with reality.

With regard to this major theme, another important area also presents itself: the relationship between musical and verbal communication systems. Some of his compositions explore areas in which the one system crosses over into the other, exploring human states in which verbal communication alone becomes insufficient and we move into the world of the non-verbal, the irrational and the musical: the dark place where language doesn't venture.

This view of music as a sign system leads to the second major theme: music is 'more than the sound it makes' and can be seen as a way of experiencing and understanding reality, providing us with a sensuous understanding of our environment. Music can therefore express itself in many different forms and is also intertwined with other communication systems.

Experiencing music is not a passive process, but an active one of creating and understanding. We are able to relate to the surrounding world not only through rational forms of verbal language but also through the sensuous dynamism of musical experience. It is therefore essential to our multimedial understanding of the world. The composer attempts to demonstrate this by using in his compositions elements which are not traditionally considered to be 'music', hence the importance of multimedial musicality and music-theatre.




Bachelor of Arts with honours:theatre & drama studies
Murdoch University, Australia

First License: experimental composition,
Royal Conservatory of Ghent, Belgium

Graduate Diploma: language studies,
Edith Cowan University, Australia



September 10
Moscow School of Music and Dance
presentation of new music-theatre compositions to a
Russian audience


January 17
Van Marinetti tot Laskewicz Grote Zaal KMC, Ghent
Presentation of experimental performance works,
including world premiere of

March 23
Ars Music Studio 1 Radiogebouw, Brussels
Presentation of Het Loket an anti-opera composed
by Zachar Laskewicz for the "Ars Musica"
international contemporary music festival.

July 6
Imbahl Logos Foundation, Ghent
Concert by Zachar Laskewicz of compositions
influenced by Indonesian performance.

November 1-3
ZAUM, Victoria Theatre, Ghent
First performance of large scale music-theatre
composition for five actors and tape. Composed for
the Ghent-based "Stekelbees" theatre festival.


June 9
Transense Language: Multimedia Performance
Karelia Hall Cultural Centre, Imatra, Finland
Solo performance.

November 6
University drama Theatre, Helsinki
Solo performance.

December 8
Festival of Musical Action
Academic Drama Theatre, Vilnius, Lithuania
Solo performance.


Songs of Incantation

Ritual composition based on Ancient Greek text
for masked flute performer and tape

Songs of Incantation
is a music-theatre composition exploring the relationship between rational and irrational language use, between what can be encompassed by verbal language and what can only be communicated with raw sounds. The primary texts used in this composition are in Ancient Greek. Using Ancient Greek text frees the composition from the restrictions of semantic meaning, allowing the words to exist in a sound world where every vocalisation has equal importance: a whisper, a moan or a scream. The theatrical context of the work examines the musical nature of language in ritual.


The emergence, artificialisation and alienation of language, represented in sound and movement.
Based on the work of Velemir Khlebnikov, a Russian futurist poet.
for performer, slides and tape

ZAUM-1 uses poetry by the important Russian cubo-futurist poet Velemir Khlebnikov. Khlebnikov believed strongly in the almost 'magical' power of vocal sounds both to signify and even affect the world in a way beyond signification. The work begins in a state without language, only sounds. Through a developmental process a connection is made between certain movements and vocalisations. By the end of the work, words and sounds initially stepped in primordial and ritual significance, are stripped of meaning and are presented as obsessive gestures.

Meanwhile on the Tower . . .

word play for tape, performer and slides
The menace of the text: words by Edward Gorey, fragmentation by Zachar Laskewicz.
for performer, slides and tape

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, gestures 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.

He presented it with a length of string. . .

Or possibly an umbrella. . .

On which she flung herself over the parapet. . .


Traditional performance language turned inside-out in a Russian futurist cabaret piece.
Based on the work of Alexei Kruchenykh, a Russian futurist poet.
for performer, slides and tape

This work is influenced by the zaum poems of Alexei Kruchenykh, a Russian futurist poet who rejected all forms of traditional artistic communication and suggested that a radical zaum language was the only possibility for contemporary art. In ZAUM-2 traditional meanings are stripped from already existing gestural and vocal models and new and ridiculous 'meaning systems' are presented in their place. The performer becomes trapped in an extremely limited performance language, evoking the restriction of verbal communication.

This w ebsite was designed by:

Click the shape above for more information.

Send mail to zlaskewicz@belgacom.net with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2000 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades
Last modified: april 17, 2000