21:00, Thu 10th – Sat 12th November 2016 at Corpus Playroom
Michaelmas Week 5
Scenes from A Void is a work for incurable insomniacs, people who are completely unsure, people who wake up with their brain in a whirl. Perec’s original text was written without using the letter E, this absence becomes an intense metaphor for loss, distraction, and nothingness - it is the invisible backbone of his dizzying, swirling novel.
Scenes from A Void is a modern opera / musical theatre piece. I have set to music responses by 8 different poets. These poets are responding to a substantial portion of the tenth chapter of Gilbert Adair’s translation of Perec’s A Void. My opera is comprised of six musical events in total: ridiculous, violent, amorous, introspective re-writings of famous, wonderful works of poetry including Milton, Shelley, and Poe. The subject matter of each very different poem drives the narrative of the work and the emotional subject matter moves quickly and heavily. Each half, lasting roughly 25-30 minutes, contains 3 arias.
Scenes from A Void is currently scored for a small chamber ensemble of flute (doubling piccolo), oboe, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, a percussionist (vibraphone, glockenspiel, some cymbals and small drums), an electric guitar, two violins, a viola, a ‘cello, and a piano. The singing cast would consist of two tenors and a soprano, these would operate a two small percussion batteries set either side of the stage. The singing cast steps in and out of center stage to operate these batteries and in doing so act as a type of chorus. These percussion batteries consist of found objects amplified with contact microphones to make unusual, sometimes ridiculous, sounds. I am able to receive help from of a number of musicians and directors who have been involved with ADC productions. In viewing these texts in an abstract manner I hope to find and dialogue with new methods of expressive engagement
The development of the material- physical movement, auxiliary percussion, and more standard music into more unusual, unsettling realms is central to this work. I want to create a real sense of upset, distress, and searching in response to the crushing feelings of absence that pervade the text. One way I hope to take the music in this direction is by manipulating the microtonally-tuned strings of an electric guitar to literally create rhythm from harmony by constantly altering the fixed pitches of differently-tuned strings. I want to purposefully cause the critical bandwidths of two or more complex sounds to interact in changing ways over periods of time, this causes pulsations of changing rates – the audience will perceive the actual physical movements of these sounds interacting and the cast will have a visceral musical world to react and engage with. Pushing the cast to respond to these particularly visceral sounds is a further example of my interest in engaging with new modes of expression – navigating spaces between choreographed movement and musical sound in service of blurring expressive boundaries. New methods of artistic expression should become apparent in the spaces that separate different forms of artistry. Above all, however, these ideas work together to create an ambitious, performable, expressive, exciting work of musical theatre.
Scenes from a Void immerses its audience in distraction, indulgence, and emptiness - an exhausting exploration of being without identity in this plural age.