Kent Olofsson

Re-thinking Music Drama: Investigating Strategies for Composing Sonic Art Theatre

My research project is an interdisciplinary and collaborative project between contemporary art music and post-dramatic theatre, in a search for, and a research in methods for creating New music theatre, or, as we have also labeled it, Sonic Art Theatre. The project can be described as search for a re-thinking of composing music drama.

In the project I’m especially investigating the relationship and the integration between text, acting and music from the perspective of my compositional practice. Where does the actual integration take place? What strategies can I use in my compositional practice to “think” integration between the art forms? The artistic part of my research is constituted by a series of works were each work is shaped so it takes on a special perspective for the investigations. Thus, the works form a body of experiences in the field, where differences and consistently concepts points out possible compositional strategies.

In this presentation I will focus especially on two of these works: ”Hamlet II: Exit Ghost” for two actors, live-electronics, videos and stage design, and “Arrival Cities: Malmö” for three actors, trombone, percussion, electronics, video and stage designs. The works are created within the theatre collective Teatr Weimar, and the collaborative aspects of creation are a central issue in my research.

In the course of the project there are certain notions that has emerged through the investigations. In this presentation I will focus on one retrieved from the practices and methods on acting, the concept of “situation”. I will discuss how we have used this concept as a common mean to integrate, and solve artistic problems, when merging new dramatic texts, acting and contemporary music.

From a theatre perspective the acting methods with situations are based in the later theories of the Russian director Stanislavski when he claimed that ”we have take the character’s fictional situation seriously, as if it was true…”. Also J P Sartre writes about the significance of situation in his essay from 1944 ”For a Theatre of Situations”. In order to find a method to do this we have been experimenting with what could be described as ”hidden situations”. This may give a connection between music and acting that we have been working with and means that the spectators perceive the situation but need to do their own interpretation of it. A good and simple illustration on the notion and our use of situation can be found in an animated film created for a study within the field of cognitive psychology: Heider and Simmel’s An Experimental Study of Apparent Behaviour from 1944. The concept of situation as we have used it, is basically very simple, but make possible complex artistic ideas like “layers of situations”, “identity shifts” and working with “gaps” between dramatic text and acting.

I will give examples on my compositional work, my use of electroacoustic music and live- electronics and on the collaborative nature of work in “Hamlet II: Exit Ghost” and “Arrival Cities: Malmö”. In the latter Jonny Axelsson is one of the musicians where he, as an integrated part of the performance, play the piece “Terpsichord”.

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