Bellone, the slope of war
O P E R A
h O P E - R A t
h O P E - & - R A t s
ou l'Espoir des Rats
in ancient offices of: AXA insurance and Europol (ice) building in Den Haag (Nederland), the city of the International Justice Court
Second draft: October 2011
Thanks to the composer Xavier van Wersch, and the artist Arno Scheper located in Den Haag, I started an enthusiastic next idea of music creation in September 2011: here is the first draft.
To try to create an opera in an ancient business office building or in a left over big company building (is it a celebration of the end of the liberalism system? This does not matter) in the city of the international tribunal that judge international criminals is a unique opportunity to show the implications of art in politics. That particular situation obliges to choose a subject that sticks with justice in human society. About the opera theme there is a question: who considers who is criminal for whom? This interesting point will show the ambiguity of what is considered as being good for our society and what it is considered as bad. The opera will not position itself as a scream against political repression, but will instead try to bring the audience to understand the contradictions of living together in peace. It would be too easy to make an activist opera. The point is to understand that there is no enemy but a political disposition to create enemies. Governed by fear. And everyone cultivates the fear with the purpose to obey to irrational orders of any dictatorship. This is what we are: lost in our humanity.
In second hand, to create an opera not in an opera house, ask the question of its musical form: its function. The function of an opera house is to entertain people and the image of richness: the glory. The means invested in opera compare to other musical form go beyond its necessity: this to serve the glory.
In third hand, to create an opera not with a classical orchestra, ask the question why the opera stays stuck in XIX century musical form? The purpose of an alive composer is to compose with contemporary possibilities to create another music of its time. Todays, there is so many ways of making music that it is not possible to ignore them. It means that music evolve, but not institutions. Todays to create a contemporary opera outside the structure of opera house is simply “impossible”. I hope that our musical project will open mind to several people to question that incredible situation: dead composers are more played than alive composers, why?
How it comes to have the will to create an opera in an ancient office building? Since 30 years I work my music in space. And by visiting the building, I was very excited to meet different acoustics of each room and places of the building. The acoustic of concrete stairs, the acoustic of rest rooms, the acoustic of different offices, etc. My purpose in music since the beginning is to create a communication where it does not exist (see for example my Trans-Cultural Syn-Phône Orchestra to assemble different musicians from different genre and culture to play together in a single symphonic orchestra started in 1996). Music is not an universal language, just Western music invades other musical cultures: musical theories does not communicate (they are just translated in Western musical language by ethnomusicologists. Confer the works of John Blacking against that ideology). To create a music with this challenge, is to open the mind of other humans. To understand and resolve musical problems, is the start of music creation.
The first idea is to make a communication of the acoustic of each room to other rooms: to listen the acoustic of the room A into the room B with the room B acoustic, etc. To provoke the acoustic of the room, is needed a musician, and in the continuation of the communication thought, each musician of the orchestra will be isolated physically from others in a unique architectural acoustic to communicate with others with music (not sound). The Dutch composer Xavier van Wersch suggests to build a special audio communication matrix. In this case the orchestra will be disperse in all building: a sonic building where the number of rooms will decide the number of musicians in the orchestra. Each play of each musicians will excite a different acoustic with her or his music. The next problem to resolve is: how to make playing all isolated musicians in a room together in a coherent organisation to support the sings of singers? At this time it is not yet resolved, but it will be according to the ideology of the music.
Now with an isolated communicating orchestra, how and where will be the singers in the building? The answer is: everywhere (like the audience). The singers will move from room to room as messengers to make possible to understand what musicians from different genre and culture could play above the sensation of sound communication: the style. Singers are also characters with they own story that will interact with other strangers singers. This is why the singers will be not opera singers (also too expensive), but singers from the “world”. Using different techniques of singing mixed together. I will “write” duo, trio, quartet, quintet, etc. to tutti of foreign singers. Chinese technique plus Indonesian technique plus Bulgarian technique plus Arabic technique plus India technique plus Carpathian technique plus exceptional technique as Demitrio Stratos or Olga Swajgier or Diamanda Gallas could do at their time, etc. of singing. An international audition of singers will be necessary of voices outside the Western world. By the way, the libretto will be sang in Dutch, the country and culture that invites the opera project. I have already some experiences with phonetic translations for singers. I will create with the collaboration of singers a specific singing technique issue from all local singing techniques.
In addition, a running questioning children choir all around the building will sing unusual harmonies out of 12 tone classical scale. I am working since a long time with non octave scales to refine the sensation of sound by understanding unknown division of time. The choir will work as sonorities links to hawk the harmonic mood of isolated musicians. A summation of different tones played by isolated musicians. For the running children choir, we will need a choreographer to “synchronized” running with singing.
As I said, the orchestra will be not classical: as a today obligation for an alive composer. I will emphasis invented musical instrument played by self-taught musicians, this to create what was never was created in large scale: a mixed culture symphonic orchestra. As I said also, the number of musicians depends of the number of rooms (by being attached to the ideology of one musician per acoustic room). DIY will be encouraged. After knowing the exact number of musicians and what sensation of sound they produce, I will propose a global “score” to joint all individualities to support the sings. The work will be the singers and the orchestra: a two-way writing.
As a language sensation of sound support, the libretto will be written first. Mixing action, vocalisation, story, and ideas; where the subject will be the sense of our society. In my last opera (2008) I mixed three French authors: Gherasim Luca, Charles Pennequin and myself to sing “The Survivors of Cultural Hegemony” with also singing robots, and actresses. For Bellone, the Slope of War, I do not know yet how it will be formed although the title come from Roger Caillois's book: I have to work on it. As I said also, the final libretto will be sang in Dutch by foreign singers; the country which invite the creation of the opera.
With my transclass and transcultural music, I have got the experience that classical Western notation does not work to create this music. Lot of talented musicians ignore classical Western score. I always considered music score as a guide than a suite of orders to execute. Consequently, is important to have well organized rehearsals. Musical ideas and developments (not structure) will be written according to the specificity of each original musical instrument, knowing that we encourage DIY (do it yourself) musical instruments. Same thing for voices writing. I have to make agree all musicians and singers on written symbols to remind and how to play and sing how and when during the story of the opera. The musical writing will be in the exploration mode.
Stage design and costumes
As the audience walking around in the office building, the fist thought is to collaborate with street artists. Costumes will fit to each characters not yet defined. It is too early to plan anything about it now.
The first idea is to simulate with lights the building “alive”: with one potentiometer to control alls lights in the building: a light sculpture visible from outside.
One of the video system in the opera will be to prevent the audience at any time about any fact that could happened. As a network for news with robots speaking to us. We can repeat what I did in my last opera: a big artificial face in the entrance-waiting room that explain and guide the audience in this opera game.
We are living in houses because we do not like being cold, being under the rain and feeling in a “perpetual” strong wind that push us to madness. I know some windy regions where people commit suicide because of wind. Wind moves also air molecules. This means that wind perturbs straight listening. This is why I attach wind to music. Music of winds in the building with fans is one more layer of music.
How is the procedure of creation?
First we need Dutch, French people and international organizations to help us to get means to make this opera happened. A certain budget I have no idea, and possibilities to communicate for auditioning musicians, artists, and collaborators. This opera will take almost one year of preparation.
Second (or at the same time) as composer, I need first the precise map of the building even in 3D to work on localisation of everything: musicians, singers and choir paths, sound and video installation, links, the sense of the story, etc. I will define how many rooms will be visited and musicalized. Path of the audience free to walk. The organization of the sound matrix, etc.
Second bis: auditioning artists
Third I will compose the libretto.
Fourth I will compose the music.
Fifth, make the music working in the building
Then, when everything is ready: a world premiere
Toulouse the October 13, 2011
Resume by the Dutch composer: Xavier van Wersch
BELLONE, THE SLOPE OF WAR
an hOPE RAt: where the rats are the new hope of our Western civilization to clean up our sheet : they are living in sewers under the cities
Some of artists are not entertaining idiocracy
Second draft: February 2012
In september 2011, french composer Mathius Shadow-Sky and dutch artists Xavier van Wersch and Arno Scheper informally met to discuss common ideas and interests. The place of the meeting was Anna@KV20, a former office of insurance company Axa, located in the governemental district of The Hague and currently in use as a workspace for artists and creative business. The particular acoustic properties of the different spaces in the building, inspired Shadow-Sky to create a new experimental opera in which 'displacement' would be one of the main themes. Within the frame of this project, 'displacement' can be understood both in a practical and metaphorical sense.
To create an opera in a former office building in the city of the International Tribunal is a unique opportunity to show the possible implications of arts in politics and justice. One of the main themes in the opera is the ambiguity of what is generally considered good or bad for human society. In other words: who is considered a criminal by whom?
This opera will not position itself as a scream against political repression, but it will try to raise an understanding of the contradictions of living together in peace. It would be too easy to make an activist opera. The point is that there is no enemy but a political disposition to create enemies. Society is governed by fear. This fear is constantly and (not always necessarily consciously) cultivated, both in a top-down as well as in a bottom-up direction. Governments are afraid to lose control of their citizens and when enough individual citizens have similar fears, these fears will find their way to a political agenda, often without many questions asked about the actual validity of these fears. A striking example is that xenophobia is usually stronger in those parts of a country that relatively contain the smallest number of "strangers". Despite commonly heard complaints of the "individualisation" of society, people naturally live in groups. Common enemies have proven to be a very effective way of keeping a group together.
Another aim of the project is to create an opera completely outside of it's usual spacial and social context (the opera house), in order to emphasize fundamental questions about the form and function of opera as a genre. The function of the opera house is to entertain people and to provide them with an image of wealth and glory. In the effort to uphold this image, the funds allocated to traditional opera (in comparison to other musical forms) are beyond it's relevance.
The classical orchestra plays an important role in this perceived sense of grandiosity. But why should opera be stuck in the musical forms of the 19th century? The purpose of a contemporary composer is to use any means available to him to create new music of his own time. Nowadays there are so many ways of making music that it is not possible to ignore them. There is no reason why a classical orchestra should be the preferred choice for the musical foundations of a contemporay opera.
Music evolves faster then it's institutions. Particularly within the field of opera, one is faced with an incredible situation: dead composers are performed more often then those living today.
re tour à la table des matières
Who is Myster Shadow-Sky?
download: Bellone, The Slope of War (ou l'Espoir des Rats) opera project in pdf
STEIM support letter, December 2011 [pdf]
Abandoned Den Haag police building for the new opera of the composer Mathius Shadow-Sky (2012)