A. - a shadow opera


video versionelectro acoustic music - 8 loudspeakerstext: A. by Paal-Helge HaugenVideo: Torbjørn LjunggrenPhoto: Torbjørn Ljunggrenduration: 50:00 approx.

available through the composer

A. – a shadow opera
(version with video, 2013)

Music: Cecilie Ore
Text: Paal-Helge Haugen
Video: Torbjørn Ljunggren
Photo: Torbjørn Ljunggren

‘A. is one man, polyphonous. The historical or mythical Agamemnon is the point of departure, but other times and other entities gradually appear, adding new layers to an identity that is constantly split and reunited and refracted again in the myth’s prism. And in the voice, in the voice of the perpetrator, in the echo of a radical renunciation of responsibility, A. is a voice that tries to encompass something of a magnitude far greater than what the voice can contain. Towards the shadows of that which is incomprehensible and inaccessible, A. is moving, like a shadow.’

The music is generated entirely from metal sounds and recordings of the human voice. The metal sounds consist of gongs and bells transformed into choir-like imitations and shimmering veils. The human voice both speaks and whispers, thus becoming the acoustic shadow of the body and its actions. The voice of A. continuously moves around the audience while fragments of his restless consciousness and tormented mind are projected from other loudspeakers in the sound space. This method of composition is used in order to describe the mental chaos of A.'s ongoing inner monologue.

The visual elements consist of texts translated into English, German, Greek and Japanese. Phrases, words and letters build up and disintegrate in various ways. Letters fall down and pile up again, resembling cities destroyed and remade. Phrases are blown up and diminished, background and foreground are sometimes blurred and made incomprehensible, other times create meaning and significance. The visual images intertwined with the sound and vocal landscapes melt into a world of its own.

Music, text and video interact as if performing in a shadow play of disembodied voices – reflections, echoes, repetitions, remnants, fragments, retakes, transformations, openings and new possibilities, interruptions and closure – all this creates a tentative transport of potential meaning, a music theatre which exists somewhere in and around the shadows of a four hundred year old art form. Or as Peter Larsen (professor at the University of Bergen), expressed it: ‘One can hear that A. is not an opera, but a musical x-ray of an opera. One hears the shadow of opera’.

A. – a shadow opera was premiered at the Ultima Festival 2001 in Oslo, as a scenic version with Butoh dance. This new video version of the piece was commissioned by and premiered at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2013.

Cecilie Ore