Corpse in Context
ARCO and Sebastian Edin present a new music theatre work
Created and presented in partership with AUT in Aarhus Denmark.
Adam de la Cour - Mime, Guitar, Voice
Neil Luck - Stage Assistant, Voice, objects
Benedict Taylor - Viola, misc.
Chihiro Ono - Violin, misc.
Sebastian Edin - Electronics, misc.
Performing works by Sebastian Edin, AdlC, NL, BT, CO,
Stephen Crow, Matthew Lee Knowles and Federico Reuben.
ARCO gratefully acknowledges the support of the British Council and Arts Council England (Artists' International Development Award) for this project.
Classical music is sort of dead.
When it was invented, I suppose it was founded on the ideals of the European white male, aristocratic patronage, and intellectual superiority - a dodgy basis at best, and one which today would be (should be? is?) denounced as elitist, out-of-touch, irrelevant. As such, on stage are four white European males, (plus one Asian woman), all holding postgraduate music degrees. It’s OK though - Delueze mentioned somewhere about the most effective ways of challenging ‘the law’ being through irony or humour. So, if you prefer, this could be seen as ironic.
How to break away from this hegemony and reanimate the decomposed classical corpus? One method might be to throw elitism to the lions, and to fully embrace the low-brow. This is art music for the proletariat: “Proletariart". This might look something like a cultural trojan horse, but then that already exists doesn’t it? Pantomime, Kabuki, the Grand Guignol, late night TV and ancient Greek theatre have always traded in the stealthily subversive and satirical. By extension, does Ferneyhough become more pertinent when performed by sock puppets? What if Ferneyhough was a sock puppet?
Another way might be to disrupt these privileged bodies on stage, forcing them to fail in performance. Maybe they can be un-gendered by replacing them with false avatars, hiding them with masks, emasculating them. Perhaps we should reprogramme their decadently trained limbs through puppeteering, electric shocks, transducers, distractions etc etc. This school of composition - “New Fallibility” might point towards a new aesthetic, a new kind of beauty?
The playwright and director Richard Foreman has been exploring this for donkeys years - identifying the awkward, crap parts and mishaps in his writing and exploiting them for all they’re worth, seeing them as challenges to his directing:
Normally, let us assume we are delighted by a sunset.
We are not delighted by a corpse.
But if we place the corpse within a certain composition, let us say—we are then delighted by the composition of which the corpse is a part .
In British theatrical slang “corpsing” on stage means to unintentionally break character, forget lines, or laugh. It’s a pejorative term, but perhaps we can swap it out with Foreman’s cadaver and find some second-hand use for it. Maybe it’ll present a way forward for all of this (music etc.). I’m not suggesting we engage in some sort of post-modern-grave-robbing, but rather confront the idea of the corpse - literally and allegorically - as an object and symbol to be addressed and “dealt with”.
Maybe there’s life after death after all?