Messiaen = Prog ov the GodZoR
Ligeti = lame after he found fame (eg by the 80s)
Penderecki = mark-down Lutoslawski = Radiohead for strings
Ligeti and Penderecki hold a special place in my heart, prolly ’cos I’m an uncouth sod who don’t know music good — proper music, I mean, and I feel dead ignorant and embarrassed if I’m ever in a room with people talking up the category: 20th Century Composers Who Rate. Buuut … Ligeti, yeah, some of his stuff pinged me right, and same with Penderecki. I don’t have the education to appreciate, say, Messiaen, I mean, a lot of composers (or any other ‘canon’, theatre, art, opera, etc) don’t really open themselves up until you know a heap about what they’re saying, their context, the decades or centuries-long conversations (arguments) different composers and genres have with each other, so my first response to music is very emotional. Penderecki hit that. The strings in Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima or the whistling in St Luke Passion (I’m naming obvious ones here ’cos like I said, going deep in Western Classical music has never been easy for me), these, the sound, the emotion, I want to be buried in that. (Radiohead though, gotta say, fuck that basic noise.)
There was no applause after Act 1, so we didn’t have our aural cue over the backstage speakers to begin our final preparations. At the end of Act 2, the only sound was the rumble and grind of machinery and single voices of the tech crew. No applause. It was Valentina, the stage manager who said it was because the conductor Roberto Abbado, had asked there be no applause until the end in respect of his uncle, the conductor Claudio Abbado, who died the previous day.
This morning I read his obituary in Deutsche Welle. He is quoted, “Many people learn how to talk, but they don’t learn how to listen. Listening to one another is an important thing in life. And music tells us how to do that.” and “Theaters, libraries, museums and movie theaters are like little aqueducts,” and “Culture overcomes social inequities. Culture frees us from poverty.”
While the third Act played, we sat in our dressing room Tersicorre, the four of us eating pizza and drinking wine. Dasniya read a message from Anna (the Mad Anna) describing the first time she met Claudio. At the end of Act 3, there was applause.
One hundred years ago, Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal was first performed in Italy at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and on Tuesday, January 14th, we celebrate this in the prémiere of Roméo Castellucci’s production that was first staged at La Monnaie | De Muntin Brussels in 2011.
14 Gennaio 2014 – 25 Gennaio 2014 Parsifal – Richard Wagner
Dramma sacro in tre atti
Libretto di Richard Wagner
Nel centenario della prima rappresentazione Italiana, a Bologna il primo gennaio 1914
14 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno Prima
16 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno A
18 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Domenica
21 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno B
23 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno C
25 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Pomeriggio
Amfortas Detlef Roth
Titurel Arutjun Kotchinian
Gurnemanz Gábor Bretz
Parsifal Andrew Richards
Klingsor Lucio Gallo
Kundry Anna Larsson
Primo Cavaliere del Graal Saverio Bambi
Secondo Cavaliere del Graal Alexey Yakimov
Primo scudiero Paola Francesca Natale
Secondo scudiero Alena Sautier
Terzo scudiero Filippo Pina Castiglioni
Quarto scudiero Paolo Antognetti
Fanciulle fiore – gruppo I
Fanciulle fiore – gruppo II
Diletta Rizzo Marin
Maria Rosaria Lopalco
Voce dall’alto Anna Larsson
Tamara Bacci (solista)
Roberto De Rosa
Martina La Ragione
Francesca Cerati (riserva)
Angela Russo (riserva)
Ferewoyni Berhe Argaw
Direttore Roberto Abbado
Regia, scene, costumi e luci Romeo Castellucci
Regista collaboratore Silvia Costa
Movimenti coreografici Cindy Van Acker
Drammaturgia Piersandra Di Matteo
Ballerina solista Tamara Bacci (Gref)
Assistente alle luci Daniele Naldi
Video 3D Apparati Effimeri
Maestro del Coro Andrea Faidutti
Maestro del Coro Voci Bianche Alhambra Superchi
Orchestra, Coro e Tecnici del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Coro di Voci Bianche del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
It’s Museum Sunday again! Almost didn’t make it there, and once I arrived, almost didn’t make it in. About to leave and a phone call from a non-German number. It’s Emile, in Melbourne! I said, “But your number’s not Australian. Prove you’re there, speak in an Australian accent.” Well, not quite, but he did describe Balaclava, The Wall, and all my favourite East St Kilda stuff, so I believe him.
The Musikinstrumenten-Museum closes at a mere 17h, so by the time I’d promised to join him for a coffee at The Wall next year, I barely had enough time to bike to Potsdamer Platz before getting kicked out. Once in, I was met by one of those genuinely horrible ‘guards’ who would not let me in with my bag, despite my utter lack of an extra Euro for a locker. Luckily an equally and oppositely genuinely nice person at the ticket office not only lent me the necessary Euro, but gave me a set of headphones and an audio guide.
Normally I haven’t been bothering with the audio guides, but Emile had said something like, “It’d be great to hear all the instruments,” so with him in mind, I did. Also in mind was the delightful Michael Garza, Principal Bassoon in the Guangzhou Orchestra, who, when visiting Berlin in 2008/9-ish had made this one of his museum visits. The museum isn’t huge, but with the audio often being quite comprehensive, it’s another one that would probably take a full day to get through.
The Sonderausstellung then, Valve. Brass. Music: 200 Jahre Ventilblasinstrumente, or 200 years of brass instruments. And shy, never putting itself forward Berlin is the place where not one, but two musicians —Heinrich Stölzel, and Friedrich Blühmel – invented two different approaches around 1814 for valves for horn instruments. The exhibition has around 150 examples spanning the two centuries and they are a joy to behold.
It’s like rampant, wild, unfettered experimental evolution. Brass instruments now have settled down more-or-less into recognisable forms, trumpets, trombones, saxophones, horns, tubas, but back then, it reminds me of the very weird life in the sunless ocean trenches, pipes and valves multiplying, twisting back on themselves like clumps of barnacles, or curlicues and fronds, things that look improbable or completely different species, have broken off the evolutionary path and gone wandering into all kinds of madness. Double bell euphoniums, trumpets like conjoined triplets of steam-engines, over-the-shoulder bugles, a tenor trombone like the plumbing from a small building, delicate Aida trumpets as long as spread arms with a single twist and one valve, oval Wagner (yes, him) tubas … the inventiveness is hilarious and beautiful.
Does it signify that instruments as they have become are the most perfect, or perhaps the most useful, most dextrous, capable of occupying multiple niches, unlike the singular lifeforms of their distant predecessors? I have no idea for an answer, as this museum I approach very much as an outsider. Coming with Michael, or someone knowledgeable would certainly be an advantage.
I left brass flying in arcs and curves across the walls like migrating birds and found myself with the hammers that hit metal strings, pianos, clavichords, harpsichords … strings that are sawed at with bows or plucked with fingers, wooden tubes with holes blown down through a reed, all also showing their exuberant, multifarious origins and offspringings. Some old bassoons also. And a couple of new things, including a peculiar proto-synthesiser.
The keyboard instruments were particularly beautiful, given such wide expanses of flatness onto which whole forests and meadows were painted. One Tafelklavier from 1791, though devoid of ornamentation was quite the most cheerful and happy sounding thing in the whole place. Then there was another with a horrifying battle scene painted along the underside of its lid, so when opened for some nice Baroque entertainment, the audience could also enjoy a weeping man, another man perishing beneath his fallen mount, and an army of others swinging sharp objects at each other. And then there was the traveller’s harpsichord, very cleverly built in three folding pieces, and formerly owned by Sophia Charlotte – the good friend of Gottfried Leibniz – who gifted to her grandson, Frederick the Great, a composition of whose, played on the instrument can be heard.
As with many, if not all of the museums I’ve seen recently, the Musikinstrumenten-Museum focusses on Germany in general, and Berlin in particular, with the other countries historically having close relationships with the lands that became Germany somewhat represented, mostly in respect to an instrument’s history, like Sophia Charlotte’s Paris-built harpsichord. Instruments outside of Europe (where Europe is bounded by seas on three sides and doesn’t extend much further east than a line drawn from the Adriatic to the Baltic) feature not at all. Perhaps it’s the wrong city for this, but I would dearly loved to have seen a musical instrument museum filled also with ouds, gamelans, didgeridoos, something of an ethnomusicological museum, rather than one which ventured little from the classical instruments which form today’s orchestras, the evolutionary successes, so to speak.
It occurred to me also, while early in the Valve. Brass. Music exhibition, that there were considerable similarities between what I was looking at in a musical instrument, and what I’d seen in the Deutsches Technikmuseum: ship engines, trumpets; same application of technology, different end. A couple of instruments later (I tend to wander exhibitions in inappropriate order and direction), the descriptions, patents, schematics around the original valve designs also noted that they were inspired by inventions in engineering and the industrial revolution. From that, and seeing the proto-synthesisers at the dawn and early years of the computer age, it seemed clear that music uses the newest technology of the day to manufacture new instruments, new sound, new compositions, new ways of playing, and has done so for as long as there has been technology. A museum then, of these interrelationships is what’s implied, a kind of museum of the philosophy of technology and its applications, not divided into technology and industry over there, and art and music over here. Conversely, this predicts and describes where music will come from next, probably most immediately a combination of mapping massive datasets and 3D printing. Definitely 3D printing is going to change music, especially when printing metal and composite materials becomes common.
Ah, but there’s so many beautiful instruments to see and hear, really, it’s a joy; one of those lesser-known museums that is entirely worth seeing. Photos, then:
Either it is lack of sleep, or I am on the precipice of whatever has waylaid many of the cast for the last weeks. Feeling ugh. MY head buried in dry cotton wool, clogging my mouth and dry sand rubbing my eyes raw. We finished around 18h today and I biked home, up the hills, got lost, got lost again, found home, planning on bed very soon.
Yesterday Dasniya, Gala and I had a four hour workshop in the afternoon and early evening of Shibari. Many of the dancers, singers, techies, and others find what we are doing fascinating and also unsettling. It seemed like a good idea to show what we do, talk about it a little, and play with some basic ideas and rope techniques, to make an proper introduction.
A group of around ten, including Parsifal (Andrew Richards), Amfortas (Thomas Johannes Mayer), Désirée our organiser, and several others arrived, perhaps a little nervous, excited also. Our first task, as we were coiling all the ropes was for the to learn how to do this. Perhaps for us it is common and we do this handling of rope in a natural way that appears simple, but teaching even the basic knot, or connecting two ropes shows how alien this can be.
Rope, once become familiar comes alive, it flows and glides through fingers, dresses bodies and limbs, entangles without itself becoming tangled. For most who have never handled rope, it evades the fingers, slips from limbs, twists and coils upon itself, knotting and snaring. Instead of being sublime, induces fear.
Dasniya and I talked a couple of times prior about what we might do in the four hours, and of course had enough for a week. We spent most of the second half on one of my favourite rope plays, half of use with one limb tied – a wrist, ankle, around the waist – the other end of the rope secured through the ring, all of us together in an inwards facing circle, the other half each with one person, rotating counter-clockwise every five minutes or so. The exersise being the restriction of the rope and the play of touch.
With fingers, hands, whole body, rope, sounds, sensations, for those on the outside the new bodies every few minutes gives a dramatic experience of how different one person can be from another, for those on the inside, the same, but in receiving. It can be a very emotional, physical experience and for me in such a short time gives a sense of what Shibari is; an opening into another world.
Of course, seeing us all hanging every day, this was the one thing many wanted to try. So it seems we’ll be doing another workshop after we open for just that.
And today, an afternoon of Act II with the orchestra. It’s almost come together, still some technical stuff to sort out before I will feel comfortable … all the suspension lines now are on winches, and rising a few meters above the whiteness of the stage while bound and slightly out of myself in a side suspension is an utter delight.
Tomorrow is the first dress, hair makeup, nakedness. I shall go to bed now, Dr Who, peanut butter on toast, cups of tea …
The evening cafeteria meal was unique in being quite utterly tasteless. I had to ask Gala to try the dried out cheese, pasta and beans with joyless broccoli to make sure it wasn’t my mouth that had given up in despair. Even the excess sugar in the dessert failed to save me from yawning. I didn’t expect to make it through the special invitation to orchestra, blumenmädchens, Klingsor, Kundry and Parsifal, and conductor Hartmut Hänchen. Oh, but I did.
Gala and Dasniya worked early afternoon, and me feeling lazy decided my usual abdominal bootcamp was not how I wanted to warm up. Instead I hung myself up from one leg while the dancers waved their arms around. We ran the section with music and I opted for hanging on my unsullied side, which proved just as capable as my usual – all the lateral strengthening stuff has made me unusually solid.
More importantly, here are some photos of the dancers! Anna-Lise, Lodie, Ana, along with Tamara, Cindy, the contortionists Anna, Dalai-Uujin and Buyanjargal Gonzalez, and of course Anna (yes, another one). And the other dancers Dasniya and Jorgos (Gala successfully avoided the camera, using several well-placed bags to distract me.)
And the orchestra. We were sitting up the back, so mostly I took photos of Tomas, Andrew and Anna’s bums, the backs of musician’s heads, and in the very distance, Hartmut (I really do wish for a better zoom than the LX3 has … perhaps to buy a new camera?).
We’ve been using one recording in the studio, along with piano accompaniment, the singers being fairly close compared to other versions I’ve heard in the last weeks, but to hear it with orchestra, even from the wrong side, and to get a sense of how it will feel in two weeks was something quite different.
Hartmut asks at times for a snappy delivery (to my ear, and really, I know sod-all about how to analyse classical music), often getting the phrasing to arrive a caught breath before the obvious rhythm. He also pushed the blumenmädchens in their enunciation, particularly in “Komm! Komm! Holder Knabe! Lass mich dir blühen!”, where the komms can easily slide into sighs floating up and he wanted a ‘k’ that almost spat.
Not having to worry about hanging or ropes or getting off stage and untied, I could enjoy listening to all of this for once. And the blumenmädchens are sex. Split onto either side and split again, the lines pull back and forth and between, starting with one, being picked up by the one next to, caught and carried across to the other side, perhaps in a pair, or passed one to the next, bewitching, ensnared by the group and lifted up, a thread drawn out by one again and with an in-breath urged on, this becomes intoxicating, drugged. It is a foreplay, teasing, seduction, tension, bringing the senses higher but never finishing, an orgy where the pleasure comes from not being fulfilled. Each time with the chorus by the finish I am breathless, and then on into the torment of Kundry and Parsifal.
I asked Anna if she’d been a goth in her teens, to which she said no, but then in the final bars of Act II where the Timpani deluges in a truly black metal drone moment, she turns to me and goes all upturned-claw-hand-of-doom (really, like this, but with palms upwards a-turned). I just thought, “Wow! Anna! Metal!” and then thought, “Oh imagine her with Attila Csihar.”
Friday. My last day in Guangzhou. Two weeks of teaching dance at the Guangdong Modern Dance Company School, Yoga at Yunna Art Studio, and at Lotus Yoga in Tian He and Li Wan. Two weeks of seeing old friends after a year’s absence and finding new ones, seeing the changes in the city, and discovering places I’ve never been to before. In all of this, there is this irrational certainty that Guangzhou could become the the most vibrant arts city in Asia. If only.
My last day and night was spent at Xinghai Concert Hall, with the guys from the Orchestra and the Modern Dance Company. On Saturday night, after months and years of talks, planning and preparation, they will perform together for the first time. This would be a momentous event anywhere else in the world, the kind of spectacle belonging usually to the capacious production abilities of an international arts festival, but here in Guangzhou, and in China, the significance of the event is almost incomprehensible.
That evening, over a quick dinner in the Concert Hall foyer, some of the dancers, including Yunna, Makang, Ouyang, and Zhouting, and Lin from Xinghai were interviewed for an the December issue of That’s Magazine. So much of what they said confirms the feeling I have living in Guangzhou, that this city could so easily become a bright centre for the arts. Their confidence and uncynical passion for their art is so much at odds with the daily difficulties they face, and the practicalities of making art in what by Australian standards is a largely unsupported and unrecognised environment.
Time Asia writes on the rise of Symphony Orchestras and western classical music in China and Asia, with the appointment of Dutch conductor Edo de Waart to the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the proliferation of concert halls across the region.
The Guangdong Symphony Orchestra blew into town on Thursday for a one-nighter at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall performing works by Bruch, Shostakovich, and Chinese composer Qigang Chen. The orchestra performs in Guangzhou almost weekly at the Xinghai concert Hall on Er Sha Dao, and has several foreigner principals playing. The orchestra, like most performing arts companies in the city is based in Sha He Ding, just next to the new part of town in Tien He. My friend Tony is principal Timpani and also one of the first people I met when I first went to Guangzhou, who showed me the city and many good times. The company doesn’t have a website, so here is a photo of his beautiful smile.
Founded in 1957, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (GSO) was one of the first-born Chinese orchestras in the nation since the establishment of the New China and undertakes their debut performance in Sydney under the direction of Maestro Long Yu, also the artistic director of the China Philharmonic Orchestra and the Beijing Music Festival.
The orchestra was re-estabslished in 1997 and has since enjoyed further successes, performing to critical acclaim at Hong Kong Arts Festival, Festival De Artes De Macau, and Macau International Music Festival.