Musical Instruments: These will be used as objects, as part of the set. Moreover they need to act deeply and direct on our sensibility through the senses, and from the point of view of sound they invite research into utterly unusual sound properties and vibrations which present-day musical instruments do not possess, urging us to use ancient or forgotten instruments or to invent new ones. Apart from music, research is also needed into instruments and appliances based on refining and new alloys which can reach a new scale in the octave and produce an unbearably piercing sound or noise.
Theater of Cruelty – First Manifesto (1931) – Antonin Artaud
Photo of Antonin Artaud taken by Man Ray in 1926
One could say that one of the main reasons that Theaterlab is presenting The MMiX Festival of Interactive Music Technology is to make good on Antonin Artaud‘s vision on the future of music and sound in the theater. There is no doubt that Artaud’s manifestoes were ahead of their time and, like most visionaries who are born into that situation, he paid the price, mentally-spirtually-and physically, of not seeing many of his ideas become reality in his lifetime. As a result, his writings and his work have become inspiration for generations of artists that followed, myself included.
One of the projects I undertook was a commission from The Cornell Gamelan Ensemble when I was a visiting composer there during 2002-2003 in a joint venture of the Digital Music Lab (David Borden) and the Dept. of Enthomusicology (Martin Hatch). Through that I was able to create a tone poem for gamelan, keyboards, & strings based upon The Philosopher’s Stone (La Pierre Philosophale – 1931), a scenario by Artaud in which I tried to fused his passion of the Balinese theater with the vision of new musical sounds via the synthesizers as laid out in the excerpt above.
As curator of The MMiX Festival, and in doing it at Theaterlab, I hope that we can show how close we’ve come to Artaud’s vision, how far we have yet to go, and can look forward to its multi-disciplinary application on the stage in the future work of all artists. For right now, enough theory. Let’s see where were at in 2009 (MMIX) and have a blast doing it!
– Patrick Grant
Antonin Artaud (September 4, 1896, in Marseille – March 4, 1948 in Paris) was a French playwright, poet, actor and theatre director.
Artaud believed that the Theatre should affect the audience as much as possible, therefore he used a mixture of strange and disturbing forms of lighting, sound and performance.
In his book The Theatre and Its Double, which contained the first and second manifesto for a “Theatre of Cruelty,” Artaud expressed his admiration for Eastern forms of theatre, particularly the Balinese. He admired Eastern theatre because of the codified, highly ritualized and precise physicality of Balinese dance performance, and advocated what he called a “Theatre of Cruelty“. At one point, he stated that by cruelty, he meant not exclusively sadism or causing pain, but just as often a violent, physical determination to shatter the false reality. He believed that text had been a tyrant over meaning, and advocated, instead, for a theatre made up of a unique language, halfway between thought and gesture. Artaud described the spiritual in physical terms, and believed that all theatre is physical expression in space.