Composer-performer David Rosenboom and poet-writer Martine Bellen have developed an interactive, creative process that integrates sound and word composition—a kind of opera generator or template for producing many possible operas. From the opera no-opera generator work emerges that emanates from the origins of both music and language, illuminating the power to both differentiate and join human beings.
Although the Diamond Sutra is Buddhist scripture, for source material it was approached as a nonsectarian text that offers insight into reality and transcendence. In AH!, as in the Diamond Sutra, story is created and deconstructed simultaneously. Nothing is fixed—not life, not time, not music, not language, not belief, not opera. Opera—theater—is a grand illusion, one that an audience welcomes and is entertained by, in fact, goes out of its way to engage with. But theater is also not illusion—experiential—changing with every performance, unique for every Creative Engager while incorporating communal perception. In AH!, we ply illusion to draw individual and communal stories to the fore.
Characters from 13 Mandala-turning stories of AH! combine with characters not in their story, while themes, threads, musical and spoken languages, sung-voice-rhythm-chanted extraordinary and ordinary tales temporally and spatially link (the threads of stories/the threads that link life), turning, morphing and moving, toward circle, and circling back again. Interwebbing variations, narrative actions, story woven into story form, one song, one story, one song-story story-song, one opera no-opera. (Is it Electronic? Static Buzz? Rock? Jazz? Eastern? Western? Northern? Southern? Post-Modern? Pre-Modern? Experimental Funk? Zen Hip Hop? Genre-blind? Yes! Yes! Yes!) Finally, the audience, too, has its story, a story that changes for each performance. That unique story is uncovered as words and sounds audience members make are seen and heard at each performance venue. At the end of an AH! performance (not really the end), story has nested inside story, combining, linking all our lives and allowing for awakenings and joyful re-awakenings to unite the attendees of the performance.
The theatrical setting for the 2009 performances of AH! at REDCAT in Los Angeles was imagined as a series of concentric rings forming another AH! mandala. As audience members gathered and crossed these rings, eventually leading to the immersive environment inside the theater at the mandala’s center, a variety of surprise events, installations and interactive experiences were encountered. Highlighting these were more engaging ways to explore, combine, re-combine and manipulate AH! texts, sounds, music, words, characters, visual elements and more. A group interactive experience emerged around a magical, multi-touch table, which enabled audience members to explore pathways through AH! texts and sounds on their own.
On stage a Multi-Laser Gestural Controller with 10 lasers beams—(like 10 fingers of light)—pointed straight up from a piano keyboard, becoming visible in response to hand movements and enabling the performer to translate gestures into swirling, modulated voices intoning AH! texts in several languages. A second Multi-Laser Gestural Controller a diamond—tetrahedron-shaped—with three lasers pointing out of each face descended into the performance space during certain scenes enabling dancers to do the same thing with their bodies.
The audience (Creative Engagers) experienced the physical locality for each of the electronic performers, much as they would if acoustic instruments were being played, due to innovative, localized, multi-directional speaker pods that amplified each member of an electronic laptop band.
An immersive, sonic and visual environment was created for the audience to observe and be inside of by removing all conventional theater seating and covering the entire floor that remained with a soft, ground cloth, onto which a dazzling, real-time video performance was projected, completely covering the surface in moving imagery. Both audience and performers, with shoes removed, could walk on and sit on the very surface of the images. All images were derived from video captured by a moving camera performer following other performers and audience members in the moment-to-moment experiences of each unfolding AH! performance. Each performance and some rehearsals were webcast around the world.
State of the art mediums melded with ancient, timeless, moods, modes, and melodies for this humanitarian-centered project. Creative Engagers are encouraged to navigate the AH! website and interact, immerse, generate sound! Come together with wordsoundwords in no harm harmony, illuminating the power of words/sound to unite the world as we listen, sing, create together.
A Counterpoint of Tolerance project was commissioned and generously supported by the Transatlantic Arts Consortium (TAC), a group of institutions joined in the common mission of supporting new emerging arts and international cultural and educational exchanges, founded by Idyllwild Arts (California), Dartington Hall (UK), and California Institute of the Arts. An initial grant from TAC supported two summer workshops for A Counterpoint of Tolerance Composers and the means for the group to work via the Internet over an intervening year to develop this collective project. Subsequently, TAC provided a matching grant to support the production of performances of what emerged from this process, the world premiere of the first collective realization of AH! in three performances at REDCAT in Los Angeles. The TAC support was generously matched and increased by another grant from the Evelyn Sharp Foundation in New York. This has enabled the Herb Alpert School of Music and the Center for New Performance at California Institute of the Arts to produce the REDCAT performances. We are extremely grateful for such generous support of this extraordinary project.
AH! is ongoing. Be a part of the Creatively Engaged audience and help develop the AH! experience further.
Through a wheel-turning mandala of interlinking stories and interwebbing sound, AH! opera no-opera aims for nothing less than to annihilate distinctions between language and music and audience and actor. In the theatrically heightened environment of AH! attributes of everyday life are placed flush against esoteric and transcendent realities.
The unique story of the audience is uncovered in performances as your words appear and your sounds are heard at performance venues. At the end of each performance (not really the end, never the end really), story will have nested inside story, combining, linking all our lives and allowing for awakenings and joyful re-awakenings to unite the attendees of the performance.
Audience members and others who can’t attend an AH! opera no-opera performance but nevertheless want to be Creative Engagers can participate through the technology in their lives (mail, computers, cell phones, etc.) before the actual opera is performed—after a performance is over—cutting through the illusion that energy is contained within limited timeframes. The stories of AH! are meant to intertwine with every Engager’s life. And each audience member (and Creative Engager throughout space and time) will leave a trace of his or her being in each performance of AH! We hope that AH! opera no-opera will leave a trace in your life.
A Counterpoint of Tolerance was a special project of the Transatlantic Arts Consortium (TAC) to bring together a group of young composer-performers from around the world to work with David Rosenboom in creating a new, concert-length work exploring the potential of creative music-making to enhance how we understand human conditions in the new era of Globalization. Over the course of two summer residencies in Southern California, at Idyllwild Arts in 2008 and The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts in 2009, and a year of working collaboratively via the Internet, the group realized a design for a new kind of collective opera created by writer-poet Martine Bellen and composer-performer David Rosenboom, called AH!
The collaborating composer-performers, known as A Counterpoint of Tolerance Composers, are Iván Caramés Bohigas (Spain), Michael Foumai (US-Hawaii), Alex Kotch (US-North Carolina), Claudio Maldonado (Argentina-Patagonia), Vedran Mehinovic (Bosnia), Natalie Oram (UK), Doo Jin Park (Korea), Jerónimo Rachenberg (Mexico), Diana Syrse Valdés Rosado (Mexico), and Xiaolang Zhou (China).
Stay tuned for news about the possible life cycle of AH! as a videogame.
Copyright 2009 - 2010 | David Rosenboom & Martine Bellen. All Rights Reserved.
A Project of the Transatlantic Arts Consortium