An exploratory piece for the prototypes of feedback bass drum and glove-mic.
Preparatory studies for controlled autophagy.
For percussion, bass clarinet, contrabbass, low budget amplification devices and electronics.
Percussions - Acting: Richard Dubelsky
Bass clarinet: Mathieu Steffanus
Contrabass: Nicolas Crosse
Paris, le 104, June-July 2014.
Apophenia is a short music theatre piece based on a "minor" conspiracy theory. The subject of this theory deals with the similarities between Lincoln's and Kennedy's lives and assassinations. Some coincidences are real, some are fictive, some come from misinterpretations or other errors, but it is impossible (as for any conspiracy theory) to trace a neat line between reality and fiction, nor to clearly decide where certain narrative elements come from.
My personal interest in conspiracy theories has two main reasons: the first one is that they bear the aspect of collective, anonymous, public domain stories, like a mythology of our times, a small, endlessly variated core of "founding" stories. They keep together many heterogeneous elements which tell a lot about us struggling to make them unified.
The second level is related to the sense of comfort they tend to produce, in the feeling of fitting pieces, of seeing patterns through amorphous facts. What Eco called the "charm of similarity” which is related to the base of any act of knowledge we perform every day.
The piece develops like a sort of radiodrama and, from a formal point of view, it is basically divided into two, very similar halves (sort of a replay of the other one), plus a short coda, both leading to a climax, both times resolved with a cut operated by a "controlling agent".
The characters are sketched as follows:
1. Character 1. He is apparently the engine of the whole action, he's as scientific and teachy in the beginning as lost and confused in the end. He is a sort of an officer in a "rite of narration", halfway between an anchorman and a priest, and at the same time he is the cause of the involution of the very same process. His actions, in the beginning, try to create all the condition for a “narration”, but in the end they will only result in turning the process into a spiral loss of directionality and sense.
2. Character 2 and character 3. They are indistinguishable and uncatchable, both musically and scenically, and in no case it would be necessary to fix a role once for all. They both seem obedient in the beginning but they show their true authoritarian face in the end, though a very undefinable sense of hierarchy between them can be perceived in the second half, when one commands the other. Halfway between secret service agents and office workers, they are always together.
A few more aspects related to the concept of Apophenia.
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Music-wise the first part of the score is rather traditionally notated, but more the piece develops, more a certain relationship within music and text gets involved as well as a certain kind of interplay between the instrumentalists. Towards the end of the first part, the text offers more and more a guide to place certain instrumental interventions but the rhythm of the text (and thus of many musical interventions directly linked to it) is not fixed, but is left to the "struggle" of the musicians to follow the nuances of each reading. In some sense the piece demands the players to follow and anticipate, as precisely as possible, a trace that is though not completely foreseeable, engaging them more and more to react to the “real time” changes, following cues that still keep a certain unpredictability. The tension between text and music should not be relieved, this attempt to catch the rhythm of the text is one of the games instrumentalist are demanded to commit to. The second half, on the contrary, has to be reconstructed almost as in an improvised electroacoustic piece, performing a montage of the elements on the base of a memory/sampling of the previous half, and only a trace with a draft “plot” of actions and a few text materials are given in the script.
The libretto was written using three text materials, with an increasing level of "enthropy" in its meaningfulness. The first one, the “original text” is a compiled list of (some) of the most relevant (as in therms of statistic relevance) sentences one can find on the internet related to the Lincoln/Kennedy conspiracy. Then there is a second version generated by the computer after a statistic analysis on how recurrent certain figures are. It basically created a scrambled version of the same text, with an attempt to recompose a sort of an apocryphal version of the story, like at the end of a chinese whispers game chain. Then there is another source, which consists of a push forward to the same idea, scrambling syllables rather than words until the original sense gets lost, though it still retains certain features of the original material as well as opening it up to new meanings and interpretations.
Stage and devices