Moving to the Beat of its Own Drum

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This talk explores the relationship of stillness and movement in the interplay of musicians and actors onstage.

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Moving to the beat of its own drum: contemporary theatre music in relation to gesture and space

Prof. Dr. David Roesner (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)

In the past couple of decades, theatre music in German-speaking theatre has seen major developments rendering it a practice far from "incidental" and subservient. In particular, sounds and movements have been mobilized: out of the orchestra pit and onto the stage as well as out of fixed mixes for stereo playback into flexible digital sound arrangements for surround sound setups. This has rendered the relational quality of theatre music quite dynamic: a practice continuously dialoging at interfaces of speech and sound, noise and music, musical and scenic movement, sense and sensuality. In my presentation I want to explore one particular aspect in this wide range of performances: the relationship of stillness and movement – both in musical and physical sense – in the interplay of musicians and actors onstage. In a first part, I will look at three productions involving a live drummer on stage and how in each case text, acting and musicking are interwoven. What rhythms are evoked here and how to they emerge, collide or complement each other? How does the static placement of a drummer, his/her relative expansive gestural repertoire and the other actions on stage relate to each other? Thomas Ostermeier's Richard III (Schaubühne Berlin 2015), Felix Rothenhäusler's Nicht von euch auf Erden (Münchner Kammerspiele 2015) and Christopher Rüping's Dionysos Stadt (Münchner Kammerspiele 2018).

In a second part of a paper, I will look at a different relational configuration: in Thom Luz' Olympiapark in the Dark (Residenztheater München, 2019), two general movements pervade the performance: arriving and shifting. The devised piece's theme is reflective of the arrival of the new artistic leadership of the Residenztheater in Munich, including its resident director Thom Luz. The performance reflects processes of discovery, of making an acquaintance with and exploring an unfamiliar city through its musical history and its signature soundscapes. The aesthetic form Luz develops (inspired by Charles Ives' composition Central Park in the Dark, 1906) is characterized by shifts on many levels: the performance itself shifts between being a theatrical performance, a sound installation and a concert, its performers oscillate between acting and musicianship, speech becomes sounds, sounds become recordings, video recordings become musical scores et cetera. Luz offers a polyphony of visual and auditory stimuli, which provide little focus and orientation for the audience, but instead an invitation to a Flânerie of the senses.

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