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Arachne a theatre piece for voices, harpsichord and electronics

Armstrong, T (2013) Arachne a theatre piece for voices, harpsichord and electronics [Composition]

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Arachne is a devised theatre piece involving voices, harpsichord and electronics. The piece is, as yet, incomplete and exists in one iteration. Although musical material related to this project has been extant since 2011, the theatrical development springs from three days of work at the Barbican in February this year. The nature and scope of the project has also evolved: the piece was originally conceived for voices alone (in a theatrical setting) and as a fairly close parallel to Ovid’s story of the transformation of the weaver, Arachne, from human to spider at the hand of Athena, goddess of crafts. In tandem with the proliferation of the resources, the content has proliferated into a number of threads that loosely weave around the myth: harpsichord as Athena; from craft and making to production line labour (the sweatshop?); competition; rebellion (of the individual against the collective); weaving itself as determining how elements of the structure relate; the relationship between human and non-human. Two interrelated points of investigation have motivated the work thus far: collaboration and the role of the score. Arachne is not a ‘pure’ devised work; work in the studio has usually begun with the interpretation of notated pages each of which articulates a pre-written text. However, as the composer of these pages, I have always sought to build in a degree of openness both in the notation itself and in how it may be interpreted. My aim is to instigate a ‘playful‘ approach that allows the performers to contribute as co-authors and to make decisions that may affect the identity of the pre-existing material in substantive ways, taking it in directions unforeseen by me and opening up new meanings and contexts in the process. Claire MacDonald, writing in relation to contemporary dramaturgy, describes such an attitude towards a text (score in my case) as exploratory, a refusal to “proceed from text as a known set of procedures” (MacDonald, 2010). The ideal collaborative model for Arachne is distributed creativity in which all participants have equal responsibility in the creation of the final product (Sawyer and De Zutter, 2009). There are constraints in operation in the piece, the aforementioned scores, the text, but these are open to scrutiny and debate by the entire team and have already been significantly modified as a result. Conceptually and dramaturgically work has proceeded largely collectively; consequently Arachne has evolved, and continues to evolve, in a productively tensile relationship with its original concept. The research I have undertaken by means of Arachne has, so far, involved critical reflection on my own practice as a composer, a process of defamiliarisation achieved by drawing on an experimental tradition that, hitherto (i.e. for the last fifteen years), has had little connection with technical procedures or aesthetic qualities in my music. As the project unfolds, though, new areas for research emerge; two of the most interesting of these are approaches to text setting (both Melanie and Rebecca have developed a subtly distinct practice in this regard which Arachne only intermittently draws on so far) and the challenge of convincingly combining instruments with live electronics, particularly in collaboration between composers working in separate mediums.

Item Type: Composition
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Armstrong, T
Date : 2013
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 15:28
Last Modified : 05 Mar 2019 15:37

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