Monday, June 09, 2014
There will now be a four month intermission
Kierkegaard declared that too much possibility leads to madness. Today in classical music, possibility is assumed to be synonymous with anti-elitist accessibility, and the result is madness. An alternative approach is to view possibility as the inverse of accessibility. As in the Patria cycle of Canadian composer R Murray Schafer. The twelve parts of Patria dwarf Wagner's Ring and Stockhausen's Licht. They are all written for performance away from conventional music venues. Princess of the Stars, which opens the cycle, is performed by a rural lake and requires the audience to arrive in the middle of the night. The Greatest Show on Earth, part 3, is a carnival for 150 performers and explores accessibility by breaking down the barriers between audience and performers. Part 4, The Black Theatre of Hermes Trismegistos explores medieval alchemy; it has been performed in an abandoned circus building in Liège, Belgium, and in Toronto's Union Station starting at midnight. The central part, The Crown of Ariadne is written for a water's edge venue, and is yet to be given a staged performance. The Spirit Garden part 10, has the audience planting a spring garden and returning in the autumn to harvest it; for this the performance involves a four month intermission. Participation in the epilogue, And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon is by invitation only and requires the sixty-four participants to create ritual theatre in a remote wood for eight days.
All of which may sound inaccessible, incomprehensible and bad news at the box office. Which it is not. In August 2013 two performances of part 7 of Patria, Asterion - an exploration of the labyrinth - were given at a rural location in Ontario; both were sold out. Moreover, each of the sprawling twelve parts of Patria contains individual works which stand very convincingly on their own. The CD seen above contains the immensely accessible Theseus for harp and string quartet from the central unperformed The Crown of Ariadne, and the chamber opera Beauty and the Beast for mezzo, masks and string quartet from The Greatest Show on Earth. Coupled with the two extracts from Patria is Murray Schafer's String Quartet No 8, a tantalising taste of the composer's cycle of twelve quartets. The CD, which is released on the Canadian ATMA label, is difficult to find. But is that a reason for ignoring it?
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