Archive for the 'théatre sonore' Category

Byrd Hoffman School Of Byrds – The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin

The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin LP side 1
The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin LP side 2

The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds was an artist community living and rehearsing in a disused, three storeys warehouse on 147 Spring St, NYC in Lower Manhattan, with a performance space on the ground floor. The School was formed by painter, contemporary artist and stage designer Robert Wilson, born in Waco, Texas in 1941, and named after Texan dancer Byrd Hoffmann, who cured Wilson from a stammer in 1958. Wilson moved to New York in 1961 to study at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and with choreographers George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham. In 1968, he adopted deaf-mute African American boy Raymond Andrews and, in the early 1970s, autistic teenager Christopher Knowles, born 1959 in New York. In 1968, with these people and other disabled people he met in the streets or Harlem public hospitals, Wilson formed The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds. The troupe was active between 1968 and 1975, producing several ground-breaking plays like The King of Spain or The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud (a 12-hour play), both in 1969, the legendary “silent opera” Deafman Glance in 1971, and the 7-days play KA Moutain and GUARDENIA TERRACE in 1972. In 1975, Wilson started collaborating with Philip Glass to the stage design of Einstein on the Beach, premiered 1976, and The School of Byrds was turned into a foundation.

Produced in 1973, The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin incorporates scenes from previous plays as well as new material. You can see photos of the production on Robert Wilson’s website. The opera lasted 14 hours – the premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music started at 7pm and ended at 9am the next morning. Allen Ginsberg claimed to be one of the three spectators who stayed for the entire night. Ginsberg and Wilson would later collaborate on Cosmopolitan Greetings (source).

Bob Wilson’s plays of the 1970s are famous for their extended periods of silence, but this self-released LP, collecting sound excerpts from The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin, focuses on the various voices and personalities taking part in the play, while also presenting interviews and incidental music. The cast includes a number of disabled people in addition to the aforementioned autistic kids, plus interviews conducted in NY hospitals. Some voices are submitted to sound treatment, like the proto-plunderphonic #7 Times ; #8 An and #16 Opera are country songs with shouts ; #6 Cave is a piano solo and #14 Stalin is a violin solo. There is no obvious plot, rather an amalgamation of incongruous shouts, impenetrable speech and strident yelling. Coming in plain white cover without information, this is an extremely unusual record, one of the most radical artifacts in the Broken Music catalogue. To this day, it still defies comprehension and what we deem acceptable as theater.

01 The (2:44)
02 Beach (3:33)
03 Life (:50)
04 Drawing Room (2:20)
05 And (2:03)
06 Cave (4:04)
07 Times (2:54)
08 An (2:54)
09 Forest (3:18)
10 Of (3:15)
11 Temple (1:10)
12 Joseph (4:13)
13 Bedroom (2:02)
14 Stalin (3:15)
15 Planet (:20)
16 Opera (4:52)

Total time 43:40
Self-released LP, NYC, USA, 1973?


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André Almuró – Van Gogh, Le Suicidé de la Société

Van Gogh, Le Suicidé de la Société LP front cover
Van Gogh, Le Suicidé de la Société LP back cover
Van Gogh, Le Suicidé de la Société LP side A

Retrospectively, 1958 proved a turning point for André Almuró [see previous post & wiki]. Though he had just joined Pierre Schaeffer’s newly launched GRM, 1958 was the year Almuró actually started emancipating himself from Schaeffer’s sphere of influence. That year he produced very personal electroacoustic works like Croquis aux Percussions and Erostrauss, ventured into film making with Pierre Clémenti (“Les Enfants de Misère”), and created his awesome Van Gogh, Le Suicidé De La Société, a radio play after Antonin Artaud’s 1947 book of the same name, written after the visit of a Van Gogh exhibition. The actors are Maria Casarès and Roger Blin, for whom Almuró created a bold radiophonic mise en scène and stunning, if short, musique concrète interludes. The LP was reissued by BAM in 1970 with a different cover.

Maria CasarèsRoger BlinBorn in 1907, Blin collaborated to the stage direction of Artaud’s play The Cenci in 1935 (including parts for Ondes Martenot) and their friendship survived Artaud’s internment years (1937-1946). Maria Casarès and Roger Blin first collaborated on the infamous Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu 1947 radioplay, also written by Artaud. Both later played in Jean Cocteau’s film Orphée, 1950, and in Almuró’s radio play Nadja Etoilée, 1955, based on André Breton’s book.

Artaud’s Van Gogh is not a dialogue nor a theater play. For this radiophonic adaptation, Almuró distributed the reading between the 2 actors, taking advantage of Casarès’ smooth voice to bring relief during the reading of the intensely emotional text, and using Blin’s stately voice to deliver disturbing and maddening sentences that fall on you like a hammer blow. In addition, the composer inserted claustrophobic, musique concrète noises (bass rumbles, metallic resonances, strange shamanistic looped vocals at 9:20 into side 1, etc) mirroring the alienation experienced by the Dutch painter and French writer. The fact the former’s work was completely ignored during his lifetime could only resonate in Almuró, himself almost completely obliterated from the history of electroacoustic music.

01 Van Gogh, Le Suicidé de la Société (19:48)
02 Van Gogh, Le Suicidé de la Société – continued (21:45)

Total time 41:33
LP released by BAM [Boîte à Musique], France, 1958

Download [new link as of Feb. 20, 2012]

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Václav Havel – Audience

Václav Havel – Audience LP front cover
Václav Havel – Audience LP back cover
Václav Havel – Audience LP side 1

This is the legendary 1978 samizdat recording of Audience, starring Václav Havel (1936-2011) as Vanek and Pavel Landovský as Sládek. It was recorded by folk singer Vladimír Merta in his Prague appartment in 1978 and published by the Šafrán label, ran from Upsalla, Sweden, by Czech exiles Jirí Pallas and Jaroslav Hutka, both signatories of the Charter 77. The LP was unofficially circulated in Czechoslovakia and many Czechs knew parts of the play by heart after 1978, despite the fact any Havel publication was banned in the country since the 1968 Soviet invasion. Havel himself was briefly imprisoned in 1978 and continuously from June 1979 to January 1984. This is a rare example of a record which proved dangerous for its authors, as well as for the entire Soviet system. Czech record company Bonton officially published the recording for the first time in 1990, soon after Havel became president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989.

Václav Havel and Pavel LandovskýAudience (as it is titled in Czech) belongs to a trilogy of partly autobiographical one-act plays also known as the Vanek Trilogy, comprising Audience (1975), Protest (1978) and Mistake (1983), based on Havel’s experience of being forced to work in a brewery and under constant harassment from the Communist regime. Taking place in the brewery’s office, Audience is a meeting between the brewery’s manager Sládek and employee Vanek. While the manager is clearly opening too many beers and inducing into binge drinking, it is less clear what he wants from Vanek, though it ultimately transpires he has a deal to offer: a promotion agaisnt informations on Vanek’s political activities. A transcript of the play in Czech is available as PDF here. A short synopsis here. See also Havel’s biographer Carol Rocamora’s analysis of these one-act plays here.

Altered images on the front and back cover of this LP allude to the Communist regimes’s habit of altering and falsifying photographs. Framed Czechoslovakia president Gustáv Husák is letting his eyebrows grow thick ala Brejnev, an allusion to his allegiance to the Soviet regime. In 1975, Havel addressed a letter to Husák, pleading for more democracy in the country.

Gustáv Husák (before)Gustáv Husák (after)

The sign “Dobre Dari” is the end of the famous Czech motto “Kde se pivo vari, tam se dobre dari” (Where beer is brewed, they have it good). It becomes “BRDA” on the flip, though I couldn’t find the signification of this (any help welcomed).

Obre DariObre Dari

01 Audience 21:00
02 Audience – continued 20:25

Václav Havel, Vanek
Pavel Landovský, Sladek

Total time 41:25
LP released by Bonton records, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1990

Download [new link as of Feb. 24, 2012]

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Peter Handke – Radioplay

Peter Handke - Radioplay LP front cover
Peter Handke - Radioplay LP back cover
Peter Handke - Radioplay LP side 2

Austrian writer Peter Handke, born 1942, wrote many plays during the 1960s and ’70s, like Kaspar, 1968 – about Kaspar Hauser‘s acquisition of German language –, a play that typifies Handke’s project of: questioning everyday language ; denouncing manipulation through speech ; disconnecting what is seen and what is heard via creative use of sound effects. Radioplay, another play from 1968, is in the same frame of mind.

Theatre For Your Mother logoPeter Handke’s radio play Hörspiel, was originally produced by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR, West German Broadcasting) in 1968 and subsequently issued on LP by Deutsche Grammophon in 1973.  An English version by US translator Michael Roloff was published under the title Radioplay (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NYC), presumably in the late 1970s. It was adapted as a radio drama in 1980 by Theatre For Your Mother, an experimental theater company founded by director Mark Lutwak in Santa Cruz, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lutwak relocated to the East Coast in the late 1970s and resumed the Theatre For Your Mother activities in NYC, producing several Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett plays for the stage and documenting them on LP, like their take on Beckett’s Cascando and Words and Music, released on LP in 1979 and available on UbuWeb. An accordionist and keyboardist himself, Lutwak first heard Wayne Horwitz play piano in California and the two went on to collaborate on a number of projects (“two dozens”, says Lutwak in the liner notes), with Horwitz contributing accompanying or incidental music to Lutwak’s theater plays. Later on, Lutwak got in touch with other NYC avantgarde jazz musicians and produced LPs by and with Denis Charles, John Zorn, David Sewelson, Bill Horvitz, etc.

Peter HandkeMark LutwakY York
from l. to r.: Peter Handke, Mark Lutwak and Y York

In Radioplay, an array of 5 Interrogators harass an unnamed Respondent, played by James Zitlow, with a continuous barrage of questions resorting to every tricks an interrogator is supposed to: menacing, pretending, joking, psychologizing, etc, with all the nuances in between. Actress Y York is especially remarkable as the main interrogator, at times pleading, cajoling, laughing or feigning. The Respondent occasionally answers, though usually not in synch with the last question – more often than not, he seems to answer his own questions instead. It would be easy to be hypnotized by the litany of questions, were it not for their arresting, nonsensical aspect and by the quirky noises that constantly interrupt the flow: sounds of all kinds, like everyday objects, street noises, outdoor sounds, purposeless Foley art, or music instruments like violin, harmonica, guitar, accordion, electric organ, ocarina, all conceived by Wayne Horwitz. These sounds, completely disconnected from the situation as they are, perfectly mirror the non-sense of the dialogues, while serving as a counterpoint to the dramatic situation.

01 Part One (25:40)
02 Part Two (27:00)

Total time 52:40
LP released by Theatre For Your Mother, ref. TFYM 006, NYC, 1980


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Dieter Süverkrüp & Wolfgang Dauner – Das Auto Blubberbumm

Das Auto Blubberbum LP front cover
Das Auto Blubberbum LP back  cover
Das Auto Blubberbum LP insert 1
Das Auto Blubberbum LP insert 2
Das Auto Blubberbum LP side A

A member of the Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, or DKP, German protest singer Dieter Süverkrüp, born 1934, took full advantage of the 1960s movements of contestation to put his political views to the fore. He co-founded the Pläne Verlag record company in 1961, named after an anti-Nazi pamphlet from the 1930s. Pläne published agitprop artists of all kinds, as well as South American refuseniks like Atahualpa Yupanqui or Inti-Illimani, and was the label of Floh De Cologne, a sound poetry-cum-free rock band from… er, Cologne. Pläne also had a children LP series with children’s songs and plays. Das Auto Blubberbumm, 1976, is part of this series, with lyrics, drawings and part of the music composed by Süverkrüp with Wolfgang Dauner as co-composer and a team of German free jazz musicians and children’s choir.

The story: chauffeur Adolar has an accident while driving Herr Von Rotz’s special car, called Blubberbumm. He is safe but the car radio is making weird noises. While the car itself is being taken care of by a team of mechanics including Willibald, the kids and Adolar try to get the radio fixed by various specialists, including Ella and her friend, to no success. Meanwhile, harassed by their moronic chief, the mechanics start a strike and finally transform the car to suit their own fantasy, so that they declare it their own at the end of the story. The radio, still producing grotesque electronic sounds, is finally kept as is and enjoyed by the kids and everyone else.

♫ Like any musical, Das Auto Blubberbumm is a succession of songs and spoken sequences led by a dozen or so colourful figures. In this unforgettable play, real life situations are used to vindicate workers’ rights, feminism, employees’ strike and class struggle. While the instrumentation is rather unusual for such a venture, complete with electric guitar, synthesizer, vocoder and reed section, the song writing is clearly under the influence of Kurt Weil. Track #4, for instance, wouldn’t be out of place in the Three Penny Opera, while #6, Fließbandlied I, is close to an electronic version of Kurt Weil. Other tracks update the genre with European jazz touches or pop rock numbers (#9 and 12). During the workers’ strike, car owner Herr Von Rotz tries to plead them back to work with an hilarious aria (#14) that starts like Mozart and ends like Kurt Weil.

01 Das Auto Blubberbumm (:52)
02 Adolars Lied (2:35)
03 Dialog (1:49)
04 Das Lied vom Keine inziges Auto fertigkriegen (2:17)
05 Blechverformung (6:31)
06 Fließbandlied I (4:04)
07 Dialog (3:39)
08 Dialog (1:30)
09 Das Lied von Kalle seiner Freundin (3:16)
10 Aufpasserlied (3:27)
11 Autozusammenmontieren I (1:38)
12 Autozusammenmontieren II (3:06)
13 Streiklied (2:24)
14 Arie des Herrn von Rotz (3:02)
15 Dialog (1:42)
16 Fließbandlied II (1:34)
17 Die umgekrempelte Fabrik (3:34)

Wolfgang Dauner, keyboards, reeds
Jörg Gebhardt, percussion
Volker Kriegel, guitars
Albert Mangelsdorff, trombone
Ack van Rooyen, trumpet
Eberhard Weber, bass

Total time 47:00
LP released by Pläne Verlag, Dortmund, West Germany, 1976


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Henri Gruel & Jean-Jacques Perrey – Cadmus, Le Robot de l’Espace

Cadmus, Le Robot de l'Espace LP front cover
Cadmus, Le Robot de l'Espace LP back cover
Cadmus, Le Robot de l'Espace LP side one

This amazing 1959 French drama not only involves some of the best French film noir and comedy films actors of the era, but also embarks sound effects prodigy Henri Gruel and electronic music guru Jean-Jacques Perrey. The latter doesn’t need any introduction, except for mentioning that, at the time, Perrey hadn’t met Robert Moog and was still playing on George Jenny’s Ondioline keyboard. He left France after the Cadmus project and had his first proper solo release as Mr. Ondioline in 1960 in the U.S. Henri Gruel (1923-2007) was both a successful film director and a much sought-after sound engineer and producer. In 1957, he directed  his first film, La Joconde, with a script by Boris Vian. In 1958,  he collaborated with  Nicolas Schoffer on Mayola, a film on Schoffer’s cinetic sculptures with music by Tom Dissevelt and Dick Raajmakers. In 1961, Gruel filmed Schoffer’s Tour de Liège sculpture. In the 1970s, he produced several library music records for Unidisc, including the Imaginations… series launched in 1973 with Imaginations pour l’Expression Corporelle (posted before), and Imaginations #3 in 1978.

Cadmus, subtitled The Robot from Outer Space, tells the story of an extraterrestrial artificial being secretly landing on Earth in the future – the story takes place in… 1983! – to use Terrestrial power engines to destroy an asteroid about to collide with his own planet, Aura 3 in the Betelgeuse constellation. When finally cornered by a group of international scientists, he tries to escape with a space rocket, but is finally destroyed by missiles fired from satellites in orbit around planet Earth. The drama involves multiple characters played by great actors, a lively, captivating realization by Henry Gruel, also serving as foley artist, and original incidental music with radically far out sounds by Jean-Jacques Perrey, who is credited with “Ondioline kaleidoscopique” on the cover – whatever that means, his instrument sounds deliciously futuristic. The record’s analog sound quality is so extraordinary as to make it an exciting experience even for non-French speakers.

01 Cadmus – side 1 (16:20)
02 Cadmus – side 2 (16:24)

Total time 32:44
10-inch released by Philips France, 1959


Cadmus – the cast:

Paul Guers is Patrick Dorval

Jean Brochard is Prof. Somène

Lucien Nat is Cadmus

Lucien Nat is Cadmus

Henri Virlojeux is Imaro Sukamoto

Henri Virlogeux is Imaro Sukamoto

Mischa Auer is Professeur Wisencraft

Mischa Auer is Prof. Wisencraft

Roger Duquesne is Roger Florentin

R. Duquesne is Roger Florentin

Samuel Beckett – Oh Les Beaux Jours

Samuel Beckett - Oh Les Beaux Jours LP front cover
Samuel Beckett - Oh Les Beaux Jours LP back cover
Samuel Beckett - Oh Les Beaux Jours LP side 2
Madeleine Renaud (1900-1994)

Dans plusieurs de ces pièces de théatre, Samuel Beckett utilise les clichés du language pour véhiculer les sentiments les plus profonds, pour condenser les petites misères et les grands désarrois. Le malheur des personnages de Oh, Les Beaux Jours, c’est que, dans la situation abérrante où ils se trouvent, ils ne sont pas devenus fous (“Je n’ai pas perdu la raison… pas encore”, dit Winnie), mais ont gardé leur mode de raisonnement ordinaire… encore que Willy ait l’air un peu secoué.

♫  Ce disque, apparemment édité vers 1968, effectue un choix dans le texte original en le pliant aux exigences du théatre radiophonique. Les acteurs de la création française, Madeleine Renaud et Jean-Louis Barraud, ainsi que le metteur en scène original, Roger Blin, sont de la partie, et il y a fort à parier que Beckett lui-même a participé à ce projet discographique. Madeleine Renaud (1900-1994) a créé la version française du rôle de Winnie en 1963 et l’a joué jusqu’à la fin de sa vie. Elle a, en un sens, également tué le rôle par sa grâce et l’évidence de son interprétation, à tel point que, interpréter Winnie aujourd’hui, c’est un peu interpréter Madeleine Renaud.

Sur le disque, la prise de son recréé une mise en espace en utilisant des plans sonores plus ou moins rapprochés, tandis que divers bruits caractéristiques (revolver, lime à ongles, boîte à musique, borborygmes de Willy, sonnerie de reveil…) peuplent la scène sonore. Le disque craque un peu, sans doute mais, comme dit Winnie : “Ce sont des beaux jours, les jours où il y a des bruits”.

01 Introduction (1:10)
02 Première Partie (17:10)
03 Deuxième Partie (5:26)
04 Troisième Partie (24:51)

Durée 48:30
Disque publié par Adès, ref. 16.024, France, [1968?]


Voir également:
Samuel Beckett ‘How It Is’ read by Patrick Magee >

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Pierre Henry ‘Saint Exupéry’

Saint Exupéry front cover
Saint Exupéry back cover
Saint Exupéry side A

During his life, Pierre Henry composed many incidental music to literary texts, either on disc or on stage, from Jules Verne to Victor Hugo, from Lautréamont to Antonin Artaud. This rare 10-in LP from 1959 is a radio play about the life of French pilot and writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry, based on the 1956 book by Luc Estang on the subject. The interprets are a small theater troupe including French actor Paul Meurisse (1912-1979), famous for popular films and as a member of national theater company, La Comédie Française. Underlying key scenes, Pierre Henry’s contribution to the play consists of nice sound interjections of electronic and musique concrète sounds, adding a contemporary dimension to an otherwise unimaginative radio play.

PIERRE HENRY Saint Exupéry
01 Side A (17:00)
02 Side B (18:28)

Total time 35:28
10-in released by Unidisc, ref. 25103M, France, 1959


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