Musical Theatre

6 Fluxus Musical Theater and Instrumental Theater

On the basis of his composition Kontakte (1958–1960), Karlheinz Stockhausen created his work for musical theater Originale in 1961, the first European example of a Fluxus work for theater.[12] Originale consists of eighteen scenes, arranged into seven structures, to be performed in any sequence or simultaneously. The passage of time in the work is established by reference to Kontakte, a performance of which forms the center of Originale, with the performers of the premiere of KontakteDavid Tudor (piano) and Christoph Caskel (percussion) — playing themselves in Originale. Other roles in Originale were played by Nam June Paik as the action artist and Hans G. Helms as the writer. Thus Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Originale thus represents an ambiguous borderline case of musical theater: it conforms to the Fluxus call for concreteness, and it includes aspects of the happening, as first realized by Allan Kaprow, as well as elements of instrumental theater, which makes the performance of music the subject of the performance.

Instrumental theater established itself as an autonomous form thanks to the scenic compositions of Mauricio Kagel, who was substantially motivated by his effort to come to terms with John Cage’s music. His central work, Sur scène (On the Stage), was written as a one-act theater piece with chamber music for a speaker, mimes, singers, and instrumentalists. The basis for the stage work is a lecture on contemporary music that provides the entries for the actions of the mimes and the musicians as well as reflecting ironically on the content of the lecture. Sur scène is an experiment in performing chamber music while having a discourse about chamber music. This kind of play with musical performance as its self-referential theme also characterizes Kagel’s Match for two cellists and a percussionist (1964). The performance takes the form of a ball game between the two cellists. The percussionist is the referee, who tries in vain to keep control of the events. Because the score prescribes an exact repetition of the action — the match is played twice — a seemingly spontaneous game between the musicians becomes a precisely choreographed staging.