Musics | Stage
A collaboration with director Peter Sellars, after plans for Zangezi were abandoned (see the Diorama section here for some details about this work). Zangezi is a play by the Russian futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov and was a co-production of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s ‘Next Wave Festival’ and the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art. Newsweek ‘s critic Alan Rich wrote that Hassell’s score “throbs with a visionary poetry of its own”.
The performance was originally the idea of the late Paul Schmidt who had previously translated the complete works of Khlebnikov (who died of malnutrition in 1922 at the age of 37). Subtitled “A Supersaga in 20 Planes,” the poem required Mr. Schmidt to convey into English scenes written to simulate the languages of birds, of gods, and of what the poet called “beyonsense.”
Plane 1 calls for several characteristic Russian birds—which in various transpositions and multiplications become a major motif in the soundscore.
Plane 2, “The Gods”, adds sampled Pygmy voices. A strange and interesting example of the organic relationship between “music” and “nature” was revealed: a sampled Oriole played two octaves lower sounds extraordinarily similar to a Pygmy voice singing one of their characteristic melodic leap patterns while an actual Pygmy speaking voice played up two octaves sounds very much like a birdcall.
Stage design for a 1923 performance by Vladimir Tatlin.