As a supplement to this retrospective account of Schnitzler’s Dreams, I would like to connect to Meredith Monk and point out her contribution to site-specific musical performance. As Schnitzler’s Dreams is an ‘installation-opera’ with stories and characters it is more closely related to her work than my later works are.
When Meredith Monk created Juice (1969) in three different spaces, she wanted to bring the audience’s attention to spaces that were not usual performance locations. The spaces in turn inspired the stories that she would tell in the performances, and they informed the development of the characters in her pieces. This makes the performance site-specific. In Schnitzler’s Dreams the characters were what guided all the other artistic choices and just like in Juice, their development was informed by the space. What was different in Schnitzler’s Dreams was that even though there were narratives, the work was instead about the journey through and between the four stories, rather than being about the narratives as such. This development away from storyline and towards a spatial dramaturgy has expanded during my research and these days there are no characters in my works. The personalities of the performers shine through during the performance, but these personalities are not formally performed or characterised.
As my work is performed in fixed spaces, attention to change is given. The journeys are inside the spatial sound composition, and they take place in a limited space that is expanded by the physical and sonic exploration of its acoustics. With American Archeology (1994) Meredith Monk created a performance that journeyed across a big area. In her drawings for the work, she indicated the path and the direction the audience should move. In the performance the audience is physically activated and guided on a clear path that connects different spaces. This allows for a variation of distance between bodies and other performance elements. Similar to Schnitzler´s Dreams the reference points in Monk’s work are plotted at a distance to one another. The path the audience takes in Schnitzler’s Dreams is, however, freely chosen, which is supported by the fact that the space is limited. In other words, the path does not need to be fixed as the performance area is clearly defined by the building and many paths are possible when journeying through the different stories.
When we pay attention to our physical relation to space, we also become more aware of the performer-audience relation. Meredith Monk explores this in terms of scale and proximity. This concern is also related to the temporality of live performance as something that disappears but remains in the memory. In Juice she made use of this quality by inviting the audience to three different locations over a six week period where elements of earlier performances were revisited in different forms. Here, Monk gives special attention to details in the visuals of the performance. In Schnitzler’s Dreams costumes, objects and other visual scenography provided an insight into the characters’ ‘soul landscape’. Proximity and memory were explored by each audience member as they moved through the space and could hear different things happening in the various areas of the building, depending on their proximity to one of the characters. In my more recent work, the scenographic elements have been reduced as I trust the scenographic potential of acoustic sound more and more. Memory is, here, a recollection of multi-sensual experiences during the performance through time and space.
When I created Schnitzler’s Dreams I made a site-specific (see site-sensitive in the dictionary) performance. At that point I did not yet know how sensitive one can be to a site when engaging all senses to listen. The site-sensitivity (see dictionary) that I was introduced to by listening to what happened between the performances in the different areas of the building is what I cultivated and researched further during my artistic research project Voicelanding – Exploring the scenographic potential of acoustic sound in site-sensitive performance. Insisting on acoustic sound plays an important role in my questions regarding the creation of site-sensitive sound performances. Meredith Monk, as a performance creator who has been working with acoustic sound for more than fifty years, shows that it is possible to insist on acoustic musical performance even as the technical means we have available can help overcome any difficulties that working with acoustic sound may bring (this does not mean that Monk excludes technology in her work; she is an intermedia artist). Her continuous exploration of the voice is a part of this devotion. Even though I use the voice as one of the instruments that help me understand the relationship of sound and space better, rather than having the exploration of voice and all its possibilities itself as the objective I choose to refer to Meredith Monk as an artist whose work is closely related to mine. Her work encourages me to continue to insist on the interaction of acoustic sound and space as I first discovered it in Schnitzler’s Dreams.