Über David Roesner

David Roesner ist Professor für Theaterwissenschaft mit Schwerpunkt Musiktheater an der LMU München. Er forschte und lehrte bisher an den Universitäten Hildesheim, Exeter und Kent. 2003 erschien seine Dissertation Theater als Musik, 2007 wurde er mit dem Thurnauer Preis für Musiktheaterwissenschaft ausgezeichnet. Zuletzt publizierte er die Monographie Musicality in Theatre (Ashgate, 2014) und arbeitet jetzt an einem Buch zur zeitgenössischen Theatermusik.


Podcast Transcript for the episode “ICHNEUTAI by Sophocles – the invention of (theatre) music?” of the podcast STAGING SOUND: REFLECTING THEATRE MUSIC AND SOUND DESIGN


00:00:23 Introduction

David Roesner:

Welcome to another episode of Staging Sound, our podcast on all things to do with sound and music and technology and theatre, obviously, and performance, and all those kind of things.

Today, I am very happy to welcome Konstantinos Thomaidis, who has also been on the previous episode, from which you will remember him. He is going to tell us a bit more about a project he has recently done, which was a combination of research and practice really. And that will take us very ‘meta’: it will tell us all about theatre about theatre music and music and sound and all matter of things, and I am very happy for him to explain.

Just as a reminder, Konstantinos is a Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre & Performance at the University of Exeter in the UK. He has published widely on all matters to do with voice and performance, and performer training as well, for example, Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience, which was in 2015. Also, the wonderfully concise Theatre & Voice from 2017. He is also one of the editors of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, which you may want to ask your library to subscribe to.

With me today, as my co-host and another interested person to ask Konstantinos questions or to find out more about his project, is Millie Taylor. Millie Taylor has also been on the podcast before. She is the Joop van den Ende Chair of the Musical at the University of Amsterdam. Again, also being a practitioner for many, many years, she has toured Britain and Europe as a freelance musical director in musical theatre, and she has published widely on the musical. But also, she has published recently Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC: Macbeth to Matilda, a book from 2018 that is very much at the heart of the theme of our podcasts.

Welcome both of you.

Well, Konstantinos, I know you’ve got plenty to tell us, give us an insight into your project, which is about a Sophocles play. Tell us more about that.

00:02:33 On Sophocles’s Satyr Play Trackers (Plot Summary)

Konstantinos Thomaidis:

Thank you, David, for the kind introduction. Thank you, Millie.

The play is called in Greek Ichneuctai; in English has been translated as Trackers and in German as Sniffing Hounds1. It is quite an interesting play because it hasn’t had a very long performance history—and that’s because it is a fragment. For centuries, it has been missing, and we only had something like two or three lines from Hellenistic or Byzantine commentators talking about the play—so, all we knew was that it was a satyr play written by Sophocles.

And then, about 100–110 years ago, between 1908 and 1912, an excavation took place in a town in Egypt, Oxyrhynchus. In there, they found papyri. And there was this big archaeological discovery, which was: in one of the papyri, we had 400 lines from the play: the opening of the play, almost 2/3 of the play. In a way, this is a play that’s also, for us, a document of what a satyr play looked like, because we only have another satyr play surviving, by Euripides, and that’s the only one and most complete fragment we have.

This [Ichneutai] is a play that dramatizes for us, and stages for us, the invention of music, at least according to Greek mythology. Essentially, it is one of the first plays of the European, or Western, canon that stages for us how music was created and how this first music was received by its listeners.

If I were to summarize the plot of the play, what happens is:

We are at the top of the mountain Cyllene, which is in Peloponnese, in Greece, or the mythical Arcadia, nowadays Corinth. God Apollo comes in really upset—because it is a satyr play, the gods are sort of between comedy and tragedy, so still of course very godlike and stately but at the same time we see him a little bit dishevelled. And, he sort of says, ‘I’ve been running throughout Greece, I have this big problem’. Which is: Apollo was the god of cattle, and his cattle has been stolen and he’s running around Greece asking: ‘What happened? Did somebody use magic? Where are my cattle?’ And he proclaims that whoever helps him to find the cattle is going to win a lot from him.

And here comes Silenus, who is the old leader of the satyrs, saying: ‘OK, I heard something about the prize, who was calling?’ And Apollo says again, ‘I have this issue’ and he [Silenus] says ‘I’m gonna find it for you. And what’s the prize exactly?’ And, very interestingly, Apollo says: ‘it’s gold and liberty, freedom’—so whoever brings me my cattle back is going to win these two things. And Silenus says to us ‘OK, I have a whole troop of my kids and followers, the satyrs, and they’re going to come and help’.

Enter the satyrs, the chorus of satyrs, and they start searching. The first, I don’t know, I would say 100 or 150 lines of the play are them trying to figure out where the cattle is. They are sniffing and working on all fours, trying to find where they are, in all sorts of comedic manners because they get really confused. They follow the traces on the ground and, at a certain point, they start getting really, really puzzled, because the feet seem to have been walking backwards, and they [the satyrs] don’t know what’s happening. (As an Athenian audience, you know from the myth that the god Hermes did that to the cattle).

They arrive at the entrance of a cave at Mount Killini, Cyllene in English. And what happens there is: as they search for the cattle, they hear a sound that they’ve never had before, and they all get so frozen, they’re, like, so scared. They are in awe. They cannot move.

Silenus, who follows them, does not hear the sound. He’s like, ‘why have you stopped? Why are you frozen?’ and ‘we have a job to do. There is gold and freedom waiting for us’, and all that. But the satyrs are sort of ‘Father, there’s this sound. I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve never heard it before’. He [Silenus]… there is a whole comedic speech that he does against them, saying ‘oh you’re such cowards, did this and that in my youth and you‘re afraid of a sound, I’m going to follow you.’ By the end of the speech, they start searching again.

And we hear the sound for a second time. Silenus goes ‘OK, that’s something I’ve never had before. I’m really scared. You go and find it. I don’t care about gold and freedom. Bye’—and he disappears.

So, then the satyrs go: ‘We hear the sound coming from underneath the earth. We’re going to start stomping and dancing until we scare whomever makes the sound out, and they come up’. And they do that, there is a whole scene where they stomp and dance.

Who comes out is the nymph of the mountain, Mount Cyllene. The important thing is, in ancient Greek imagination, this is not a goddess that resides in the mountain, it’s actually animism: it is the mountain that comes out in female / god / nymph form and talks to us. She basically says: ‘Oh you really disrupted what I was doing underneath. What do you want? Why did you make all this fuss? What was all this sound?’ (Already you can see that the dramaturgy is [along the lines of] ‘What is this sound? Who said this? Who said that? Can you define this sound for me?’)

So, she comes out, and because she knows the satyrs from before, she sort of confides in them.

What has been going on is: Zeus had an affair with another nymph – as he always did—and out of this affair Maia gave birth to a new god, Hermes. And Maia, the mother, got sick after birth. So, the nymph Cyllene has been looking after the child, she has been the nurse. And they are hiding that child in the cave because they don’t want Hera, Zeus’s wife to find out about this affair.

Then the satyrs ask, ‘OK, what’s this sound? Because we’ve been hearing a sound and we don’t know what that is.’ And again, the nymph, after a long discussion, confides in them that the child, because they’re a god, within six days grew up, grew really intelligent, and invented something new, a new machine –and that machine is an instrument. (For the Greeks, that’s the invention of the lyre, an ancient string instrument.) And everybody’s like, ‘oh, what’s this machine? What is the animal?’

There follows a whole riddle scene, because what Cyllene says is that animal did not have a voice when it was alive but now when it’s dead, it has a voice. She describes the instrument built out of an animal as having a voice that the animal did not have beforehand. And as she describes how the instrument was built, she says… There is a whole game with the satyrs what ‘was the animal like, was this or that?’, and they end up with Cyllene saying to them that it was a tortoise and the child used it as the resonator and then used reeds and the entrails, the guts of sheep to create the first cords [strings] and he stabilized the resonator, to create the resonance, with skin from cattle.

She carries on talking about the instrument, but of course, the satyrs go ‘what?’ And then they realize that the little god escaped and stole his brother’s cattle, and that the cattle are underneath the earth, and of course, they accuse the little god as a thief. 

Cyllene goes: ‘How dare you accuse the son of a god?’ This is, roughly, where the fragment ends.

But we know the end of the play, from commentators and from a couple of other sources, for example, there is the Hymn to Hermes2. We know that in the end what happens is that Apollo returns on stage and the satyrs tell him, ‘this is who stole your cattle’ and that they found the cattle. Apollo gives them gold and freedom and there is a big ‘party’, dancing and music, etcetera.

Then the two brothers reconcile with each other. And what happens is: Apollo, who also hears the sound of the music, goes, ‘Oh, what’s that?’, so he decides to forgive his brother and also hand the cattle in to him (in Greek mythology, Hermes is the god of cattle, the leader of cattle), on the condition that Hermes gives him the lyre—and this is how Apollo becomes the god of music.

So, this is roughly the plot, and this is the end of the play.

00:11:53 On the Research for the Production by Mikhail Marmarinos

David Roesner:

Amazing. And great to have the whole context there because obviously, as you say, it’s hardly been done. It is not a familiar play. Some Greek plays we know very well, and they have been done also here in Germany a lot but this one I’m hardly aware of. Can you tell us a bit more about… So, you have mentioned already that that there is music and the invention of music and the invention of instruments, and also it sounds like the e-ffects and a-ffects of music are front and centre in this piece. You talk about the fear, you talk about how it’s the unknown, and Chion and others call it the acousmatic nature of that sound, that sound where we can’t detect the source. We can’t see where it’s coming from, and therefore we also don’t know what it is. That seems to be an almost anthropological constant that those kinds of sounds disorient us or make us curious in a positive way, and, in this case, to begin with it’s fear.

So, you have been involved in the production of that play and you have mentioned before to us that there was a long research period. Obviously, there’s some textual research, I assume, some looking into, you know, ‘what can we find?’ ‘What versions are there?’ ‘Where might fragments belong?’— etcetera, etcetera. But I’m sure you’ve also researched musicality of ancient Greek theatre and so forth. Tell us a bit about that, that background and that research.

00:13:14 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

This particular production was directed by Mikhail Marmarinos3. Mikhail Marmarinos is one of the most prominent Greek directors since the ’80s in Greece; in a way, he is the advocate of postmodernism, devised theatre, includes a lot of physicality and chorality in his plays, and over the years he has shifted also towards performance, and site-specificity, and what we would call here in Germany composed theatre4. The production, it was the first full staging of the play for one of the big festivals: in Epidaurus, in Greece. 

And for this, we were lucky enough to have an almost three-year period of research. What happened was: in 2019, when Mikhail Marmarinos decided to stage the play, we were co-teaching at a workshop at the ancient theatre of the Dodoni, on Greek drama and more particularly on sound and voice around Greek drama. He was teaching acting classes—and his approach is always very musical, or at least informed by music and sound—and I was doing the voice classes, but I was also his assistant in the acting classes, bringing in the element of voice and sound. So, the first thing we did was that we explored the text really deeply with the trainees regarding the plot and the characters, but also the moments when music occurs. My job, by the end of this—because I brought in my researcher self as well—was to create what I call a ‘sound map’ of the text5. Because I studied a little bit of philology before (my second degree was philology before I left for the UK), I went in[to the text] and I studied all the words for their meaning in terms of the Greek context, especially words that had to do something with language and sound and music—what they meant in context—and sort of traced the trajectory of how people perceive sound or how sound appears in the play. That became the basis of a second phase of research the following year, in 2020. The play was commissioned by the Athens and Epidaurus Festival for 2020, but then the pandemic came. And what we did with the company was that we spent about three months online, researching the play further, starting rehearsals. Then the production was staged in 2021 in Epidaurus. It had a small tour. There were two performances in Epidaurus. Then, importantly, the production a month later was performed at Mount Ziria, which is Cyllene, it was site-specific, next to the Cave of Hermes. This was the very first production of ancient theatre that happened in that place. And then it [the production] ended up in in Athens, in the Odeon of Herodus Atticus, very close to the theatre of Dionysus, under the Acropolis.

00:16:12: Some Findings

In that period of research, yes, we worked around ancient Greek music and sounds, and some of the findings are quite interesting6. So, if we look at the text, the first things that became obvious out of this mapping, this sonic mapping of the play, is that the play sonically begins by the usual sort of rhetoric and text-based sonicity of ancient Greek drama. When Apollo comes on stage, he uses words like ‘I proclaim’ or ‘whoever listens, this is the text like that I swear by’, etcetera. Then, when Silenus and the satyrs come, we have a slight shift to quality of voice, not necessarily text: they say, ‘I heard your passionate voice, and I thought you were upset. Do you need my help?’ And then, as we keep progressing, as the satyrs start listening to that first sound, the language becomes a little bit confusing, because they don’t have vocabulary. They keep shifting between terms. And the terms they use are a lot of the time φωνήphone, which means voice, or φθέγμαphthegma, which means ‘word’ or ‘text coming either by an animal or a human or an inanimate source’. They don’t know the source, as you said, for them it’s very acousmatic. And there is this whole middle part where there is linguistic confusion that reflects their state of reception. 

Then, when Cyllene appears and they talk about it [the sound], then we start having really precise terms. The satyrs start saying: ‘Oh, I hear this vibration coming through the earth.’ Then they say, ‘oh, this vibration which comes from a string’. Διαχαράσσω. So: they start realizing that the source has to do something with a string, and then, ‘this is vibration-from-a-string that comes through scratching’. So they have then another word. They realize that it’s, you know, tactile and there is a human involved, sort of a hand involved behind it. And as they talk, Cyllene says to them: at the beginning this sound was made, this voice was made; and then the first sound; and then what she calls aiolisma, which is what we would call melismatic sound, a little bit more differentiated; and then she calls it melos xymphonon, which means melody that goes up and down and creates, you know, symphonic, which means harmonic, sound. Essentially, we hear that, first, we have a physical movement that produces a certain kind of sound; then a sound that gets more varied; a sound that acquires melodic features; and in the end, a sound that acquires harmonic features. 

So, Cyllene and the satyrs, when they talk about it, not only do they try to deal with this new sound, but they give us also a map towards understanding music. They say to us: you can hear at first the sound, and then, if you have to decipher it, you can hear to sound individually, then sound together as melody, and then sound together as harmony. For me, there are two interpretations: either, as they hear little Hermes playing ‘downstairs’, under the earth, Hermes becomes a little bit more skilled, and the music develops. Or, Hermes, because he is a god, already is very skilled, but the listeners—the satyrs and Cyllene—become more skilled listeners and, as they hear, they listen to this music a little bit better or in a more complex and sophisticated way.

00:19:50 How to Name Sounds?

Millie Taylor:

But I think there’s something really interesting there about the fact that they have to name it. And so they’ve got to use language, but particularly they’ve got to use voice in order to name it. And so the whole premise of the play is actually founded on something quite bizarre. Because actually you’re using voices, you’re in chorus, and you’re talking about sound. And they’re dancing as well, the dancing is both rhythmic and musical. So, in a funny sort of way, they already had all these tools, they just hadn’t named them. So, is this actually a play about naming these things or is it about the discovery of an instrument?

00:20:35 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

I think it is—and actually in the chapter I talk about this aspect of the play quite at length—I think it’s two things at the same time. 

One is precisely, as we say, that music [in this case] comes to our language, to our terms, to our understanding. So, there is a codification of it taking place, and voice has this very interesting role in the play in that it becomes an anchor for the music, a comment. If you go to a gallery and you see a painting, you have the explanatory note, the text beside it, which Barthes called anchorage or anchoring7—I think that’s what the voice does for us, tells the audience how to listen to this sound. They [Cyllene and the satyrs] sort of frame it. Also, it becomes, interestingly for our contemporary sonic imagination, the background of that music. Because a lot of time in contemporary music- or sound-based theatre, music is the sounds out of which voice comes (e.g. song we break into)—song becomes the foreground sound. But in this play, we have all these voices singing and talking to each other, and music becomes the foreground sound.

But another aspect that’s quite important, the second aspect, is that if you listen to the language, you are right, we are in a world that is full of music. But I think it’s a little bit more free-flowing, and I would call it a world of musicality. They had music, they had dance, they had rhythm. And very interestingly, in this play, we have no humans. The satyrs are half animals. There is a nymph. There are two gods, there are cattle. So, it is a play about a world that’s full of music, that is now coming to human ears, who codify it as music. It’s a play that says that music has to do with what we would call anthropo-listening—sort of centering the anthropos, the humans, around the notion of music—and, at the same time, sort of tongue-in-cheek telling us: ‘but we had it all the way before you came to it.’ And that’s a basic operating principle of the universe.

00:22:46 Early Listening to Theatre Music 

David Roesner:

I wanted to pick up on the question of listening, because when you were talking about how sort of the listening develops and it kind of comes from a very basic understanding of ‘there are vibrations’ to an appreciation of melodic differentiation essentially, it’s interesting if you look at some of the more recent theories on listening or philosophies. I am just thinking about Chion again, with his three modes of listening8. It’s almost the opposite. 

It’s almost like there is semantic listening first and foremost, because that dominates our day. We, as you, dear listener, are doing right now—you are listening to this particularly with an interest in what we are saying or what the meaning is. And then there’s a second layer which is about sort of ‘where does this come from?’, which also features in the play. (Where is this underground? We need to stomp to find out what this is). And then and only then, sort of almost as a kind of archaeological discovery where you dig deeper, then you get to the sound itself. What is the sound itself? What are the vibrations? How could you describe it?

And the same goes for language. How do you describe it? So sometimes they talk about what the sound sounds like. Sometimes they talk about how it may be produced, so they fantasize about what could create that sound. And then at some point they probably also think about what it means, what its function is, etcetera, etcetera. And that’s quite fascinating, because it’s really a number of ways in which we engage with theatre music, or theatre sound as well, that sometimes it’s predominantly there to guide our attention, to structure a play, also to obviously create emotions, atmospheres etcetera. So, it kind of covers that range in a very early example, although I am just curious what kind of research or what kind of sort of knowledge basis was there to talk quite sophisticatedly about the role of music and sound in theatre at this early stage already?

00:24:44 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

That’s a very interesting question. The first thing to say is, for me, the play does quite the opposite of Chion’s or Schaeffer’s tactics9. It sort of says that sound might be meaningless—which is close to the reduced mode of listening by Chion—but it is never contextless. It always either indexes identity or has effects on people. In my understanding of Chion’s project, it’s [this] sort of late ’80s, ’90s, Northern European strategy, or even American earlier on in the ’70s, of trying to work against codified appreciations of music, and trying to re-find what sound in itself was, and creating the project of sound studies. But in this play, we have a desire to keep it [sound] in context. It is always about something. About gods, about animals, about our connections, about our affect in the theatre.

When it comes to music and appreciation, again it’s quite interesting, because by that point—we’re talking late 5th century BCE in Greece; most of the contemporary philologists place the play around 430 or 420, that decade—by that point in classical Athens, pedagogy has been codified, solidified, that it is around music and sports. So everyone in Athens has had some sort of basic training in music, and the lyre, the instrument that the play talks about, was the first version of a string instrument that trainees used in their education. So pretty much everybody in Athens, pretty much every free citizen in Athens, would have had training in it. There is this basic level of [musical] appreciation.

00:26:42: Sophocles and (His) Instruments

Now in terms of that, I find that Sophocles is also a little bit ‘meta’—because he was a trained kitharodos, which means player of the kithara (which is the advanced version of the lyre, it has more strings, it’s wooden and it’s not by a tortoise etcetera)—for a couple of reasons.

The first one is: in ancient Greek drama, the instrument that was accompanying the chorus next to the themeli, or sometimes behind the scene, was the instrument of god Dionysus, which was the aulos10, the 2-reed ‘flute’ [oboe]. So, there are a couple of hypotheses around how the play was staged. The first one, really basic one, that I’m not sure holds too much truth but it’s worth entertaining, is that as per convention, the instrument playing throughout the production was aulos and everybody in the play sort of said ‘what’s that sound? Oh, lyre!’ We hear the sound of the wind instrument and, because we talk about it, we name it as the sound of a lyre, it goes ‘oh, that’s a sound that I haven’t heard before.’ The second option is that we hear aulos throughout the production, but then there are moments when we hear the lyre. So again, there is a juxtaposition against convention, [according to] what the play needs. The third option is that we hear the kithara, the advanced version. Because I would think in, and a lot of archaeologists would think, nobody would play the lyre in a big sort of politicized and open, public space, because it’s quite basic for Greeks. They would play the kithara, which they played for poetry competitions. So again, there is this ‘meta’ level, where somebody plays the guitar and people talk about it as the lyre, a different kind of string instrument. Or, it could be all of the above. So, there is already a sort of guiding of your [the audience’s] sonic imagination: in hearing the sound, there’s something else that it isn’t.

Now the second interesting thing about context there is that around the middle of the 5th century in classical Athens, there was a big public debate around the role of music, which is, later on, reflected in the writings of Plato. What happened was that there was this competition of music and poetry, Panathinaia, and in 446, I want to say, a kitharodos, a guitar player from Mytilene, another city, won, in Athens11. He was also the inventor of a kithara version with extra strings and the inventor of not pure tones but melismas, in-between tones and melismatic melody. And there were the hardcore people, conservatives that said, ‘that’s not music’ and ‘what’s happening there?’ And of course the public went crazy with the new sound. The whole debate was around the new guitar sound, νέα κιθαρωδία (nea kitharodia). So, it was a very prominent discourse in Greece. I think Sophocles, who was also a trained kitharodos, was commenting on New Music—as if you have people that know classical harmony and suddenly, dodecaphony comes about—and the play talks about that.

00:30:09 (Musical) Comedy and Narrative in Different Productions

Millie Taylor:

There’s two fascinating strands opening up. One is that what we are really talking about is comedy, and meta-narratives, and that play with the idea that there is no instrument when there is an instrument, and what we are believing in a play. So that whole sense of the way a play is constructed is being explored here in a really interesting way, and one that perhaps we haven’t ever discussed in relation to Greek theatre. So I wonder, perhaps, if we could talk a bit about that. And from then move to, then, how on earth do you deal with that in the present?

00:30:33 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

Another two fascinating questions, so fascinating. The first one is yes, this play, in a way, has become one of the primary sources that we now use to sort of trigger our acoustic imagination into listening back to theatre and what it could achieve sonically and aurally and acoustically, especially in combination with other sources. For me, it’s actually more engaging to talk about what we did with that play in the contemporary day, which is, you know, the history of the music of the production nowadays. I’ll give you a few examples.

The play was first staged in Germany, in Halle, by a German philologist /archaeologist, Carl Robert, who reconstructed the play, filling the gaps from the other sources, with students, and the only sound he used was the lyre, very scarcely in the play12.

Millie Taylor: And voices.

Konstantinos Thomaidis: Yes, and voices, of course—yes, I’m talking about music—the voices of the students.

Then, what happens Théodore Reinach, German-French, he was researching ancient Greek music, created a new translation that was picked up by a French composer, Albert Roussel, and the second staging is actually an opera. So that opera, called La Naissance de la Lyre, was performed in France in 192513. And it is—because he [Roussel] was a sort of affiliate/student of Debussy—very sort of expressionistic and Debussy-like and sort of pastoral—once again, a whole other universe.

The third very interesting production happens in Italy in the early ’30s by a Greekist archaeologist / philologist, Ettore Romagnoli, who performs it in an open theatre. As far as we know, the music was again the lyre, but he has this incredible idea, because it’s an open space, to introduce real cattle. So we know that in the production animals come on stage, and we hear the animals.

That’s pretty much what happened in the beginning of the 20th century. Then, there is a long gap in the history of productions of the play. And we must say that all these early productions come from people that are very interested in ancient Greek music as well and use the play to do their research and reimagine the acoustic past a little bit more. So, for example, Reinach writes a book on ancient Greek music a year after he stages the play, and he was also the person that 10 years earlier had decoded [transcribed to contemporary notation] the musical notation of the Apollo Paean in the Delphic inscriptions. Ettore Romagnoli is another very interesting case, because his listening-back and sort of vision of antiquity is also reflected—the context here is quite important as well—in the fact that he was a member of the party at the time of Mussolini. And I think that’s the reason why we have a big gap in the history of productions in the middle of the 20th century.

00:33:45: Tony Harrison’s Adaption in the 1980s

Skip to the 1980s when we have a renewed interest in the play. There are a couple of ‘half productions or choreo-drama productions in Greece. The most influential one comes from the UK. It’s by Tony Harrison. Tony Harrison writes an adaptation of the play, which is called the Trackers of Oxyrhynchus14. The middle section is basically a translation of the play, but what he does is, in the opening scene, the two British archaeologists that found the fragments, the papyri, in Egypt, Grenfell and Hunt, they have discussion about the role of archaeology: ‘And why we do [this]? What are we trying to find?’, etcetera, etcetera—and then they turn into the characters of the play. Then in the third section, which was first performed in the Ancient site [stadium] of Delphi in 1988, the satyrs they party, they have a big sort of ‘yes, we’re now free, etcetera’. And when he [Apollo] gives them the gold, he gives them big blocks of gold. And then as they unwrap them, the gold falls out, they become boomboxes. And there’s this sound of ’80s, very contemporary, and that all has to do with the ’80s and the Thatcher years in the UK and class. Then, at the closing of the play, they say to Apollo, ‘oh, we like the lyre. Can we play it?’ And Apollo says: ‘no, you are not worthy of this sound.’ So, there is the battle between the ‘upper’ music, aristocratic music, and the boomboxes. And what do they do? They [the satyrs] turn into 1980s hooligans that destroy the set, which is paper and fragments of the papyri, and they turn it into balls, and they play football, and they destroy the set. And [it’s as if] they say, ‘hey, our culture is boomboxes and football. And we didn’t care about this lofty high culture’.

When he restages, Tony Harrison, the play for the National Theatre in 1990 (across to 1992), in that final section, we still have the boomboxes and music comment but also the set becomes cardboard, because it was performed at the National Theatre, the ‘cardboard city’ back in the day, there were a lot of homeless people, so it becomes a comment about the people that are excluded from theatre and what is perceived as high culture. And what also Tony Harrison does very well in the play is the satyrs speak in a Northern accent, and also use boomboxes—and the dance that he uses, which was actually nominated for an Olivier Award for choreography, is clog dancing. All this ‘I’m gonna take everybody out of the cave’, they do [it in clog] dancing from the North. So it becomes a comment about the role of music in contemporary society, and I think now that has stayed with the play, and in some sort of way –I’m not quite sure whether Tony Harrison was aware of it, because it’s much later the research that we now know about nea kitharodia—is what Sophocles did back in the day as well.

00:36:51 Millie Taylor:

You mean he used regional accents and regional dance styles, or…?

00:36:54 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

He was commenting on music and the role of music and the difference between who’s included or excluded in the listening of music.

00:37:01 Politics in the Play – Through Music?

Millie Taylor:

Alright. OK. So, because I think there are two kinds of politics going on—aren’t there?—there’s one, one is that whole sort of class-based thing about what we think of as ‘music’, and then the other is just this idea of description and naming when you’re doing it already. And I think one is comic and the other is deeply political. And I think what’s interesting about what you’re talking about is, is this idea that you have both comedy and politics intertwined at this very, very early stage in Greek theatre.

00:37:47 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

And the satyr play, as far as… from what we know, it occupies this middle, in-between territory between tragedy and comedy. It doesn’t become a sort of…, it doesn’t have direct political commentary. In comedy, you have parabasis where everything stops and we address the audience or we use the names of contemporary politicians, but the satyr play uses some of the movement or, you know, linguistic conventions (not all of them) [of comedy] and, at the same time, the characters are gods and nymphs, and most of the linguistic landscape retains the sound of tragedy. It’s that in-between territory that says: ‘Or we are shifting into light relief while at the same time occupying this higher place in our imagination’.

00:38:23 Millie Taylor:

Well, not just in our imagination, but presumably in the theatre space.

Because it becomes almost as though voice and movement, and the sounds they produce, are not music, and only instrumental music is music, and I think that is a really interesting conversation, because of course that completely negates voice from the discussion of music. And, of course, then we have hundreds of years of symphonic music, or thousands in fact. So, you know, I think it’s really interesting, which is why I think you should talk about what you have done with it in the contemporary period.

00:38:58 Mikhail Marmarinos’s Production in 2021

Konstantinos Thomaidis:

In this particular production, what Mikhail Marmarinos did, and the team around him—actually more intuitively and instinctively and artistically, because that production was an artistic production; of course I was a member of the team that also had the research agenda, but, you know, the primary drive was artistic—it sort of returned us to voice15.

So, what happened was, after the first period of research, the final aesthetic is this: you are in Epidaurus in the orchestra, you have the big theatre of Epidaurus, and what we did was: in terms of the sound that was on stage, first of all, all the satyrs wore these cattle-identifying bells. Each one of them a different one, so you could hear them as different humanimals. And, also, we had a platform on one part of the stage, where you could stomp. There was wood, so you can make all the sounds of stomping and etcetera, but underneath it we had sensors and that sound got amplified. We could play with lots of sort of rhythmic ways that became really sort of vibrant and the audience could feel them. That was the sonic environment of the stage.

Now, for the first time—we had to go through a long process with the archaeological team of Epidaurus—we were allowed to also use the auditorium. We placed four musicians in different parts of the auditorium, and the music by Billy Bultheel, who composed the music/soundscape for the production sound design, was two tubas and two euphoniums, and they were spread across. And although it was music, this sort of signified the cattle, because we have two kinds of sounds: the cattle and then new music. In the sonic imagination of the piece, in the Sonic environment of the piece, it [the brass music] sort of became these two things.

And then, at the very top [of the auditorium]—this is a very large theatre—instead of being under the earth, was god Hermes, behind the audience. They don’t see him as they enter the space. Steve Katona, who was the German countertenor that performed Hermes, whenever the satyrs hear a sound, was performing really high-pitched, complex, almost extra-normal, operatic sounds. So that voice became the signifier of the ‘new music’16.


And when, at the very last part, Hermes appears on stage, he had to cross the audience singing, and then the musicians followed him because both the cattle and Hermes arrive on stage.

Then, when he talks to Apollo, another interesting sonic element was that he spoke quite in his singing register, it was a speech-song, so he retained that sort of almost recitativo-plus-singing voice. And he also spoke in an accent, which in Greek theatre, especially in Epidaurus, is a little bit, you know, not done very often. So, the new sound was a countertenor presenting himself as the new instrument, and German-inflected modern Greek in speech-song being the new sound of the god. 

The final lovely ‘touch’ by Mikhail in this production was the person that performed Silenus—the older leader and a very comic one—was Stamatis Kraounakis18. Stamatis Kraounakis is perhaps the most famous Greek composer. He has written a lot of… not pop music, he has written a lot of popular music but really quite advanced, he has discographed a lot—so everybody knows him. But he performs a spoken part, he never sings once in the play, so you have all these expectations of the audience expecting Stamatis Kraounakis to sing or have his own-sort-of-style music. And only in the end, when everybody leaves and he goes off, his final words are almost sung, like this promise of the composer we all know and love.

00:44:23 Music and Ethics?

David Roesner:

And that’s really fascinating point because it reminds us how much intertextuality, or, dare I say, intermusicality19, is almost always at play. Because you’re saying it’s… you don’t just listen to the music or the sound, but you also listen to what it references, the kind of context this comes from, the kind of connotations; you have talked about class, about high and low, what music do we associate with what. 

I was wondering to what degree—and this may be an irrelevant question—but from my scarce understanding of ancient Greek music there is not only an aesthetic debate that you’ve talked about earlier, but also an ethical debate. So, it used to be that certain modes would sort of be used in education to fortify your courage or make you a forthright person, etcetera etcetera—which is something slightly less perhaps common in I don’t know, in in Germanic or Anglophone music education. It’s all about aesthetics, and the notion of ‘playing in a certain key will make you a better person’ is a is a bit foreign to us. But does that play into this world and this place, that’s still something that people deal with consciously, or is that just in the past?

00:45:44 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

I could only make suppositions about it. And music in Ancient Greece is quite a complex subject and we all, and we know a lot about other sources. So the kind of debate that you are describing comes primarily from Plato, who is very suspicious of the arts in general –

00:46:01 David Roesner

 – particularly of theatre20 actually –

00:46:02 Konstantinos Thomaidis

Yes, particularly of theatre, because of the effects it has on people, and how it’s not about purity of ideas and influencing their [the audience’s] right-ful ethics. And of course, music plays a big part in it and how it’s staged and how it is perceived. Yes, there were certain modes that were assigned to good education and morale, and what I can say about that is it also has to do not [just] with a perceived ethics, but also function. In Ancient Greece, you had choric songs whose primary purpose was, you know, to sort of build community and create, you know, sort of mini versions of citizenship and unity. But you also had songs for war, songs for dancing, songs for symposiums, songs for theatre, music that was performed at festivals. So yes, you have different functions allocated to music because Plato tells us that he would like music to do this or that and affect people in certain ways. I’m not quite sure that this is what music did, or what some philosophers or music educators wanted it to do that, there’s a fine distinction there. I think there is an element of truth in that some people believed, you know, in its moral-building or morality-building as well in terms of ethics or functions, but at the same time, music performed itself in various, various ways.

00:47:23 Apollonian and Dionysian?

David Roesner:

I wondered—I am still thinking about the notion that Apollo becomes the god of music through this story—and then I am thinking, because you also described the almost feral ways of stomping and screaming and the cattle and so forth, and so there is that Apollo / Dionysus dichotomy there. Is that described in the play, is that something? Because it seems that this personification, allocating music to both to Dionysus and to Apollo in various ways, really speaks to those two tensions in the music, generally speaking: that it could have a sort of an educating and morally, sort of, nourishing and kind of orderly aspect to it, which would draw us to the Apollonian, and the sort of imbricating, control-losing nature, etcetera etcetera. I am saying this, of course, because German literature and particularly I am thinking of Thomas Mann and others obsessed with Apollo and Dionysus, and Nietzsche is of course as well. So, I don’t know to what degree that actually all goes back to Sophocles, and even this play, or is that just part of that universe of thinking.

00:48:37 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

Again, I can only make suppositions because I am sort of researching this play as a voice researcher, and my philology, even though I have trained in it, is at best a sort of informed amateur philology, but I have talked to a lot of people, and I have read quite a bit on the play. My sense is that this kind of clear dichotomy is sort of the way Europeans at a certain point in their own nation-building, and therefore culture-building, project projected on ancient Greece. And, I think, Greece of antiquity was not very fond of dichotomies.

To give the example here: you have Sophocles, who everybody knows as the rightful citizen, the very sort of serious and complex tragedist, here showing us that that such dichotomies do not necessarily exist –because he tells us that music was invented as an act of a very mischievous child that became a thief. And that, Apollo, who is the god of right-ful, ethical music, was second-hand god of music and he had to bargain to get to that role. And first we see him really, as I said, upset and dishevelled and the god of cattle. So his becoming the advocate, or sort of emblem, of a specific kind of music, is a project and it is a process that we sort of trace and follow throughout the play. And I think that is the comment that is been made here: that music is a wide spectrum, and even the gods that come to exemplify specific ends of the continua within which music operates came there as a process—therefore they’re sort of made, acculturated as these symbols.

00:50:29 Millie Taylor:

So, in terms of the sort of contemporary production of this, how is that continuum explored and what are the… Basically, I want you to describe a bit more what it what it sounds like this, this continuum. You’ve talked about the instruments and the sort of kinds of sounds they are making and the intermusical or intertextual associations, inter-creature associations, I guess, between humans and cattle or whatever. But what’s that sound world that we are listening to and how is that feeding into a potential atmospheric, intellectual understanding of this work?

00:51:14 Marmarinos’s Musicality

Konstantinos Thomaidis:

The first thing to say about this production—and that is very typical of Mikhail Marmarinos’s aesthetic—is that he works for months on end on the musicality of the text. I am not quite sure whether Mikhail would want me to say that… but I think he would: I overheard him in one rehearsal, leaning over to Stamatis Kraounakis, the composer, while the chorus was rehearsing, and saying to him: ‘I am convinced, even though I’m a theatre-maker, that everything is music’. So, his approach is very musical. If you listen to the text, it’s almost like a score in [terms of] its rhythm]—but not the old-school way (‘There is a meter and we take it very seriously’). It’s actually an intervention in pedestrian, everyday speech. One would speak the text in a specific way to make meaning out of it, and Mikhail breaks it down, changes the inflections, or changes where the tone goes, to create a multiplicity of meanings, or designate that this is theatre/musical speech rather than everyday speech.

So, there is now a tradition, after Mikhail and a couple of other directors, in Greece, in modern Greek theatre, that if you were to say, I don’t know, ‘What is this? This is a book.’—which is how it would make sense—it would be[come instead] ‘What? Is this? This iiiis… a book!’ So, there were different sort of breaks in the phrase, or marks and punctuations, that already musicalize the way the speech is delivered. 

Perhaps for and non-Greek-speaking audience, the closest we can get to that is … there is a Greek [film] director, Yorgos Lanthimos, who created Dogtooth or The Favorite, and the way his actors speak—because he comes from this tradition of Greek directors—if you hear the actors, they speak in this speech-song or musical tradition, which comes from Greek theatre, because he also worked in Greek theatre and he was very familiar with these directors. And for me, this a sort of transnational travel of musicality, of speech, that’s going on here in somebody like Rachel Weisz or Olivia Colman speaking almost in a Greek-theatre tradition kind of speech.

So, the entirety of the production [of Ichneutai], first and foremost is choric. You constantly listen to the satyrs, either when they speak or, also, they keep making background sounds. They are the entire sonic and vocal landscape of the piece. The music, the euphonium and tubas, are only heard at the beginning and the interventions of the cattle. Then, in the end, they create, they start… they end up playing almost like contemporary harmony—because by that point they would make dissonant sounds or almost soundscape / ‘punctums’21 in the sonic landscape—they almost create an ‘exit-band’ feeling. 


I think that has to do with something we never talked about in rehearsals but, I think, in the end, Mikhail created quite cleverly: when the satyrs are given their freedom and they have this party, the whole final section is them saying ‘yes, we are free’—and in ancient Greece they used to dance, Euoi Euan, there are cheers to Dionysus, and they celebrate. [In this production] We have this melancholy music, almost like an exit march playing, and the lights come down, and all the musicians and the cattle disappear, and they [the satyrs] are left on stage and their speech is like ‘[In melancholy/bland tone] Yay, let’s celebrate. Hey, we are free.’ 

So, I think, suddenly—we have seen them, you know, being so physical and loud etcetera—they are left out of words. They are left out of music. They are left out of voice. And they do not know what to do with their freedom. And I think that’s also what the production is showing: Freedom for what? Freedom towards what? And what do we do with it?

00:56:42 Can we Compare this to Other Forms?

Millie Taylor:

That’s a really interesting sonic dramaturgy, isn’t it? Something occurred to me as you were speaking: if… you’re talking about this this way of speaking and performing Greek text. To what extent might we make a comparison with other forms? So, I am thinking the diversity from Berio to London Road, you know. How would, how does this sit within those, and how is it notated for the performers? Because, of course, London Road famously was partially orally communicated.

00:57:06 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

The first thing to say is that, at least in Mikhail Marmarinos’s productions, it’s never notated. It is embodied and experimented with. Mikhail Marmarinos has a whole sort of system of working with instructions within which the performers improvise, and then he keeps the elements of aurality that stick with his sort of wider, broader vision. So, there is no [exact] notation that’s, that’s for sure. But all of the actors know by the end—because it’s been three years of research, etcetera—where, you know, there is an upper inflection, when there is a comma, when there is a pause, but it is an embodied understanding of this. It is rhythmical rather than notated. 

Now within that spectrum, from Berio to London Road, which is an interesting spectrum that doesn’t quite apply to the Greek context, is that… yes, there is a tradition of avant-garde music as well in Greece (and in the Italian context of Berio, there is also Demetrio Stratos23, who was one of the improvisers-vocalizers that participated into this creation of avant-garde vocality). There are just affinities with that, in the sense that Mikhail wants to explore sound for all the possibilities of its meaning. But what anchors differently his approach is that he always uses classical text that, in the end, somehow makes meaning, even though he breaks it, whereas other people would just use sounds or random words and all that. In terms of London Road, in Greece, we do not quite have a sonic landscape that reflects on class and regionality in the way that London Road does. We do have some dialects in specific regions, but it does not quite apply to intersectional sonicity of both class and regionality.

However, the way that Mikhail’s actors, and therefore the characters in his productions, speak has something to do with breaking established conventions of speaking. So, if we consider London Road an intervention into the voicescape of musical theatre and what this well-made, sort of structured, way of speaking and voicing and singing in musical theatre is, the only affinity is that he breaks what is [a] ‘proper’ speaking of the text in the context of both Greek drama and contemporary drama. And at the same time, it’s very well-researched and very ‘well done.’ It is not just experimental. You end up tuning into this new sort of way of speaking the text. And by the end of it, I’m not quite sure that everybody’s alienated by it, because it ends up being its own language. It is as if you are tuning into another way of speaking.

00:59:55 Millie Taylor:

But it does raise an issue. First of all, the piece is made on the performers and, therefore, they have some agency within it. But if this piece were performed again, are the performers therefore becoming effectively robots and even down to the phrasing and the intonation of their speech? Because that’s a charge that is sometimes levelled, not just at musical theatre, but also against some kinds of verbatim theatre.

01:00:22 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

I wouldn’t think that anybody would sort of reproduce or revive that production. We do not have a [systematic] tradition of revivals in Greece. It’s always a new production. So, I do not think—again, in the Greek context–that it would become a concern. Of course, there is the ownership of the actors. As I said, Mikhail in the ’80s was the advocate of devised theatre; it’s always ‘in collaboration with—’ 

And even in terms of the team around him: there was Mikhail, of course, that has a very musical way of creating and has his own system of training as well (that has been written extensively about). But there was Billy Bultheel, who wrote the music, and he also improvised a bit with Steve, the countertenor. So, the music in itself has Steve’s improvisations within it, and some of the musicians’, even though the tuba and euphonium parts have been written in the end. There’s the sound designer that amplifies the sound. Actually, the whole scene where they [the actors/satyrs] stomp on the platform and gets different rhythms was created by the actors and all of us chipping in—Mikhail wanted a specific sort of dramaturgy of the sound, and then Silenus, the composer Stamatis Kraounakis sort of saying ‘Oh yeah, perhaps we can try that sound,’ and I had played with a lot of the actors in terms of rhythmic training the first year of [training]. So, there is always this element of co-composition and embodied ownership by everybody.

01:01:47 Millie Taylor:

And yet, there is somebody called a ‘composer’ and somebody called a ‘director’.

01:01:52 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

Yes, of course. And I think that has to do with the fact that we are very much operating within a tradition of the auteur director. All of us contributed. All of us worked in different capacities. Even I started as a vocal archaeologist / assistant, and then sort of became, for example, the trainer of Steve Katona, of the countertenor, in Greek. So, we kept changing and shifting, sort of, trajectories within the production, but it was always in accordance with what Mikhail had in mind. Which was not ‘We’re aiming for this result.’ It was more: ‘Here is an area that’s of interest to me. Let’s all delve in and see what’s gonna come out [of it].’

01:02:33 Millie Taylor:

So, a joint exploration of the materials.

01:02:36 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

Yes, yes. So, it is very much, in a way, both collaborative and ‘authored’.

01:02:44 David Roesner:

Wonderful. I think, looking at the time, we should probably wrap this up, but I think that has been an absolutely fascinating insight into not only the play and its history and its performance history, but also contemporary staging practices in the context, really, of such a layered and complex history and so forth. So, thank you so much, Konstantinos for sharing that with us, and hope we will speak about some more productions in future episodes to come.

01:03:11 Konstantinos Thomaidis:

Thank you very much, David. Thank you very much, Millie.

01:03:13 David Roesner:

Thank you. Bye.


Barthes, Roland (1981), Camera Lucida, trans. R. Howard, New York: Hill and Wang.

Barthes, Roland (1977), ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, Image – Music – Text, trans. S. Heath, London: Fontana Press, pp. 32-51.

Bungard, Christopher (2011), ‘Lies, lyres, and Laughter: Surplus Potential in the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes”’, Arethusa, 44:2: pp. 143–165.

Chion, Michel (1994 / 2019), Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, transl. C. Gorbman, Columbia University Press.

Corbier, Christophe (2008) ‘La Naissance de la Lyre d’Albert Roussel et de Théodore Reinach: des Satyres à l’Opéra’, inJean-Christophe Branger et Vincent Giroud (eds), Figuresde l’Antiquité dans l’Opéra Français: des Troyens de Berlioz à Œdipe d’Enesco, Publications de l’Université de Saint-Etienne, pp. 311-346.

D’Angour, Armand (2017), Rediscovering Ancient Greek Music https://youtu.be/4hOK7bU0S1Y

Ercoles, Marc (2020), ‘Music in Classical Greek Drama’, in T.A.C. Lynch and E. Rocconi (eds), A Companion to Ancient Greek and Roman Music, Hoboken, Wiley: pp. 131-144.

Fletcher, Judith (2008), ‘A Trickster’s Oaths in the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes”’, The American Journal of Philology, 129: 1: pp. 19–46.

Hall, Edith (2002) ‘The Singing Actors of Antiquity,’ in P. Easterling and E. Hall (eds) Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 3-38

Harrison, Tony (1991), The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus, London: Faber and Faber.

Hillgruber, Michael (2011), ‘„Ohne das Hinterteil kann der Pudel nicht laufen.“ Zur Aufführung der Spürhunde des Sophokles unter der Regie Carl Roberts im Goethe-Theater Bad Lauchstädt’, 57: 2, pp. 241-260.

T. Hourhoudi, M. Gourniezaki and V. Antonopoulou (eds) (1999), International Meeting on Music: Music and Ancient,Athens: Livanis.

Johnston, Sarah Iles (2002), ‘Myth, Festival, and Poet: The “Homeric Hymn to Hermes” and Its Performative Context’,Classical Philology, 97:2: pp. 109–132.

Kane, Brian (2014), Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice, New York: Oxford University Press.

Klavan, Spencer (2021), Music in Ancient Greece: Melody, Rhythm and Life, London: Bloomsbury.

Monson, Ingrid (1997), ‘Four: Intermusicality’, Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 97-132.

Parkyn, Lottie (2022), ‘The Originality and Influence of Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus’, in Sandie Byrne (ed.), Tony Harrison and the Classics, Classical Presences, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 117-134.

Power, Timothy (2012), ‘Sophocles and Music’, in Andreas Markantonatos (ed.) Brill’s Companion to Sophocles, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, pp. 281-304.

Rebstock, Matthias, and Roesner, David (eds) (2012), Composed Theatre: Aesthetics, Practices, Processes, Bristol, UK and Chicago, US: Intellect.

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Thomaidis, Konstantinos (2021), ‘Training as Vocal Archaeology’, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Blog, Routledge: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/2021/04/training-as-vocal-archaeology/

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Thomaidis, Konstantinos (2023), ‘Trackers: A Conversation with Konstantinos Thomaidis’, Staging Sound: Reflecting Theatre Music and Sound Design (by David Roesner), at: https://theatermus.hypotheses.org/?p=2692

  1. A freely accessible translation of the play can be found here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0221 []
  2. For further information on the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, refer to Johnston (2002), Fletcher (2008) and Bungard (2011). []
  3. For the production by Mikhail Marmarinos, please check the listing by the Athens and Epidaurus Festival (incl. photos and video trailer): https://aefestival.gr/festival_events/trackers/?lang=en []
  4. For the notion of ‘composed theatre’, please consult Rebstock and Roesner (2012). []
  5. For the methodology of vocal archaeology (part of which is tracing the sonic aspects of performance in the textual fragments), see Thomaidis (2021, 2022), and previous podcast on this series: https://stagingsound.podigee.io/11-new-episode []
  6. To start reading on music in Greek antiquity, including perspectives on theatre music, please refer to West (1992), Hourhoudi, Gourniezaki and Antonopoulou (1999), Hall (2002), D’Angour (2017) and Klavan (2021). []
  7. See Barthes (1977), p. 38 onwards. []
  8. For the tripartite division of modes of listening (causal, semantic, reduced) by Chion, check his book Audio-Vision (1994 / 2019). []
  9. On Pierre Schaeffer’s approach to acousmatic sounds, read the opening chapter in Kane (2014). []
  10. See Ercoles (2020). []
  11. On the cultural debate around new music in 5th-century-BCE Athens, see chapter by Timothy Power(2012): https://brill.com/display/book/edcoll/9789004217621/B9789004217621-s016.xml. []
  12. For the first modern staging in Bad-Lauchstädt by Carl Robert, please read Hillgruber (2011). []
  13. For the 1925 French opera La Naissance de la Lyre, check the score on as it is available in the public domain: http://fr.opera-scores.com/O/Albert+Roussel/La+Naissance+de+la+lyre.html. Read also the chapter by Corbier (2008). []
  14. For Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrynchus and itsproductions: https://www.open.ac.uk/arts/research/greekplays/poetry/tony-harrison/plays-classical-referents/trackers-oxyrhynchus. See also the chapter by Parkyn (2022). []
  15. Regarding the members of the creative team and cast that collaborated on the sonic aspects of the production, you can source more information on the links below: Music by Billy Bultheel – his website: https://billybultheel.pro/ and snippets from Ichneutaihttps://billybultheel.pro/html/trackers.html; For the countertenor Steve Katona (who played the role of Hermes): https://www.steve-katona.com/; The director Mikhail Marmarinos’s website: https://www.michailmarmarinos.com/ []
  16. For a discussion of how voice can be used to stage impossible sound, see forthcoming chapter ‘Staging (Theatre) Music Reception: Voicing Unacoustics in Sophocles’ Trackers’ (Thomaidis 2024). []
  17. Source: https://billybultheel.pro/html/trackers.html Many thanks to Billy Bultheel for permissions to reproduce his music. []
  18. For further information, please visit: https://kraounakis.gr. []
  19. See Monson (1997). []
  20. For a discussion of Plato’s anti-theatrical views, see opening chapter in Ridout (2009). []
  21. For the notion of punctum, in visual terms, see Barthes (1981). []
  22. The first version of this ‘exit-band’ music by the players/cattle/Silenus leaving can be heard on Billy Bultheel’s webpage, under the track ‘Sweet Sound’: https://billybultheel.pro/html/trackers.html. The music developed quite significantly between this original composition and the performance, and one can get more accurate glimpses of how it sounded in the track used here, derived from the composer’s Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CrgEbpyIQBt/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_linkThis version was developed by Billy Bultheel for a concert version (Mount Analogue) in Paris (April 2023), under the new title ‘Slow Parade’—and this is what is heard in this podcast. This version is closer to the Epidaurus version but developed even further. Many thanks, again, to the composer for permissions. []
  23. See: http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=3046. []

Practice-as-Research: Workshop “Theatermusik Live – Spielformen und Prozesse”

Zweiwöchiger Workshop in Zusammenarbeit mit der Regieklasse der Theaterakademie August Everding (Leitung: Sebastian Baumgarten), freien Theatermusiker*innen, sowie den Beobachter*innen und Impulsgeber*innen Judith Gerstenberg, Kordula Knaus, Thomas Kürstner, Christiane Plank-Baldauf, Tamara Quick, David Roesner und Sebastian Vogel

Juni / Juli 2021, München.

Teilnehmer*innen des zweiwöchigen Workshops im Werksviertel München. Foto: Jean-Marc Turmes

Teil des DFG Projektes sollten ja zwei theaterpraktische Forschungsworkshops oder Laboratorien sein, die eine methodische Ergänzung unserer Erkenntnisse und Überprüfung der entwickelten Fragen erlaubten. Dies war mit dem ersten Workshop bereits sehr produktiv gelungen. Dieser zweite Workshop hatte eine andere Zielsetzung: statt die Wirkung von Musik auf bereits entwickelte Szenen zu beobachten und zu diskutieren, stand hier im Mittelpunkt, kreative Prozesse anzustiften und zu erforschen, welche Rolle Musiker*innen und Praktiken des Musizierens für einen inszenatorischen Zugriff auf einen gegebenen Text spielen können.

Die Zielsetzung und Aufgabenstellung des Workshops beschrieben wir wie folgt:

Zu einem vorgegebenen kurzen Text soll in Teams, bestehend aus einem/r Regisseur*in, min. einem/r (Theater)musiker*in und optional einem/r Schauspieler*in eine theatrale Szene bzw. eine performative Form entwickelt werden, wobei das Live-Musizieren auf der Bühne (instrumental, mit Stimme / Gesang, elektronische Live-Musik, Percussion o.Ä.) als theatraler Akt inszenatorisch im Fokus stehen soll. Künstler-Mentor*innen sowie wissenschaftliche Beobachter*innen (Theater- und Musikwissenschaftler*innen, Dramaturg*innen) werden die kreativen Prozesse als (nicht)-teilnehmende Beobachter*innen begleiten und gemeinsam mit den Workshopteilnehmer*innen reflektieren (practice as research). Ziel des Workshops ist es, über künstlerische Prozesse der szenischen Erfindung mit / durch Live-Theatermusik sowie das Verhältnis von Musik, Text und Szene ohne den Druck einer datierten Premiere ins Gespräch zu kommen.

Kurzinfo von Tamara Quick und David Roesner an die Teilnehmer*innen

Während des Workshops arbeiteten nun 10 Teams an vier verschiedenen Prosatexten, wobei immer mehrere Teams parallel den gleichen Text bekommen hatten, auch um verschiedene Zugänge vergleichen zu können. Es standen 3 Räume im Werksviertel am Ostbahnhof zur Verfügung: zwei Ausstellungsräume und ein leerer Container.

Einen guten Eindruck über die Arbeit liefert auch dieser Blogbeitrag von David Moser, einem der Teilnehmer:innen: “Theatermusik als Raum

Die Teams und Texte waren wir folgt zusammengesetzt:

Die tote Musik-Maschine (Elfriede Jelinek 2013)

Malena Große, Hans Könnecke

David Moser, Andrej Agranovski

Fabiola Kuonen, Jan Grosfeld

Alles wird gut (Auszug) (Helmut Krasser 2015)

Lukas Kretzschmar, Hannah Weiss

Carolin Wirth, Andrej Agranovski

Das Fliegenpapier (Robert Musil, 1913)

Dirk Girschik, Jan Grosfeld

Benjamin Truong, Felix Stachelhaus

Leon Richter, Hannah Weiss

Ich möchte seicht sein (Elfriede Jelinek 1997)

Karin Hermann, Felix Stachelhaus

Jakob Altmayer, Hans Könnecke

In dem ca. 90min Video war es nicht das Ziel eine umfassende Dokumentation des Workshops insgesamt zu leisten, sondern eine Reflexion durch das Beobachter:innen-Team anzubieten, die durch Ausschnitte und Eindrücke aus den praktischen Arbeiten und Versuchen ergänzt wird. Es ist eine vielfältiges und weitreichendes Gespräch entstanden, dass den Workshop zum Anlass nimmt, grundsätzliche Aspekte von theatermusikalischer Arbeit zu reflektieren.

Bearbeitung, Recherche und Schnitt für die Videoreflektion: Sandra Dragan


  • 4’25’’ Reflexion von Aufgabenstellungen und Workshop Design
  • 15’50’’: Musik sehen – Sinnlichkeit des theatralen Musizierens 
  • 19’50’’:  Welches Gewicht haben Spiel und Improvisation in der Ideenfindung?
  • 24’40’’: Wie kompliziert es ist, Theatermusik zu machen
  • 37’11’’: Formen der Textarbeit
  • 39’29’’: Kann man Theatermusik lehren und  lernen?
  • 46’00’’: Was macht Theatermusik zu Theatermusik? 
  • 51’08’’: Music as Performance – theatrale Musikalität
  • 59’57’’: Zitattechnik – Theatermusik als Referenzmusik 
  • 1’03’15” : Räume, Klänge, Szenen
  • 1’16’40”:  Pragmatik, Beschränkung, Vision
  • 1’24’00: Erwartungen und Ziele des Workshops in Rückblick

Conference: Theatre Sound (as) Collaboration. Distributed Creations, Shared Agencies, 13-15 September 2023, Munich/Hybrid

Call For Papers and Save the Date

Hybrid International Conference of the CAS Research Group “The Sound of Theatre”, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, led by Prof Dr David Roesner

See conference page for programme details!

This conference seeks to maintain the explorative and collaborative spirit of the research group, which was facilitated by the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) for the academic year 2022/23. The conference is therefore meant to open up questions and start conversations – between different disciplines and practices and different geographical and cultural contexts about theatre sound. In particular, it focuses on the collaborative, relational, and “in-between“ aspects of sonic practices in theatre.

We will thus concentrate on exploring distributed forms of creation, and shared agencies of practitioners and non-human agents such as technologies. We will also consider what kinds of meanings emerge from theatre sound in its many dimensions, and what experiences it holds for theatre audiences. Overarching questions include: How can we describe the “sound” of theatre as the medium and outcome of collaboration? What role does sound play in collective processes of creation and perception in theatre? What forms of shared knowledge are produced here through sounding and listening? What are “cultural differences in the construction of aural experiences”?[1] How do joint sound practices contribute to an “aural identity”[2] of a theatre, the ‘sound signature’ of an ensemble, or a directorial team?

To answer these and other questions, the conference will look at (and listen to) the acoustic, epistemic, performative, musical, phenomenological, technological, and social conditions, effects and meanings of ‘sound’ in past and present theatre practices.

As a team of curators for this conference, we invite scholars and practitioners from theatre cultures all around the globe to discuss sound as a fundamental condition and creative practice of theatre with us and each other. The main programme will consist of four sessions: 

A) Sound in revisited theatre stagings; 

B) Collaboration in sound design and music composition for theatre;

C) Theatre through Sound: From Mega Musicals to Digital Minutiae

D Voice as collaboration

Two of these are open for your proposals:

B) Collaboration in sound design and music composition for theatre: In this session we seek to pay closer attention to the processes and dynamics of the collaborative relationships involved in, and between, sound design and music composition for theatre, past and present. We are not only interested in the creative dialogue between a sound designer and a composer (in those theatre cultures where this pairing conventionally exists), but also between the more abstract “functions” of contributing music and curating a sonic environment for a theatre performance – which often includes interweaving of musical cues, sound effects, acoustic conditions, aesthetics of voice amplification etc. We also wish to discuss how collaboration between “sound“ and “music“ is articulated in teams, in practices where artistic responsibility is more evenly distributed, where traditional roles and job descriptions are suspended in processes of devising, and in institutions with fluid hierarchies.

To present ideas and analyse examples on these topics, we invite 10-12 minute audio papers[3] from scholars and/or practitioners worldwide. These would need to be sent in finished form by 31 July 2023. Please send a written expression of interest beforehand by 31 May 2023. The audio papers may present a particular case study, a selected aspect of sonic collaboration and may employ different methodologies such ethnographic observation, interviews, historic reconstruction, or forms of self-reflection on one’s own practice. Accepted audio papers will be made available to all registered attendees of the conference from 1 September. At the conference itself, a panel will discuss the papers, drawing out points of comparison, connection, and contrast. Authors of the audio papers can either attend the conference in person (self-funded) or join the conversation via Zoom. If you’d prefer to contact us to discuss your idea for an audio paper beforehand, feel free to email theatermusik@lrz.uni-muenchen.de.

C) Theatre through Sound: From Mega Musicals to Digital Minutiae. This session explores and celebrates the rapid rise of sound making as a collaborative and sometimes corroborative art of theatre production. From the design, recording and production of theatre sound as music, mix, authentic, synthetic, ‘live’ or ‘digital’, this session explores and celebrates the accelerating changes and emerging opportunities between the art of sound design and theatre. From Musical Theatre excess to microscopic digital forms, from the complexities of the live Musical mix to the recording of headphone pandemic-performances, the skills of effects design and production, to the desired affect of atmospheres, soundscapes and noises, we will explore the intrinsic and essential relations between sound-making and theatre.

This session welcomes theatre sound artists, technicians, designers, academics and makers of Musicals, Music Theatre and Sound-led forms to share their concepts, practices and processes of making theatre with, through or as sound. We invite presentations/ papers/demonstrations of 10-12 min, including live provocations, audio papers or videos on any aspect of sound making within theatre. We particularly welcome demonstrations of techniques, technologies, use of kit and mixing processes, recording hacks, and Foley interventions. Please send your proposal or written expression of interest by 31 May 2023. Any pre-recorded submissions will need to be submitted before the conference by 31 July 2023 and will be distributed to all conference participants.

Please send your proposal/expression of interest to theatermusik@lrz.uni-muenchen.de including the following information: name, affiliation, title, proposal for session B or C, intended attendance (in person/online), short bio, contact details. Audio or video files can be sent in the usual ways (Dropbox, WeTransfer, iCloud etc.). We intend to publish some of the conference proceedings including selected audio papers etc. as part of the research podcast “Staging Sound”.

A final note: 

While hoping for a global interest in the topic and response to the call, we seek to avoid long distance travel. The conference will therefore be hybrid. Admission to the conference is free, but registration is required both for online and in-person attendance. If you would like to attend, please email theatermusik@lrz.uni-muenchen.de by 30 June 2023. Please state if you will attend in person or online and for which day(s) of the conference. 

With many thanks,

The team of curators:

Dr Anna R. Burzyńska, Krakow

Dr Adrian Curtin, Exeter

Dr Lynne Kendrick, London

Prof Dr Ursula Kramer, Mainz

Dr Duška Radosavjlević, London

Prof Dr David Roesner, München

Dr Julia Schröder, Berlin

Prof Dr Millie Taylor, Amsterdam 

Dr Konstatinos Thomaidis, Exeter

Dr Pieter Verstraete, Groningen

[1] Smith, Bruce R., The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending the O-factor. Chicago 1999, 8.

[2] Ibid., 44.

[3] What is an audio paper? “Audio papers resemble the regular essay or the academic text in that they deal with a certain topic of interest, but presented in the form of an audio production. The audio paper is an extension of the written paper through its specific use of media, a sonic awareness of aesthetics and materiality, and creative approach towards communication. The audio paper is a performative format working together with an affective and elaborate understanding of language. It is an experiment embracing intellectual arguments and creative work, papers and performances, written scholarship and sonic aesthetics“ (Groth and Samson 2016).

What we envisage is something that is more than just an academic paper read into a recording device, but is not an elaborate radio play. Rather, the audio paper should offer a brief academic argument or reflective observation, making appropriate and relevant use of voice and sound, which may include sound samples, interviews, music, effects etc. Your audio paper should be accompanied by a title and short abstract (no more than 100 words). Examples can be found here: https://seismograf.org/node/19500 or here https://seismograf.org/node/19488.

Launching: The Podcast!

As part of a new research project supported by the Center for Advanced Studies at the LMU Munich, I have just launched (or is is: dropped?) a new podcast. This will every few weeks introduce conversations and presentations around sound and theatre – including voice, acoustics, listening, technology, creative practice and much more. While the project is called “The Sound of Theatre. Musical and Acoustemological Approaches to Contemporary Performance Practice in an International Context” the accompanying podcast has a catchier title: „Staging Sound“.

new research project with the support of the Center for Advanced Studies at the LMU Munich, which is very much an extension to our work so far.

It can be found here: https://stagingsound.podigee.io/t1-new-episode

An also via the usual podcatchers such as

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/3xCXl2iD0USOmomSKXEWkR

Audible: https://www.audible.de/pd?asin=B0BQ3GW83G&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006&share_location=podcast_show_detail

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/introducing-staging-sound/id1659859689?i=1000590164001

Deezer: https://www.deezer.com/show/5530687

Google Podcasts: https://podcasts.google.com/subscribe-by-rss-feed?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9zdGFnaW5nc291bmQucG9kaWdlZS5pby9mZWVkL21wMw%3D%3D

And probably on most other podcast platforms.

And if you have comments, leave them below or send an email to: stagingsound@web.de

Please subscribe – and enjoy listening!

Hello – and Goodbye!

At the launch event for “The Sound of Theatre”. Adrian Curtin, Millie Taylor, Pieter Verstraete, David Roesner. Photo by Martin Nangle

This post marks a moment of change for this Blog: The DFG project “Theater music today as a cultural practice” has official come to its close on 31 October 2022. There will be a few thoughts about its achievement and findings soon, but at this point I wanted to already announce an immediate successor: from October 2022–September 2023, I will lead a new research project with the support of the Center for Advanced Studies at the LMU Munich, which is very much an extension to our work so far.

The CAS Reseach Group has a fancy title – “The Sound of Theatre. Musical and Acoustemological Approaches to Contemporary Performance Practice in an International Context” – and it allows us to widen the perspective we pursued to far quite substantially in two ways:

Firstly, we will edit a book with input by our esteemed ten fellows as well as additional authors, which will offer a much more international perspective (which is also why this blog will continue in English from here on). With a focus on European theatre, we will be able to collocate case studies from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republik, France, Germany, Greece, Kurdistan, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. Despite a number of groundbreaking publications in this field – notably from many of the fellows themselves – it is still very much an emerging field of study. 

The second broadening of our perspective is to do with the topic itself: while theatre music still sometimes functions like much of contemporary film music – a clearly separate sonic level in addition to dialogue, sound effects and ambient sound – the separation of these elements becomes increasingly problematic. They all work together to what we might call “The Sound of Theatre”. We hypothesise that theatre ensembles or directorial teams often develop a distinct sound, not unlike the sound of a rock band. We recognise a band, a singer, a saxophone player or a drummer by their sound, which acts like a signature. Can we apply this idea to a theatre collective? When and where does it manifest? In the acoustics of their venue? Their vocal styles and casting choices? Their use of instrument and musical material? Their technologies of production, amplification and distribution? Do theatres have a ‘sound’?

Despite a gradually growing interest in this sonic side of theatre performances, our experience of theatre (its aurality) and its ways of capturing meaning and knowledge (its acoustemology), the ‘sound’ of theatre remains largely unrecognized by audiences and is still insufficiently researched by theatre scholars or musicologists. 

With this in mind I suggested three points of focus for this new project:

1) Sounding and listening practices in contemprary theatre practice(s)

2) Sounding and listening practices in contemprary theatre audiences: 

3) The acoustic ecology of theatres: which sounds, musics, voices can be heard?

To discuss and develop these ideas, CAS allowed me to assemble an illustrious group of experts, who will spend time with me and with each other, in Munich and on Zoom. The edited volume mentioned above is one of our planned outputs, a conference in June 2023 another. And finally, there will be a podcast to accompany our journey – more on that in the next post.

Let me finally introduce, very briefly, the fellows of this project: 

Prof. Dr. Ross Brown is a composer, musician and sound designer and Emeritus Professor of Sound at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He is the author of Sound. A Reader (2010) and “Sound Effect. The Theatre We Hear” (2020).

Dr Anna R. Burzyńska is an adjunct professor of theatre in the faculty of Polish Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and works as an academic, critic and dramaturg. She has published widely on radio art and theatre makers such as Heiner Goebbels, Christoph Marthaler, and Marta Górnicka.

Prof Dr Adrian Curtin is Associate Professor at University of Exeter. His research is wide ranging from modernism to contemporary orchestral theatre. In 2014 he published Avant-Garde Theatre Sound: Staging Sonic Modernity. He also works as a theatre musician.

Dr Lynne Kendrick works at the  Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as Reader for New Theatre Practices. In 2011 she co-edited a book entitled Theatre Noise. The Sound of Performance. In 2017 she published Theatre Aurality – a core text on audiences experience of sound-based theatre. She has also founded and directed theatre companies such as Camden People’s Theatre.

Prof. Dr. Ursula Kramer is a musicologist at the University of Mainz with a particular research expertise on Schauspielmusik, which led to one of the very few German publications in this area: her edited volume Theater mit Musik. 400 Jahre Schauspielmusik im europäischen Theater from 2014.

Tamara Yasmin Quick is Senior Lecturer at the University of Bayreuth, having just finished her work on the DFG Project “Theatre music today as a cultural practice“ at the LMU Munich. She is in the process of finishing her PhD entitled Musical Embodiment – Live-Musicking on the contemporary theatre stage. Corporeal processes of performative identity formation. She also works as a dramaturg.

Dr Duška Radosavjlević is an academic, critic, dramaturg with Serbian roots, a long presence in the UK and currently based in Lund. She has worked on Ensemble Theatre(s) and most recently published an extensive website auralia.space and subsequent monograph on Aural / Oral Dramaturgies. Theatre in the Digital Age (2022).

Dr. Julia H. Schröder is a musicologist specialising in contemporary art music, sound art, sound studies, music and dance as well as sound and theatre. Her DFG postdoc project explores “theatre sounds” (Theatergeräusche) at Technical University Berlin. In 2015 she edited a book on sound/music in theatre focusing on Hans Peter Kuhn’s work for Robert Wilson and on Leigh Landy’s work for Heiner Müller.

Prof Dr Millie Taylor holds the Van den Ende Chair of the Musical at the University of Amsterdam. For almost 20 years she toured Britain and Europe as a freelance musical director in Musical theatre. I constantly use her and Dominic Symonds book Studying Musical Theatre (2014) in my course. More recently she has published Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC: Macbeth to Matilda (2018).

Dr Konstantinos Thomaidis is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre & Performance at the University of Exeter, UK. His publications include Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience” (2015), Theatre & Voice (2017) and Time and Performer Training (2019). He is also a practitioner and  has worked as actor, director and musician.

Dr Pieter Verstraete is Assistant Professor at University of Groningen and Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at Free University Berlin. He published his first book on “Auditory Distress and Aurality in Contemporary Music Theatre (2009), later co-edited a collection on “Cathy Berberian: Pioneer of Contemporary Vocality” (Routledge, 2014). Having worked extensively in Turkey, he also focuses on post-migrant theatre, artists in exile, and has a book forthcoming on “Theatre, Performance and Commemoration: Staging Crisis, Memory and Nationhood”

At the launch event for “The Sound of Theatre”. Adrian Curtin, Millie Taylor, Pieter Verstraete. Photo by Martin Nangle
Poster for the launch event

Renate Plieseis: “[im]Puls – Ulrich Rasches Theatersemiotik in einer Inszenierung von Schillers Die Räuber” (2021)

[Diese Abschlussarbeit wird hier im Rahmen unserer Reihe “Groundwork” veröffentlicht – mehr Informationen dazu hier.]

Foto: Andreas Pohlmann

Die Räuber: Ulrich Rasches Inszenierung des Klassikers funktioniert – obwohl als Sprechtheater ausgewiesen – über eine ausgeprägte Musikalisierung ihrer theatralischen Zeichen. In der Spielzeit 2016/17 wurde die Produktion erstmals am Residenztheater München gezeigt, erlangte in weiterer Folge eine bemerkenswerte Medienpräsenz und wurde rege im Feuilleton kommentiert.

Der Fokus der vorliegenden Arbeit liegt nicht nur auf einer Analyse und Greifbarmachung der spezifischen Theatersemiotik dieser Inszenierung. Auch werden allgemeine Aspekte von Medialität und Performativität zur prägnanten Idiomatik von Rasches Bühnensprache ins Verhältnis gesetzt. So entsteht das Panorama eines plurimedialen Gefüges, das in der Wirkmacht seiner Stilistik wohl eine Sonderstellung einnimmt.

Die Wirkung von Rasches musikalisiertem Theater ist zu derjenigen von herkömmlichem Sprechtheater verschieden. Der Grund dafür ist ein Puls, der als zentrales Element dieser Theatersemiotik Sprache bzw. Sprachverwendung stark formt; die Stimmen der Räuber formieren sich bei Rasche zu einem Chor, der eine starke Rhythmisierung von Schillers an und für sich metrisch ungebundener Sprache deutlich macht. Jener Puls konstituiert aber auch weitere Parameter der Produktion – so ist die Bühnenmusik von Ari Benjamin Meyers im unmittelbaren Zusammenhang mit jenem metrischen Ostinato zu sehen. Seine repetitive und minimalistische Originalkomposition wird dadurch zum integralen Bestandteil der Aufführung. Zusammen mit der Sprache bildet sie ein untrennbares Amalgam, aus dem sich jedenfalls auch die Beschaffenheit der Bühne sowie die Bewegungsmuster der Darsteller:innen ableiten lassen – das unausgesetzte Gehen auf riesigen Laufbändern fügt sich mit der Art der Sprachverwendung und der ständig präsenten Musik zu einem Gesamteindruck, der deutlich vom Puls geformt ist.

Das kollektive Agieren der zum Chor formierten Darsteller:innen entfaltet in Rasches plurimedialem Setup eine Sogwirkung, der man sich als Zuseher:in kaum entziehen kann. Um die physiologische und psychologische Wirkweise der Inszenierung besser fassen zu können, wird in der vorliegenden Arbeit der Versuch unternommen, auf diesbezüglich passende neurowissenschaftliche Studien zu rekurrieren, um zu einer besseren wissenschaftlichen Fassbarkeit von Rezeptions(aus)wirkung im Theater zu gelangen. Oder anders gesagt – was bewirkt das agierende Kollektiv auf der Bühne beim rezipierenden/reagierenden Kollektiv im Zuschauerraum? Aus literaturwissenschaftlicher Perspektive wird schließlich untersucht, inwiefern die Veränderung des Dramentexts zugunsten der Bildung eines chorischen Kollektivs den Blick auf Schillers Original selbst verändert.

DIE RÄUBER von Friedrich Schiller Premiere am 23. September 2016 im Residenztheater Mit László Branko Breiding, Nora Buzalka, William Cooper, René Dumont, Marcel Heuperman, Leonard Hohm, Toni Jessen, Max Koch, Thomas Lettow, Franz Pätzold, Götz Schulte, Valery Tscheplanowa sowie Moritz Borrmann, Yasin Boynuince, Kjell Brutscheidt, Emery Escher, Max Krause, Bekim Latifi, Cyril Manusch Live-Musik Mariana Beleaeva, Martin Burgmair, Gustavo Castillo, Heiko Jung, Fabian Löbhard, Sandro Schmalzl, Jenny Scherling Regie + Bühne Ulrich Rasche Komposition Ari Benjamin Meyers Kostüme Heidi Hackl Chorleitung Alexander Weise Choreinstudierung Toni Jessen Mitarbeit Bühne Sabine Mäder Licht Gerrit Jurda Dramaturgie Sebastian Huber v.l. Ensemble.
Foto: Andreas Pohlmann

Quantitative Umfrage unter Theatermusiker*innen

Ergebnisse einer anonymen Befragung ihm Mai 2021 mit 73 Teilnehmer*innen

David Roesner

Im Rahmen des DFG Projekts hatten ich im November 2019 einen umfangreichen Band mit qualitativer Forschung zur Lage der Theatermusiker*innen vorgelegt. Hier wurden in ausführlichen Interviews Fragen zum Werdegang, zur praktischen Arbeit, oder zur eigenen künstlerischen Handschrift diskutiert. Immer wieder kam auch die Arbeitssituation als solche zur Sprache. Um hierzu genauere Aussagen treffen zu können, haben wir im Mai 2021 (die Datenerhebung fand vom 10. bis 31. Mai 2021 statt) eine quantitative Online Befragung durchgeführt (mit großer Hilfe von Elena Wilkowski, der an dieser Stelle mein Dank gebührt!). Dabei standen Fragen nach der sozioökonomischen Situationen und nach dem Gefühl von Wertschätzung im Mittelpunkt. Die Ergebnisse dieser Umfrage habe ich in einem Buchkapitel analysiert, das nächstes Jahr erscheinen wird:

Roesner, David: “A politics of marginalisation – Theatre music in contemporary German theatre”, in: Music Theatre and Politics: Hegemonies, Resistances, Utopias, edited by Tereza Havelková and Marcus Tan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023).

Zuvor aber sollen an dieser Stelle die Umfrageergebnisse publik gemacht werden. Sie sind – aufgrund des nicht allzu starken Rücklaufs – sicherlich nicht als unmittelbar repräsentativ zu verstehen, zeigen aber doch Tendenzen auf, von denen ich mir sehr wünsche, dass Theaterleitungen, Hochschulen, Feuilletonredaktionen und Regieteams (um nur einige zu nennen) sie aufmerksam studieren. Besonders die letzte Frage “Was sind die wichtigsten Verbesserungen, die Sie sich für Ihre Arbeit als Theatermusiker*in wünschen?” wurde mal knapp, mal ausführlich, aber doch fast immer so beantwortet, dass ein deutlicher Handlungsbedarf erkennbar ist.

Ausdrücklich danken möchte ich an dieser Stelle allen, die sich die Zeit genommen haben, an der Umfrage teilzunehmen!

Kurzbericht zu den Ergebnissen

Elena Wilkowski

1. Methoden

Die Erhebung wurde online mit Hilfe des Tools SoSci Survey durchgeführt. Die Umfrage richtete sich ausschließlich an Personen, die als Theatermusiker*innen im deutschsprachigen Raum tätig sind.

Die so gewonnene und einbezogene Stichprobe umfasste 70 Personen. Darin gaben 7 Personen (13%) an weiblich, 45 männlich (83,3%) und 2 Personen divers (3,7%) zu sein (fehlende Angaben: 16). (Diese Unterteilung stellte sich als unpräzise heraus: “divers” bezieht sich, rechtlich, auf biologische Intergeschlechtlichkeit; gemeint hatten wir auch nicht-binäre Geschlechtsidentität.) Der Durchschnitt im Alter lag bei der Gruppe der 40-49jährigen (N [Anzahl der Proband*innen, die die entsprechende Ankreuzmöglichkeit auswählten] = 25) (M [Mittelwert] = 4,22) (fehlende Angaben: 16). Zweitgrößte Gruppe war die der 50-59jährigen (N = 18). Aus der Stichprobe ausgeschlossen wurden lediglich Teilnehmende, die ohne Angaben durch den Fragebogen geklickt hatten.

Zur Durchführung der statistischen Analyse wurde die Software Jamovi verwendet. Die Daten wurden zunächst deskriptiv ausgewertet. Zur Prüfung, ob gefundene Unterschiede signifikant sind bzw. ob Zusammenhänge bestehen, wurden folgende Verfahren verwendet: Varianzanalyse (ANOVA), Korrelationsanalyse und Regressionsanalyse. Das Signifikanzniveau wurde dabei stets auf 5% festgesetzt. Vorab wurden die Daten den entsprechenden Voraussetzungsprüfungen unterzogen (Prüfung auf Normalverteilung usw.). Waren Voraussetzungen verletzt, wurde auf entsprechende Alternativverfahren ausgewichen.

2. Interpretation der Stichprobe

Auffällig in der Stichprobe ist die sehr ungleiche Verteilung, wenn man die Proband*innen nach Geschlecht unterscheidet: Zur Erinnerung: 7 weiblich (13%), 45 männlich (83,3%) und 2 divers (3,7%).

Es stellt sich zunächst die Frage ob diese Verteilung in der Stichprobe der Verteilung unter den Theatermusiker*innen im deutschsprachigen Raum entspricht. Die genaue Anzahl von praktizierenden Theatermusiker*innen ist schwer zu erfassen, da diese meist freiberuflich sind, die Berufsbezeichnung nicht geschützt ist und es auch keine Dachorganisation gibt, wie z. B. den Bund der Szenografen e. V. Gemessen an Listen der Theater über die beschäftigten Theatermusiker*innen scheint das Verhältnis in der Umfrage aber in etwa der Verteilung an den Theatern zu entsprechen.

3. Limitationen

Aus den sehr kleinen Gruppengrößen bei divers und weiblich bzw. aus der ungleichen Verteilung zu der Gruppe männlich ergeben sich allerdings Probleme für die statistische Auswertung: Signifikante Unterschiede können bei so wenigen Daten kaum festgestellt werden, da die zugrundeliegende Verteilung nicht ausreichend bestimmt werden kann.

Ein weiteres Problem bei der Analyse der Daten ergab sich durch zum Teil schlecht gewählte Skalentypen in der Umfrage. Beispielsweise wurde der Verdienst der Teilnehmenden abgefragt, indem diese Gehaltsgruppen wie „unter 1.500€“ oder „1.500-2.500€“ auswählen konnten. Diese Auswahlmöglichkeiten hatten keine einheitlichen Intervalle, wodurch diverse Analyseverfahren nicht mehr durchführbar waren. Beispielsweise kann so kein akkurater Mittelwert gebildet werden. Dies, zusammen mit weiteren Ungenauigkeiten in den Angaben zur Umfrage (z.B. fehlende Angaben zu brutto und netto bei der Abfrage des Honorars), führen an dieser Stelle leider zu weniger belastbaren Ergebnissen.

4. Ergebnisse

Arbeitsort: Im Durchschnitt arbeiten die Proband*innen, die an der Umfrage teilgenommen haben und die wir mit unserem Aufruf erreichen konnten, am häufigsten an Staatstheatern (M = 2,77 = häufig), gleich danach an Stadttheatern (M = 2,71 = häufig). Selten arbeiten sie an Landestheatern (M = 2,00 = selten) und in Freien Gruppen (M = 2,06 = selten). Am seltensten arbeiten sie jedoch an Privattheatern (M = 1,55 = selten).

Stellung: Die Proband*innen arbeiten im Durchschnitt zu 10% festangestellt und zu 90% freiberuflich. Mit Theatermusik verdienen sie etwa 60% ihres Gesamteinkommens.

Aufgaben: In den Anstellungen übernehmen 90,9% der Proband*innen die Verantwortung für die Komposition. Bei 89,1% fallen „Live Musiker*in/Bühnenmusiker*in“ in ihren Aufgabenbereich. Für einen ebenso großen Anteil zählt „Arrangement/Recording“ dazu. „Anleiten“ ist mit 81,8% auch eine Funktion vieler Proband*innen. Dabei werden am häufigsten Sänger*innen angeleitet (76,4%). Nur bei 23,6% ist Anleiten des Orchesters/„Dirigat“ Teil des Aufgabenbereiches.

Arbeitszeit: In der Vorbereitung auf die Produktionen wird im Mittel 3,6 Wochen (Max = 20, Min = 0) [höchste und niedrigste Angabe der Proband*innen] und 4,6 Stunden am Tag (Max = 10, Min = 0) gearbeitet. Zur Angabe der freien Tage in dieser Zeit verschob ein ‚Ausreißer‘, der das Maximum bildete (150), den Mittelwert stark nach oben (Min = 0). Hier ist der Median von 4 freien Tagen verlässlicher.

Während der Probenzeit arbeiten die Proband*innen im Durchschnitt 6,6 Wochen (Max = 12, Min = 2) und 9,7 Stunden am Tag (Max = 16, Min = 4). Der Durchschnitt der freien Tage in dieser Zeit ergab 7,8 (Max = 20, Min = 0).

Bezahlung: Im Durchschnitt verdienen die Proband*innen 5.000-10.000€ brutto pro Produktion. Es sei jedoch auf die angesprochene Limitation verwiesen. An dieser Stelle wurde zur Mittelwertbildung eine Intervallgleichheit zwischen den Ankreuzmöglichkeiten angenommen, die eigentlich nicht vorliegt. Der hier angegebene Durchschnitt sollte nur als Tendenz gelten und müsste durch weitere Untersuchungen überprüft werden.

In Abhängigkeit zur Anstellung an verschiedenen Theatern waren nur zwei signifikante Ergebnisse zu beobachten: Eine häufige Anstellung am Staatstheater tritt oft zusammen mit einem hohen durchschnittlichen Gehalt auf (Korrelationsanalyse, r = 0,475, p = <0,001). Eine häufige Anstellung am Privattheater tritt oft zusammen mit einem niedrigen durchschnittlichen Gehalt auf (r = -0,302, p = 0,035).

Die meisten der Proband*innen können von der Theatermusik leben (81,8%), obgleich die Hälfte davon angab, dies nur mit Nebeneinkünften zu können. 18,2% können es nicht.

Im Vergleich zu dem Honorar anderer Beteiligter des Regieteams schätzen die Proband*innen ihr Honorar durchschnittlich auf genauso hoch wie das Videohonorar (M = 9,79 = 100%), auf 80% des Kostümhonorars (M = 8,17), 60% des Bühnenbildhonorars (M = 6,44) und auf 50% des Regiehonorars (M = 4,60).

Ressourcen: Die Theater, an denen die Proband*innen arbeiten, stellen meist das Soundsystem für den Aufführungsraum (N = 52 = 86,7%), eine Wohnung vor Ort (N = 46 = 76,7%), sowie Internet vor Ort (N = 44 = 73,3%). Seltener stellen sie Musiker*innen für Aufnahmen (N = 10 = 16,7%) und und noch seltener Assistent*innen (N = 6 = 10%). Persönliches Equipment (Computer, Software, andere Hardware) wird nie gestellt (N = 0 = 0%).

Die Proband*innen kommen entsprechend selbst für ihr Equipment zu Hause (N = 54 = 90%) auf, sowie für ihre Instrumente zu Hause (N = 49 = 81,7%). Etwa bei der Hälfte der Fälle wird auch das Equipment für die Aufführung (N = 32 = 53,3%), die Instrumente für die Aufführung (N = 29 = 48,3%) und die Musiker*innen für Aufnahmen (N = 27 = 45%) selbst bezahlt.

Gestaltungsspielraum und Wertschätzung. Durchschnittlich erleben die Proband*innen bei ihrer Theaterarbeit viel Gestaltungsspielraum (M = 3,82 = viel). Wertschätzung erfahren sie oft von Regisseur*innen (M = 4,02) und Schauspieler*innen (M = 3,74), regelmäßig von Tontechniker*innen (M = 3,43) und Zuschauer*innen (M = 3,33), selten von Intendant*innen (M = 2,33) und Kritiker*innen (M = 2,15) und nie von Wissenschaftler*innen (M = 1).

Wertschätzung findet oft in Form von mündlichem Lob statt (M = 3,80), regelmäßig in Form von konstruktiven Feedback (M = 2,78), selten durch schriftliches Lob (M = 2,02) und nie durch wissenschaftliche Auseinandersetzungen mit der Arbeit der Musiker*innen (M = 1,47).

Vernetzung: Was die Vernetzung der Theatermusiker*innen betrifft, so zeigte sich, dass alle die vorgeschlagenen Ankreuzmöglichkeiten (WhatsApp Gruppen, Facebook Gruppen, Eigenes Netzwerk, E-Mail-Verteiler, Persönliche Treffen) selten oder nie genutzt werden.

Wichtigste gewünschte Verbesserungen: Die Freitextantworten auf diese Frage sind vielfältig und sehr interessant. Das meist genannte Anliegen betraf dabei die Gage der Theatermusiker*innen. Über die Hälfte der Proben*innen (51%) wünschte sich eine angemessenere Gage, d.h. auch eine gerechtere Gagenverteilung innerhalb des Regieteams. 

Des Weiteren wird eine stärkere (öffentliche) Wahrnehmung und Wertschätzung für die Arbeit der Theatermusiker*innen gewünscht (N = 12 = 25,5%). Von Presse/Theaterkritiker*innen wird mehr Verständnis bzw. mehr Sachkenntnis von der Musik gefordert.

Ebenfalls häufig genannt wurde der Bedarf nach Assistent*innen für den Probenzeitraum (N = 12 = 25,5%).

Groundwork: Abschlussarbeiten zum Thema Theatermusik

Während Publikationen in der Theater-, Literatur- oder Musikwissenschaft zum Thema “Theatermusik” immer noch rar sind (Ausnahmen siehe hier), gibt es immer wieder Bachelor- und Masterarbeiten in diesem Bereich. Da dies oft spannende Beiträge zum Diskurs sind und zum Teil mit akribischen Detailanalysen zu einzelnen Musiker*innen, Regisseur*innen und Inszenierungen aufwarten, werden wir in loser Folge solche Arbeiten auf dieser Seite des Blogs veröffentlichen. Dazu posten wir jeweils ein kurzes Abstract des Textes sowie das PDF der eingereichten Arbeit. Das Copyright bleibt natürlich bei den jeweiligen Autor*innen und die Arbeiten müssen genauso korrekt zitiert werden, wie andere Publikationen auch, wenn man sich darauf beziehen möchte.

Wir bitten außerdem darum, die PDF Dokumente keinesfalls weiterzuschicken und zu zirkulieren, sondern – wenn man Kolleg*innen, Forscher*innen, Student*innen usw. darauf aufmerksam machen möchte – direkt auf den entsprechenden Blog Eintrag zu verlinken.

Weiterhin freuen wir uns jederzeit über neue Arbeiten: wenn Sie etwas passendes geschrieben oder betreut haben, setzen Sie sich gerne mit uns in Verbindung!

DFG Projekt Theatermusik theatermusik@lrz.uni-muenchen.de

Carolin Müller-Dohle: “Say it with music” (2019)

[Diese Abschlussarbeit wird hier im Rahmen unserer Reihe “Groundwork” veröffentlicht – mehr Informationen dazu hier.]


In Christoph Marthalers inzwischen Kult gewordenem Abend Murx den Europäer […] sowie Clemens Sienknecht und Barbara Bürks Inszenierung von Effi Briest, nur mit anderem Text und anderer Musik wird – soviel ist schnell klar – mehr musiziert als repräsentiert, mehr gesungen als gesprochen. Die Musik hat sich, obwohl beide Produktionen als Sprechtheater klassifiziert sind und an namhaften Schauspielhäusern produziert wurden, vom Begleitmedium zum autarken erzählerischen Ausdrucksmittel emanzipiert.

Bereits hier zeigt sich, dass eine Zuordnung zu den gängigen Sparten wie Sprech-, Tanz- und Musiktheater irreführend ist und eine solche Festlegung der Arbeitsweise und dem künstlerischen Resultat beider Inszenierungen nicht gerecht werden kann. Vielmehr bewegen sie sich in einem Schwellenbereich, der wissenschaftlich bis auf wenige herausragende Ausnahmen immer noch wenig Beachtung findet – obwohl sich Theaterproduktionen solcher Art mehren und inzwischen fester Bestandteil der Spielpläne sind. Auch aus diesem Grund war die Zielsetzung vorliegender Arbeit, Mechanismen und Arbeitsweisen oben beschriebener Theaterpraxis zu untersuchen und deren Auswirkungen auf Dramaturgie und Rezeption zu reflektieren. 

Teil der Analyse beider Produktionen ist eine umfassende Diskussion der Performativität der beteiligten Darsteller*innen und Musiker*innen, die jenseits einer mimetischen Repräsentation einzuordnen ist. Reflektiert werden die sich daraus ergebenden Fragen u.a. mit Patrice Pavis’ Essay „Der zeitgenössische Schauspieler: Von der Rolle zur Partitur und Subpartitur“ sowie Philip Auslanders Forschungen zum Begriff der Musical Persona.

Weiterführend nimmt die Arbeit anhand der gewonnenen Erkenntnisse die gesamte Dramaturgie von Murx und Effi Briest in den Blick. Die musikalisch geprägte zeitliche Organisation respektive der Gesamtrhythmus beider Inszenierungen überschreitet das Erfüllen formaler Kriterien – vielmehr fallen Form und Erzählung ineinander. Somit kommt in diesen Fällen ein anderer Dramaturgiebegriff zum Tragen als im Theater psychologisch-narrativer Prägung. Dementsprechend muss auch die Rezeption unter diesem Blickwinkel neu beleuchtet werden, da die Offenheit des Materials, so die diskutierte These, ein prozesshaftes Sehen in Gang setzt. Mithilfe von Beiträgen aus der Musikwissenschaft soziologischer Prägung wie Simon Friths Performing Rites, wird auch der soziale Aspekt der ausgewählten und performten (Pop-)Musik untersucht. Anhand der Definition von Musik als sozialer Aktivität wird die Überlegung angestellt, dass das Wirken der Musikerdarsteller*innen in beiden Theateraufführungen individuelle Anknüpfungspunkte bieten und zugleich einen kollektiven Sehprozess auslösen kann.

Making of…

In previous posts and guest entries, we have already reflected on the value of “making of” or “how to” contributions to the field of theatre music: insights into the working processes and thoughts behind creating and performing compositions for theatre. Sometimes, these take the form of handbooks (e.g. Bruce 2016), academic studies (e.g. Taylor 2018; Roesner 2019) or public talks (e.g. with Benjamin Kwasi Burrell or Paul Clark).

In addition, some theatre musicians / composers are making the effort to produce making ofs and/or tutorials to demonstrate what it is they do, how they work and reflect about their process and their aesthetics and to lift the curtain on some of their “tricks of the trade”: technologies they use, tools they have found useful etc.

A great example (with many thanks to Kornelius Paede for recommending this to me!), are two videos by Berlin-based composer Hainbach, in which he documents and demonstrates his process for creating music tracks for the theatre. They are a fascinating watch for composers, theatre directors and academics alike, I would suggest.

Hainbach: Composing Music for Theatre: Acoustic Instruments, Synthesizers and Tape (2018)

Hainbach: Composing On The Modular Synthesizer: Theatre Soundtrack

In the spirit of making this blog an accessible and useful hub for thoughts and information on theatre music, please feel encouraged to suggest further videos / talks / articles / making ofs in the comments, which shed light on this arts and its crafts, which are too often not appreciated enough or understood sufficiently.

Adjacent fields

It frequently occurs to me how much our “object” of study – contemporary theatre music – overlaps or blurs with other objects, disciplines and projects. Sometimes this is due to aesthetic similarities that occur across quite different genres – the relationship of music, space and movement may be similar in a dance piece, a music-theatre project and a devised theatre performance, sometimes there are cross-pollinations on the levels of processes, venues or people. Paul Clark, e.g. writes music for theatre productions of Katie Mitchell (there is a great conversation about their collaboration on YouTube) and is co-director of Clod Ensemble, whose productions defy genres, but fall under the wider bracket of dance.

And finally, there are adjacent research areas, disciplines, methodologies and projects, which more or less immediately impact on the ways in which can seek to analyze and understand theatre music as a creative relational practice.

One such project is the fascinating ongoing study “Aural/Oral Dramaturgies: Post-Verbatim, Amplified Storytelling and Gig Theatre in the Digital Age”. This is funded as an AHRC Leadership Fellowship held by Duška Radosavljević at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London and warrants flagging up in this blog as there are many shared interests.

So much so, that Duška invited me to contribute to the podcast series “Lend me your ears”, that is a crucial part of the project’s outcomes. For the so-called “Salon” strand, Katharina Rost and I had a very rich conversation with director, musician and artistic co-director of the Zurich Theatre Nicolas Stemann, which is now published on the Auralia.space website.

Moving to the beat of its own drum – Contemporary theatre music in relation to gesture and space

Presentation by David Roesner at the symposium “Music as an Experimental Field for Movement“, from 14–16 September 2020 in Strobl am Wolfgangsee, concept and organisation: PD Dr. Stephanie Schroedter with assistance from Lisa Konnerth


To contextualize this presentation, I will first quote the conference booklet by Stephanie Schroedter, which outlines the aims and objective of her symposium, which forms an integral part of her DFG-funded project “Körper und Klänge in Bewegung. Modelle einer musikchoreographischen Inszenierungs- und klangperformativen Aufführungsanalyse”:

Responding to the latest developments in contemporary music/dance theater and music/dance performances, this symposium will analyze interrelations between music/sounds and (body) movements (that is, audio-visual-kinaesthetic sensations also beyond straightforward narrative stories). How are music/sound and (body) movements/dance related in artistic processes, including rehearsal processes? What models can be determined in this regard, and to which aesthetics of effect do they correspond? And: What are the consequences for their perception, the hearing and seeing of movements, as well as for their description and analysis?

Starting from such questions, a broad spectrum of performances will be up for debate, drawn from a wide variety of areas, genres and styles, including productions that dissolve the boundaries of the stage, such as installations or video productions. The aim is to investigate relationships between music and bodies, but also the physicality of music itself, as well as the interweaving of music and movement (as implicit/invisible but audible movement, or on the basis of explications such as choreographed/physical movements).

At the same time, questions should be raised as to whether and to what extent these models can be traced back to the achievements of avant-garde artists since the early 20th century. Which interrelations can be determined within the context of earlier/pioneering works that, regardless of their specific characteristics, have comparable basic structures or arrangements?

Speakers may present source or philologically oriented studies, staging or performance analysis-led studies, or a combination of these approaches. The objective is a critically stimulating, multi-perspective discussion about music/sound in relation to bodies/physicality and movement on stage, which opens up inter-/ trans- disciplinary horizons – without having to abandon one’s own artistic/disciplinary “center”

(Schroedter 2020)
Presentation, Part 1
Presentation, Part 2
Presentation, Part 3

Case Studies:

Thomas Ostermeier’s Richard III (Schaubühne Berlin 2015), Felix Rothenhäusler’s Nichts von euch auf Erden (Münchner Kammerspiele 2015) and Christopher Rüping’s Dionysos Stadt (Münchner Kammerspiele 2018).

Presentation, Part 4
Presentation, Part 5
Presentation, Part 6
Presentation, Part 7
Presentation, Part 8
Presentation, Part 9

A long version of this presentation in written form is scheduled to be published in 2021 in an edited volume on the symposium topic by Stephanie Schroedter.

In the meantime, some of the topics mentioned in the talk have been explored already in:

Quick, Tamara Yasmin. 2020. “Die Qualität im Relationalen. Herausforderungen in der Analyse theatermusikalischer Interpretationen.” In Analyse und Interpretation, edited by Bernd Asmus. Stuttgart: Schott (forthcoming).

Roesner, David. 2020. “‘Gequietsche, Gewaber oder Gewummer’. Methodische Herausforderungen bei der Analyse von Theatermusik“.” In Methoden der Theaterwissenschaft, edited by Christopher Balme and Berenika Szymanski-Düll, 169–186. Tübingen: Narr.

Theatermusik und Probenethnographie – neue Publikation von Tamara Quick

Im Rahmen ihres Dissertationsprojektes zu “Live-Theatermusik auf der Bühne des Gegenwartstheaters” (Arbeitstitel) hat Tamara Quick festgestellt, dass zu ihrem methodischen Zugang ein Blick hinter die Kulissen nicht fehlen sollte und hat sich daher intensiv mit der noch jungen Disziplin der Probenethnographie beschäftigt. In dem Vortrag “Musizieren auf der Theaterbühne heute” vom Oktober 2019, der ihr Vorhaben vorstellt, schreibt sie dazu:

Um Live-Theatermusik auf der Bühne umfassend untersuchen, analysieren und als künstlerische Praxis des Gegenwartstheaters beschreiben zu können ja auch das Spannungsfeld zwischen Konzept und Intuition oder gar Zufall sowie künstlerischer Vision und Pragmatik miteinbeziehen zu können erscheint mir eine Kombination aus Aufführungsanalysen und ethnographischer Probenforschung als besonders vielversprechend. Nicholas Cook, der einen “ethnographic turn” (Cook, 2013: 250) in der aktuellen Musikwissenschaft beobachtet – Ähnliches kann ich auch für die Theaterwissenschaft gerade in Hinblick auf Probenforschung bestätigen – formuliert:   

“An ethnographic approach, by contrast, seeks to understand the performance of a particular piece in the context of the total performance event, encompassing issues of program planning, stage presentation, dress, articulation with written texts, and so forth.” (Cook, 2001: 8)

So gliedert sich mein Forschungsprojekt in Aufführungsanalyen – theaterwissenschaftlich, bewegungsanalytisch und hinsichtlich der musikalischen Interpretation und Aufführung – auf der einen Seite und Probenethnographien mit teilnehmender Beobachtung, Interviews und offenen Gesprächen auf der anderen Seite. Eine interdisziplinäre methodologische Herangehensweise ist unumgänglich, um nicht Einzelaspekte zu analysieren, sondern das Live-Theatermusizieren als komplexe Praxis begreifen zu können. Denn, wie Cook schreibt: „The triangulation of different disciplinary approaches […] creates the potential of significant added value.” (Cook, 2013: 84)

Insbesondere mein Forschungsschwerpunkt auf der live-musizierten Theatermusik auf der Bühne bietet sich für die probenethnographische Erforschung an, da Live-Bühnenmusik auf der Theaterprobe probiert werden muss und so im Kollektiv der beteiligten Künstler*innen auf der Probe zum Verhandlungs- und Reflexionsgegenstand wird, zuweilen sogar in kreativer Kollektivarbeit entsteht. Wie Kurzenberger bemerkt,

„hat die kollektive Kreativität [im Vergleich zur Kreativität eines Einzelnen] günstige Voraussetzungen, wissenschaftlich erfasst zu werden, denn sie kann nicht im Stillen und im Kopf eines einzelnen stattfinden, sondern der Dialog und die Kommunikation unter den Beteiligten ist Voraussetzung.“ (Kurzenberger, 2009: 200)

In meinem Forschungsvorhaben stelle ich nicht die Probe als Forschungsgegenstand bzw. Kreationsraum und ihre spezifischen Dynamiken und Praktiken in den Mittelpunkt meiner Untersuchung, sondern verstehe Probenforschung als Methode zur Wissensgenerierung üb die künstlerische Praxis, die sich eben besonders deutlich und nachvollziehbar im Probenkontext artikuliert: Durch eine intensive probenethnographische, teilnehmende Beobachtung und zusätzliche narrative Interviews und unstrukturierte Gespräche versuche ich Erkenntnisse über die künstlerische Praxis zu gewinnen, sodass ich die Theaterprobe als einen ‚Möglichkeitsraum zur Erkenntnisgewinnung‘ – also einen epistemologischen Möglichkeitsraum – über theatrale, künstlerische Prozesse und ästhetische Phänomene definieren möchte. Die Probe fungiert in meinem Verständnis also nicht nur als ein Möglichkeitsraum der künstlerisch forschenden Praxis, sondern auch als epistemologischer Raum, in dem Wissen über eine künstlerische Praxis aus einer Außen- bzw. Zwischenperspektive generiert werden kann.

In den Arbeiten zur Probenprozessforschung von Annemarie Matzke Arbeit am Theater (Matzke, 2012) sowie von Jens Roselt und Melanie Hinz Chaos und Konzept: Proben und Probieren im Theater (Hinz und Roselt, 2011) sowie insbesondere Not magic but work: An Ethnographic Account of a Rehearsal Process von McAuley (McAuley, 2015) wurde bereits wertvolle Vorarbeit zur Probenforschung geleistet, die ich mit einbeziehen werde, jedoch wurde der Fokus in diesen Arbeiten vermehrt auf die Theaterprobe als Forschungsgegenstand per se gelegt. Ich versuche hingegen ‚durch‘ eine intensive Probenethnographie – Probenforschung als Methodik – Erkenntnisse über meinen Forschungsgegenstand ‚Live-Theatermusik‘ zu gewinnen.

Tamara Yasmin Quick: “Musizieren auf der Theaterbühne heute” / Vortrag vom 23.10.2019, twm Forschungskolloquium

Um das Thema methodologisch zu fassen und interdisziplinär zu vertiefen, organisierte Tamara Quick im April 2019 eine Arbeitskonferenz zu aktuellen Erkenntnissen und Fragen der Probenforschung (siehe auch ihren Blog-Beitrag dazu). Nun hat sie die Ergebnisse dieser Konferenz in einem Artikel zusammengefasst, geordnet, reflektiert und zugespitzt, der vor wenigen Tagen erschienen ist: Hier eine kurze Vorschau:

Hildesheimer Wege zwischen Theatermusik und Musiktheater

Dokumentation des Mini-Symposiums am 24. Oktober 2019 auf dem Kulturcampus Domäne Marienburg an der Universität Hildesheim

Im Oktober 2019 fanden an der Stiftung Universität Hildesheim die Feierlichkeiten im Rahmen des 40-jährigen Bestehens der kulturwissenschaftlichen Studiengänge dort statt. Zwischen Rückschau, Standortbestimmung und Zukunftsvision bewegten sich die zahlreichen Beiträge. Das für Hildesheim so charakteristische Studieren zwischen Theorie und Praxis und zwischen verschiedenen künstlerischen Disziplinen hat dabei gerade auch im fließenden Feld zwischen Musiktheater und Theatermusik viele Absolventinnen hervorgebracht, die wichtig Impulse für diese Landschaft gegeben haben und immer noch geben. Matthias Rebstock, Professor für Szenische Musik in Hildesheim, hatte daher ein kleines Symposium zusammengestellt, bei dem vier Absolvent*innen ihre Arbeit vorstellten und im Gespräch mit ihm und mir diskutierten: Ingo Günther, Sebastian Kunas, Katharina Pfänder und Lars Wittershagen.
Im Folgenden sind einige Auszüge aus diesem Gespräch als Audio-Clips dokumentiert.

Lars Wittershagen stellte eingangs unter anderem seine Zusammenarbeit mit Sebastian Nübling vor. Er beschrieb dabei die zunehmende Tendenz, seine Theatermusik nicht als eine Reihe einzelner Cues zu denken, sondern als einen durchgängigen Gesamtsound der Inszenierung, was an der Insznierung von Die Verlobung in St. Domingo verdeutlichte.

Die Verlobung in St. Domingo. Thalia Theater Hamburg. Foto: Tanja Dorendorf
Lars über seine Arbeitsweise und die Inszenierung Die Verlobung in St. Domingo

Katharina Pfänder beschrieb eine Reihe von Konstellationen, in denen ihr Streichquartett „Quartett PLUS 1“ immer wieder neu Musik und Musizieren in Bezug setzt zu einem weiteren Element, sei es Tanz, Video, Text, ein Museum oder… Gemüse!

Katharina über Quartett PLUS 1
Katharina zur Arbeit mit Video
Katharina zum Projekt Songs of Sprouts
Quartett PLUS 1: Songs of Sprouts
Katharina über Hinter Glas

Sebastian Kunas beschrieb das Spektrum seines Musizierens und Komponierens von Hörspiel über Lecture-Performance zu Theater, die sich oft explizit und selbstreflexiv mit Digitalität auseinandersetzen.

Sebastian über seine Arbeit mit einem Ausschnitt aus dem Hörspiel Anna
Sebastian über seine Arbeitsweise(n) und das Performen mit dem Computer

Ingo Günther erzählte anschaulich von seiner Zusammenarbeit mit Herbert Fritsch und dem Suchen nach einer Live-Musik für das Theater, die gleichberechtigter Teil des Geschehens ist und Fritschs Mischung aus Slapstick und „Dada auf Speed“ (Günther) rhythmisch und szenisch mit trägt und erzeugt.

Ingo über die Ästhetik von Herbert Fritschs Theater
Ingo über Liveness
Ingo über die Arbeit mit Computer am Beispiel von Der eingebildete Kranke (Burgtheater Wien)
Tonbeispiel aus Proben zu Der eingebildete Kranke
Ingo über die Arbeit an Pfusch

Diskussion: Im Anschluss diskutierten alle vier Podiumsgäste eine Reihe von Fragen: darunter zunächst die nach der Bedeutung des Studiengangs in Hildesheim für ihre Arbeit und welche Rolle ein Begriff wie “Handwerk” für sie spielt:

Diskussion Teil 1
Diskussion Teil 2

Weiter fragte ich danach, wie sich die Arbeit im Spannungsfeld von Digital und Analog gestaltet und wie die Podiumsgäste das in ihren Arbeiten jeweils produktiv machen.

Diskussion Teil 3
Diskussion Teil 4

Die nächste Frage zielte darauf, dass bei allen vier Musiker*innen das Musikmachen nie reine Klangerzeugung ist, sondern immer auch theatral oder zumindest performativ erscheint. Was heißt es daher für die Einzelnen als Musiker*innen auf der Bühne zu stehen oder Musiker*innen auf die Bühne zu stellen?

Diskussion Teil 5

Matthias fragte dann nach dem Verhältnis von Theatermusik und Regie im Probenprozess, da die Arbeitsweisen suggerieren, das die Arbeitsteilung sich vielleicht nicht mehr immer so klar gestaltet.

Diskussion Teil 6

Abschließend interessiert mich noch, ob sich für die Musiker*innen auf dem Podium bestimmte Arbeitsweisen etabliert und bewährt haben. Gibt es Routine? Bleibt es ein Suchen?

Diskussion Teil 7


Ingo Günther wurde 1965 in Bremen geboren und studierte ab 1986 Kulturwissenschaften und ästhetische Praxis an der Universität Hildesheim und Pop-Musik an der Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg. Er ist Mitbegründer der Filmmusikband die paramounts, mit denen diverse CD-Produktionen entstehen. Zusammenarbeit mit Regisseuren wie Jarg Pataki, Sebastian Baumgarten, Barbara Weber, Claudia Bauer und Armin Petras am Schauspiel Leipzig, dem Bayerischen Staatsschauspiel, Theaterhaus Jena, Nationaltheater Weimar, Schauspiel Magdeburg, Burgtheater Wien, Thalia Theater Hamburg, Maxim Gorki Theater und der Volksbühne Berlin. Zusammenarbeit mit Herbert Fritsch ab 2007, u. a. im intermedialen Kunstprojekt Hamlet X und an der Volksbühne Berlin in Theaterarbeiten wie Die (s)panische Fliege (2011), Murmel Murmel (2012), Ohne Titel Nr. 1 – Eine Oper von Herbert Fritsch (2014), der die mann (2015) oder Pfusch (2016).

Sebastian Kunas wurde 1984 in Bielefeld geboren, studierte Kulturwissenschaften und Musik an der Universität Hildesheim und lebt in Hannover. Er arbeitet als Künstler und Vermittler in den Bereichen Musik, Klangkunst und Theater sowie im universitären Kontext. Neben seiner Vorliebe für Klangsynthese, Elektroakustik und maschinische Repetition ist er semi-geschulter Bassist, Schlagzeuger und Gitarrist. Mit seinem Hintergrund in der Pop- und DIY-Kultur sowie in den Cultural Studies und Sound Studies, interessiert er sich für die sozialen Verflechtungen von Musik und für künstlerische Reflexionen und spielerische Subversionen von Machtstrukturen.
Er ist Mitglied des Kollektivs ARK, einer freien Assoziation von Musikerinnen, Produzentinnen, Schreiberinnen, Wissenschaftlerinnen und elektronischen MusikmachDingen, die Heterochronizität und Mehrspurwissen performen, auf der Suche nach post-repräsentativen Soundformaten. Außerdem spielt und tourt er mit Bands, derzeit mit der Lo-Wave Softie Post-Punk Gruppe The Work-Life Balance.

Katharina Pfänder wurde 1979 in Augsburg geboren und ist freischaffende Musikerin in den Bereichen Konzert, Theatermusik und Studio aus Hannover. Sie studierte an der Universität Hildesheim Kulturwissenschaften und ästhetische Praxis mit den Fächern Musik, Bildende Kunst, Philosophie und im Anschluss Jazz-Violine bei Hajo Hoffmann und Ulli Bartel an der Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover. Ihr Hauptinteresse gilt zum einen einer breiten Vielfalt musikalischer Stile, zum anderen der experimentellen Streicherarbeit.
Mit ihrem interdisziplinären Ensemble Quartett PLUS 1 (Nominierung YEAH-Award 2013, Junge Ohren Preis 2014) entwickelt sie neue Konzertformate und arbeitet u.a. mit den Komponisten Claudio Puntin, Matthias Schubert, Thomas Meadowcroft und Stefan Wurz zusammen. Als Theatermusikerin ist sie für freie Gruppen (werkgruppe 2/Göttingen, dreiprozentextra/Bremen), sowie am Schauspielhaus Hannover (Kunst wird wo anders gebraucht, wo sie rumsteht), Staatstheater Braunschweig (Polnische Perlen, Swamp Club/Theaterformen), Theater für Niedersachsen Hildesheim (Dogfight, Love Story, Frühlingserwachen, Die Brücken am Fluss) und am Deutschen Theater Göttingen (Spring Awakening) tätig.

Lars Wittershagen wurde 1969 in Schwerte geboren und studierte von 1992 bis 1998 Kulturwissenschaften und ästhetische Praxis an der Universität Hildesheim und arbeitete dort bis 2000 als Lehrbeauftragter am Institut für Theater und Medien. Gleichzeitig ist er in der freien Theaterszene als Theatermusiker tätig. Bereits seit 1998 verbindet ihn eine enge Zusammenarbeit mit dem Regisseur Sebastian Nübling. Gemeinsam mit der Bühnenbildnerin Muriel Gerstner entstanden Produktionen am Theater Basel, dem Staatstheater Stuttgart, dem Schauspiel Hannover und den Münchener Kammerspielen. Mit Dido und Aeneas am Theater Basel gewinnen sie 2007 den 3sat Preis.
Gegenwärtig arbeitet Wittershagen mit den Regisseur*innen Sebastian Nübling, Robert Lehniger, Hakan Savaş Mican, Karin Henkel, Bastian Kraft, dem Regieduo Ene-Liis Semper/Tiit Ojasoo, Simon Stone, Peter Kastenmüller und Lars-Ole Walburg am Gorki in Berlin, dem Hamburger Thalia Theater, dem Hamburger Schauspielhaus, dem Schauspielhaus Zürich, dem Deutschen Theater in Berlin, dem Schauspiel Hannover und dem Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus.

Buchvorschau “Theatermusik. Analysen und Gespräche”. Teil 17: Carolina Bigge

Ein kurzer Auszug aus dem im November 2019 erscheinenden Buch Theatermusik. Analysen und Gespräche (Roesner, Theater der Zeit 2019):

Carolina Bigge: Ich finde das Theater einen guten Arbeitsplatz, würde es aber auch nicht nur machen wollen. Dazu interessieren mich noch die ganzen anderen Dinge, die ich machen darf: Songs schreiben, unterrichten, Konzerte spielen usw.
Es würde mich auch interessieren, noch mehr Filmmusik zu machen – bisher habe ich nur einzelne Songs für Filme geschrieben –, aber ich habe da auch Respekt davor. Es ist halt ganz anders, weil man auf das fertige Produkt schaut, wenn die Musik entsteht. Mir ist das Live-Musizieren da schon noch näher, weil ich auch toll finde, dass es jeden Abend anders ist. Wir haben Dreigroschenoper jetzt schon fünfzig Mal gespielt, und es ist immer irgendwie anders, auch, weil die Schauspieler* innen so gut sind und Lust haben zu improvisieren – das finde ich toll.
Es ist immer das Interessanteste, in dem, was man tut, nicht so festgefahren zu sein. Das ist auf jeden Fall mein Punkt. Ich finde das nur von Vorteil, dass ich so viele verschiedene Sachen mache und alles von allem profitiert. Als Popmusikerin denke ich anders als viele im Theater …

DR: Und wenn du nach einer Theaterarbeit wieder mit einer Band auf der Bühne stehst, denkst du über diese szenische Situation wieder anders nach …?

CB: Genau. Das befruchtet sich total. Das ist auch bei unserer Band hier im Theater so: Da sind Klassikerinnen dabei, eine Jazzerin dabei, eine reine Popgitarristin – und wir treffen uns zusammen und kriegen einen gemeinsamen Sound hin. Das ist eine große Bereicherung. Schwierig wird es nur, wenn sich einer über den anderen stellt.

DR: Du hast vorhin gesagt, dass Musizieren für dich eine Mischung aus Schreiben, Produzieren, Arrangieren ist: Kannst du deine Musik beschreiben, gibt es da stilistisch einen roten Faden?

CB: Es ist vielfältig, aber eine Konstante, in dem, wie ich arbeite, besteht in einem authentischen Gefühl, das ich dazu habe. Das ist die einzige Chance, die man hat: Sich in Verbindung mit dem zu bringen, was man sieht, oder mit dem Stück oder der Musik, die da ist, und dann ganz ehrlich zu gucken, wie man das betrachten kann und was man ausdrücken möchte. Es gibt zwar auch den Gedanken, »Was wollen die Leute hören?«, und man hat auch die Aufgabe, das zu unterstützen, wofür man sich inszenatorisch entschieden hat, aber ich denke eher wenig darüber nach, was andere denken könnten. Das ist etwas, was ich gut kann: keine Angst davor zu haben, dass es auch mal Kitsch wird, weil ich eben glaube, dass die Emotion, die ich fühle, auch vom Publikum geteilt wird.