Singing actress or Acting singer
Trumpet / Flugelhorn
Clarinet in Bb & Eb
Piano (w/ preparations)
Percussion (Vibraphone, Crotales, 2 Bongos & Gran Cassa)
Video extract from the Junge Hunde Festival in Aarhus, October 20th, 2006. String Trio & Female Voice. Vocal: Vanessa Liftig, Violin: Amanda Lindquist, Viola: Lidija Radmilac, Cello: Anni Egeciouglu.
Saba Pacha is based on The Alexandria Quartet (1962) by Lawrence Durrell. This novel serves as an inspiration to this piece, but not in a traditional sense where you put music to the author’s words, since I haven’t any interest in musically presenting a chronological story. Instead, one of the purposes with this work is to reveal what’s not immediately obvious in the text, i.e. the surrounding thoughts and feelings of the characters, the smells and sounds of the city. It could be a popular song from an old record player through an open window, a thin radio voice through the summer breeze, a harmonium in a street corner, songs they sing to each other in the drunken night, the silent aftermath of an intimate meeting, etc. All juxtaposed with the atmosphere of the city.
In the novel we meet four main characters in four chapters: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea. How their different characters and stories meet, or almost meet in short cuts and parallel stories – how they become under influence of each other within distance. It’s a novel about the life and love of some inhabitants, where the city is constantly present and plays an important role, almost a fifth character.
In the scenic version, the audience will see a neutral city picture, created by subtle stage tools. Here, you’ll meet an actress accompanied by a somewhat floating and unstable ensemble. The musical material is very similar in rhythm, dynamics and harmonically between the instruments, which means that they would work together as a unit if a tempo and meter would be decided. But in this case it doesn’t and therefore the result will be warped, the instrument trying to be together but ”fails”. This intention is based on one of the most important factors of the story; namely that the characters are present in each other’s lives but they will actually not really meet.
The piece is either fifteen, thirty or forty minutes long. I’ve attached a CD with the electronic parts in the three differing durations and each of them decides when the work starts and stops. The words ”The sea is high again today” are read by the singer which is the cue to start the CD. When the CD stops she reads ”So the city claimed me once more”. The electronic part contains a surround sound, to create an atmosphere of you being someplace but it’s hard to tell a geographic or physical place.
Regardless of which duration you choose, you will hear a tone, almost like a foghorn, at an approximate golden ratio. This signal is the cue to play the box marked XX, which is the only marked box. The other boxes are freely disposed ad lib in a free tempo. In XX I’m presenting material which is very similar in rhythm, dynamics and harmonically. As mentioned earlier, the structural idea derives from one of the novel’s bearing layers; namely that the characters are distantly present in each other’s lives but actually never really meet. Musically, it means that it would work together as a unit if a tempo and meter would be decided. But in this case it doesn’t and therefore the result will be warped, the instrument trying to be (play/intonate) together but ”fails”.
This will last for about a minute, then the instrument returns to their semi-closed islands, e.g. the other boxes. Semi-closed in the sense that the material are similar in all of the instruments but differs slightly concerning order, dynamics, pitches, etc. This will give the opportunity either to interact or to take initiatives and bring the music in another direction. All parts consist of two pages in the format A3 to avoid page turning and to give a complete overview of the music.
Rehearsals are not allowed. This chamber play is based on organized improvisation. It has the variations of conflict, lust and harmony in our day-to-day confrontations as an overarching thought and subtlety as a desirable parameter. The progressive force in our lives is supported or obstructed by references in our history. This sometimes gives you the impression that, instead of going from A to B, you rise above time and slowly rotate around your own axis.
I strongly recommend the participants to read the novel. Especially the singer and particularly the chapter Justine. If you have the opportunity to consult an instructor, please go ahead. Good luck.
Songs / texts
This is the singer’s part. The songs are supposed to be composed by the singer in advance or improvised in the moment or both. The order below is not exact except for number 1 and 13. The others are used freely. It’s not necessary to use all. The songs are written in italic.
1. The sea is high again today.
The opening of the novel.
2. Saba Pacha, Mazloum, Zizinia Bacos, Schutz, Gianaclis.
Bus-stops in Alexandria
3. Ideal voices and much beloved
Those who died, of those who are
Now lost for us like the very dead;
Sometimes within a dream they speak
Or in the ticking brain a thought revives them..
”On the old horn gramophone I heard some amateur’s recording of the old poet reciting these lines.”
4. I want Someone to match my fancy
I want Someone to match my style
I’ve been good for an awful long while
Now I’ll take her in my arms
Tum ti Tum Tum ti charms..
”..Whistling under his breath..” ”..The famous song he only sang when he was drunk on brandy..”
Forgets the words in the end, just humming along.
5. Old Tiresias
No-one so half so breezy as,
Half so free and easy as
”..Somewhere a ship’s radio was blaring out the latest jazz-hit..”
6a. Pia dei Tolomei, Benedict Dangeau, Dante Borromeo, Colonel Neguib, Toto del Brunel, Wilmot Pierrefeu, Mehmet Adm, Pozzo di Borgo
(Names on a invitations list). ”I murmured these names as I read through the list, mentally adding the word murderer after each, simply to see whether it sounded appropriate.
7. Someones lucky day today
Marching as to war (Fortissimo, with piety)
Ciphers have an urgent
Going on before (Fortissimo, with piety)
”The Harmonium in the corner suddenly began to pant like a fat man running for a bus; then it found it’s voice and gave out a slow nasal rendering of the first two phrases in tones whose harshness across the wintry hush was like the pulling out of entrails.
”Mountolive was annoyed. He started the next verse plaintively:”
Someone should have told me
How was I to know?
Who’s the duty cipherine?
She is still at work-ork-ork.
8. Berlin, dein tanzer ist der Tod!
Berlin, du wuhlst mit Lust im Kot!
Halt ein! lass sein! und denk ein bischen nach:
Du tanzt dir doch vom Liebe nicht die Schmach.
denn du boxt, und du jazzt, und du foxt auf dem Pulverfass!
”Bathed in the pearly sweat of the nigger saxophonists the refrain ran on with its hysterical coda.”
6b. Ahmed Hassan Pacha, Delphine de Francueil, Djamboulat Bey, Athena Trasha, Haddad Fahmy Amin, Gaston Phipps, Pierre Balbz, Jaques de Gu[XX]ry
(Names on an invitations list). ”I murmured these names as I read through the list, mentally adding the word murderer after each, simply to see whether it sounded appropriate.
9. Jamais de la vie,
Jamais dans la nuit
Quand ton coeur se d’mange de chagrin…
(Car radio). ”Flying across the still white air..He hummed softly to himself,
Despite his distaste, the refrain.”
10. Lord of the shaken tree
Of Mans extremity
Keep thou our small leaves firm
On branches free from harm
For we thy little children be!
The street outside was full of the shivering of tambourines and the voices of children raised in a chanting sor of litany; .. repeating the same little verse over and over again.
6c. Count Banubula, Onouphrios Papas, Dmitri Randidi, Paul Capodistria, Claude Amaril, NESSIM HOSNANI, Tony Umbada, Baldassaro Trivizani, Gilda Ambron..
(Names on an invitations list). ”I murmured these names as I read through the list, mentally adding the word murderer after each, simply to see whether it sounded appropriate. Only when I reached the name Nessim did I pause and raise my eyes to the dark wall.
11. Jamais de la vie,
Jamais dans la nuit
Quand ton coeur se demange de chagrin…
”..He snapped the radio shut, choked the voice..”
12. So he was an old sky plant, tum tum,
So he was an old meat loaf, tum tum,
So he was an old cantankeroo.
”It was called the cruel skipper and had this chorus.”
”And now, having virtually exhausted his legs by dancing and singing-voice with song, there remained a few brief conun-drums which he enunciated to the ceiling..”
13. So the city claimed me once more.
Siren Festival 2006 in Göteborg, Sweden
Jungehunde Festival 2006 in Århus, Denmark
Ultima Festival 2010 in Oslo, Norway