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Roesner, David P. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4371-1852 and Rebstock, Matthias (eds.) (January 2012): Composed Theatre. Aesthetics, Practices, Processes. Bristol: Intellect.

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This edited book aims to map the field of composed theatre, a form of music theatre which uses musical strategies of organisation in the composition of all theatrical means. After introducing the historical development and key characteristics of composed theatre, it focuses on exploring the unique creation processes through reports, interviews and discussions with key practitioners and scholars in the field. It also addresses the theoretical and methodological questions, which arise from the topic through a number of articles, which look at aspects of interdisciplinarity, intermediality, performance and notation as well as the discursive strategies of its creators. Since the beginning of the 20th Century it has been an ongoing interest of composers like Schönberg, Cage, Kagel, Aperghis, Schnebel, Tsangaris and Goebbels to approach the theatrical stage and its means of expression (voice, gesture, movement, light, sound, image, design) as musical material, to treat theatrical performance according to musical principles and compositional techniques and to apply musical thinking to the performance as a whole. The idea re-flourished amongst composers, directors and theatre collectives during recent developments towards “postdramatic” (Lehmann, Postdramatic Theatre, 2006) forms, which de-emphasised text, narrative and fictional characters, sought alternative dramaturgies (visual, spatial, temporal, musical), and focussed on the sonic and visual materialities of the stage and the performativity of their use. At the same time, musical composition has increasingly expanded its range of “instruments” to include live video, lighting-design, live sound electronics, costumes, and spatial arrangements, and has paid closer attention to the theatricality of the musical performer. Thus the interests in the musicality of the theatrical performance and vice versa the theatricality of the musical performance have given rise to a wide range of forms of what we propose to call \"Composed Theatre\". Some research exists on earlier examples of this practice in the USA and particularly around the work of John Cage (Fetterman, John Cage’s Theatre Pieces, 1995; Kaye, Art into Theatre, 1996; Sanio, Alternativen zur Werkästhetik, 1999; Deuffert, John Cages Theater der Präsenz, 2001). However, this kind of work has been proliferated in more recent European and particularly German developments due to a unique theatre system and the specific funding and festival culture, both of which enable this kind of experimental work. Our book explores this European strand and is the first to establish the notion of Composed Theatre as a new and emergent field by offering an original framework: it focuses on the creation process, since it is not primarily the aesthetics or the audiences, which characterize the field, but the compositional thinking at play in its creation. The book is grounded in research conducted through an AHRC funded workshop series, that consisted to two 4-day meetings of practitioners and scholars in the field and sought to initiate an important new discourse in this research field: while “works” which show the above characteristics have been discussed frequently (see for example Heile and Rebstock each on Kagel, Heiligendorff on Schnebel, Roesner on Goebbels), little academic attention has been paid to the processes that generate them. These are, however, particularly interesting to explore for two main reasons: a) it is the process, not the performance that distinguishes Composed Theatre from other forms and thus defines the field; b) the composition of theatrical media according to musical principles calls into question fundamental certainties about both musical composition and of music-theatrical production. The book will disseminate focused reports on processes based on the extensive presentations given during the workshop series. Practitioners who could not contribute at the series will be interviewed or portrayed to allow for a more comprehensive range of representatives and practices. These primary sources will be juxtaposed with academic essays, which contextualize the practice reports historically, theoretically and methodologically. Some of these essays were originally conceived as keynotes for the workshop series (Goebbels, Quitt), others (Meyer, Roesner, Rebstock) are commissioned/written specifically for the book by the editors. Excerpts from three discussions amongst key protagonists of the field about terminology, institutional frameworks, nature of their collaborations, role of the performer and the specific interaction between the arts will be added to introduce an element of debate to the publication.

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