Roesner, David P.
(29. October 2008):
The politics of the polyphony of performance: Musicalization in contemporary German theatre.
In: Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol. 18, No. 1: pp. 44-55
The article describes and analyses the ‘musical turn’ German theatre has undergone in the past fifteen to twenty years, consisting in a re-discovery of the musicality of the theatrical process and event, not a mere inclusion of more music into the theatrical performance. The author focuses on three aspects of this phenomenon: firstly, musicalization in the devising or rehearsal process; secondly, musicalization as an organizational principle of performance; and thirdly, musicalization and the perception process. By looking at productions of Ruedi Häusermann, Sebastian Nübling, Heiner Goebbels, Christoph Marthaler and Einar Schleef, the author finds that musicality helps to introduce new dramaturgies and structures to theatrical performance and to challenge the expectations and meaning-making processes of the audience. For the director and performer musicality provides an alternative (not necessarily mutually exclusive) performative task to work with that shifts the attention from working on character, situation and narrative towards aspects of timing, sound and the polyphony of the theatrical media. For the audience, the inclination of a theatrical event towards the self-referentiality of music is a liberation of the obligation to ‘get’ the meaning of everything that happens on stage. And potentially, by worrying less about ‘what it means’, the audience can focus their attention on ‘what it is’ and thus challenge, widen and reflect on their own modes of perception and observation. At the same time, musicalization in the theatre will always deal with concrete spaces, bodies, texts and para-texts; meaning and coherence can thus be reintroduced through the back door by making use of the connotative referential potential of music.