The Death of Stockhausen

The Death of Stockhausen is a work in progress, set to become the world’s first “laptopera” – that is, an opera written for laptop performers. This nearly hour-long production will explore the end of the avant-garde in connection with the false neoliberal conceit of the end of history. It will be broken up into 4 acts with no pauses. Act 1 uses cooperative cybernetics in order to jointly control sound production and video. Act 2 uses spam emails as its text coupled with advertising images, exploring how we’re bombarded with consumer capitalism, but which sometimes still includes unexpected beauty. Act 3 explores the current popular preoccupation with apocalypse, finding a cause for hope amongst the doom and Act 4 re-enacts the ascension to Sirius.

The music and the video with both be played live by the performers. The video artists will use live performed and algorithmic processes to manipulate relevant archival footage.

Act 1 explores the idealism of self-organising networks. Audio performers will take no more than five shared parameters plus amplitude to control their sounds. These parameters may be: granular, sparse, resonant, pitched. Players will vote for a value to increase or decrease. Their sound will thus change in response to the current tally. They can control their own amplitude at will. Each player can individually control how anti-social they are. This ranges from following group decisions entirely to being actively disruptive. The video in this act will start with pastoral scenes and go on to show archival images of advertising and assembly lines. As anti-social disorder increases, there will be more archival images of rioting and property destruction.

In Act 2, performers will sample themselves first reading common subject lines of spam emails, then common lines from within spam emails and finally start reading an example of “spoetry” – machine generated text that is sometimes used in an attempt to fool spam filters. The players manipulate these samples to create a live piece of text-sound poetry. The video will be made up of advertisements.

Act 3 will also have text sound, but as a collage on top of other material. The text will be from interviews with people who believe the rapture is imminent and people with New Age beliefs about the winter solstice in 2012. The video for this act will use images with religious themes as well as apocalyptic images such as nuclear blasts.

Act 4, the shortest act, will have a graphic score, in the style of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise. The images in the video will be similarly abstract.