The tendency seems to be towards a new form that will efface the cruder contrasts between the concert hall and the theater. The articulation, the differentiation, the variation of density – all these correspond to the interweaving of the various art forms – Karl Woëner
In May of 1990, we presented the first West Coast performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seminal Happening Originale at Theater Artaud in San Francisco. It was the first time it had been performed since Charlotte Moorman produced it as part of the 1964 Avant-Garde festival in New York City. For our West Coast premiere, we draw from recent technological advancements to introduce digital techniques of sound manipulation and live video to disrupt the linear flow of the work and to enhance its qualities of fragmentation and deconstruction of everyday events.
I took on this project as part of my research into avant-garde music theater from the 1960s. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Originale is one of the seminal multimedia performance works of the 20th century. First performed in Cologne in 1961, Originale combines the rigorous, tightly controlled compositional form of Stockhausen’s serial music, with the loosely structured improvisational framework of the early Happenings. The score to Originale is groundbreaking for its incorporation of performance events and other assorted “actions” into a musical organization with precise “timepoints” or temporal markings, typical of Stockhausen’s musical scores. Within the 94′ duration of Originale is a performance of Stockhausen’s Kontakte for piano, percussion and electronics, which is woven throughout the work, providing a central unifying element to this often disjointed work. An unusual assortment of “characters” are introduced in Originale, including an action painter, (famously performed by Nam June Paik), action musician, street singer, coat checker, fashion model, child playing with blocks, and a collection of actors reading a collage of unrelated texts.
The cast for Originale included the following: Don Baker (percussion), Ed Herrmann (electronics), Hitomi Ikuma (action painter), Barney Jones (actor), Paula Levine (videographer), Sigi Torinus (videographer), Chris Maher (action musician), Jan Martin-Risk (wardrobe), Milena (child), Michael Orland (piano), Randall Packer (director), Michael Peppe (action musician), Jim Quinn (lighting designer), Henri Steele (director), Pamela Z (street musician), Richard Zvonar (electronic musician) and Lisa Apfelburg, Elena Rivera, Diane Robinson, Tracy Robinson as actors.
Excerpt from Originale by Karlheinz Stockhausen is directed by Randall Packer at Theater Artaud in San Francisco, May 3-5, 1990. Video editing and production by Sigi Torinus.