As composer[ edit ] Some of his pieces give specific theatrical instructions to the performers Kennedy and Bourne , such as to adopt certain facial expressions while playing, to make their stage entrances in a particular way, to physically interact with other performers, and so on. For this reason commentators at times related his work to the Theatre of the Absurd. He was also active in the fields of film and photography, proving that the possibilities of music are inexhaustible. In he received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. It is the piece that most clearly shows his absurdist tendency. As the work progresses, the piece itself, and opera and ballet in general, becomes its own subject matter.
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Lines That Go Outside the Boxes: Mauricio Kagel by Paul Attinello Borges, that most exciting of modern Spanish writers, showed us fantastic beasts, libraries with endless staircases leading up and down to infinity, and a man writing every word of Don Quixote as though it is a new book. At least one of his students learned from him that the unexpected can tell us who we are, that paradoxes are productive, and that humor can be a very serious vocation: the brilliant, sarcastic, charming, arrogant, multitalented, and extremely tall Mauricio Kagel.
This all seems fairly precise, but as of course they are dragging dots across lines of score at constantly changing angles that have little or nothing to do with actual pitch, they end up creating a very detailed, very difficult serial score out of operations that are actually playfully chaotic.
As Kagel settled into his rather lengthy stride in the s, he began producing an extraordinary variety of meticulously constructed works in every possible genre, and in some that seemed impossible at the time. Although surface techniques in each work vary enormously - even more so because the technique of each work tends to be a concerted attack on any possible expectations the performers or audience might have - there are underlying concepts and values that are remarkably consistent over the decades.
Since Kagel has always dedicated himself to the possibilities of anarchism and liberation, so most of his works focus on opening up the new and the radical; they generally do this by creating some system of subversive gestures of paradox, disjunction, and irony. The sound materials often involve unusual or exotic instruments, or regular instruments employed in unusual ways; major examples include Exotica , which uses a variety of non-Western instruments played by Westerners in tribal makeup, or Music for Renaissance Instruments, which suggests the liberated nightmares of an early music ensemble.
The sprawling landscape of Acustica for experimental sound objects and loudspeakers was assembled between and , while real political change seemed imminent and while Kagel was writing his first and most radical anti-opera Staatstheater. Acustica has many pages, as does Staatstheater, each of which is a separate, flexible module of musical and theatrical activity.
Staatstheater does the same things in different ways - the opera soloists are forced to sing an ensemble, the chorus has a "debut" of sixty simultaneous solos, the ballet is for non-dancers, and the entire forces of the traditional opera house do calisthenics over enormously amplified chords at the end.
In the same way, performers who participate in Acustica may find the keys of their normal instruments feeling slightly odd or restrictive; the ways they define themselves, as performers or composers or technicians, might start to loosen from their moorings. Later that same week, they may find themselves thinking differently about the busker they pass in the tube station, or they may try something new while playing a Beethoven sonata; they may even wonder if they should be talking about their music, or possibly drawing it instead.
What else could I be doing with music, or even about music? And of course, ultimately, as you sit there reading about all this, perhaps you cannot help wondering: what else might I be missing?
Mauricio Kagel: Acustica