VIRTUAL MOTION

The Annex Theatre
November 10 & 11, 2003
Monday & Tuesday 7:30pm

written performed and directed by: David Rodwin


"The musical score is created from three sources: synthesized sounds, sampled sounds, and live instruments digitally recorded. The technical limitations of the 1997 home-studio hard-disk digital recording I used encouraged the repetition and looping of short phrases (1 to 8 bars) which lent itself to a post-minimalist aesthetic. I used Digital Performer and a Roland S-760 for all sampling and sequencing.

In addition to traditional pitch and percussion instruments, the score also employs samples of both real and cartoon sound effects, which allow for heightened, non-naturalistic movement-theatre. The singing passages occur more often as the opera unravels and the emotional dynamic expands. It is through the contrast of sung versus spoken, recorded versus live, and danced versus naturally moved to, that the opera develops its aesthetic tension.

With this lip-sync process, the text of the libretto is spoken and sampled prior to production. Sampling in this case means digitally recording a spoken line, which can then be replayed by pressing down a key on a keyboard. The sampled lines are then reassembled and recorded within the texture of a musical composition. Though these lines are not spoken with specific pitches, they take on a musical quality as occurs with traditionally composed vocal lines because of their repetition and specific placement.

I began creating this show 6 years ago and I'm thankful for the technical limitations I had. Had I the equipment available to me today, I would have created a very different show. I'm also pleased and surprised that the show doesn't sound dated to me (as can so easily happen with technologically based work) and though it's been 2-1/2 years since I last performed it, the story and characters still feel fresh." - David Rodwin


"What the heck is a one-man "hyper-opera"? And why do one?

My opera, ECSTATIC JOURNEY, had a cast and crew of thirty. Though it received a production in New York in 1997, I knew I needed a simpler, more economical piece if I wanted my work to be seen by a larger, more diverse audience in more places. Because VIRTUAL MOTION is a one-man show, I've already had the pleasure of doing it now in over a dozen cities. This is unheard of for new opera.

That's why one-man. Now "hyper-opera".

No one can agree on what defines the differences between an opera, a musical or a music-theatre piece. It seems in the last half-century, composers, writers, choreographers and directors have done everything they can to blur those boundaries. Classicists might say VIRTUAL MOTION, with its lip-sync techniques influenced by composer John Moran, its recorded score, its non-bel canto singing styles alone disqualify it from being an opera. But twenty-five years ago, EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH made everyone re-examine the boundaries for what we consider opera. In my mind, I treated VIRTUAL MOTION like it was an opera from the beginning. The ending is right out of Puccini, if you ask me. There are a host of other choices, from leitmotifs on down the line, in which I made decisions treating this as an opera. But to call it a regular opera, I thought, would set the wrong expectation. The movement is heightened and the theme is technological, so "hyper-opera" it became.

That said, this is an opera outside the 'opera house'. New operas rarely find the conservatism of the traditional opera audience receptive. Amplification is "verboten" in opera houses where 19th-century vocal styles still rule the raked stages, and scores which reflect no knowledge of 20th-century music, serious or popular, are favored. The cost of mounting a production with a large cast and a full orchestra often exceeds a million dollars for a premiere - that's six performances with no promise of a restaging. That monetary pressure doesn't encourage opera houses to take chances. Those who seek to explore new territory must find smaller, more hospitable homes and daring producers like La MaMa.

I want to make new operas that reflect the music I hear today.

I want to create work that reflects the dramas around me. This might mean a narrative structure more Tarantino than Aristotle." -David Rodwin

2003 page