for two performers and a game system
composed in 2017/18
In Kilgore the activities of two performers are divided between playing their instrument and navigating an avatar in a virtual 3D environment. Each performer therefore has a twofold presence: on one hand the physical presence by standing and playing on stage, and on the other hand by being represented by an avatar in virtual space. The version documented for this release is for amplified violin, performed by Barbara Lüneburg, and live electronics, performed by myself.
The work is divided in five sections, with two main sections that are juxtaposed with three shorter sections titled “Preludus”, “Interpaidia”, and “Postludus”. The terms ludus and paidia that have been incorporated in the titles of those pre, inter and postludes refer to two types of ‘play’ where “ludus represents wild, free-form improvisational play, whereas ludus represents rule-bound, regulated, formalized play.” (Salen et al. 2004, p. 308). These modes of play describe the manner how the two musicians interact with each other in those sections: in “Preludus” and “Postludus” they competitively construct melodic phrases according to specific rules and are interrupted by the opponent whenever they make a mistake. In contrast, “Interpaidia” connects the two main sections and allows the violinist to freely improvise with controlled feedbacks on top of a harmonic texture, while the other performer remains idle.
In the main two sections the musicians are operating gamepads in order to control avatars in virtual 3D environments. They are required to fulfil certain assignments while every action along the path entails musical consequences. As they follow their tasks and thereby interact with their virtual environment and the objects found within, the audiovisual composition evolves. The topology of the environment provides a spatial distribution of sound sources and sonic affordances, while the virtual distances require time to be traversed. The environment can thus be compared to a score in the sense that it provides a visualized order of sounds and durations. At the same time it can also be understood as an extended instrument, as it offers to the musicians sonic and musical possibilities they can control.
In the first main section the activities take place in a barren landscape, while in the second main section, the avatars cross a bridge to an island in order enter a house which later collapses during the course of the piece. At different times the avatars encounter objects that display excerpts from two old movies. The excerpts stem from David Wark Griffith‘s film Birth of a Nation from 1915, and from the edition of May 30, 1941 of the propaganda newsreel Deutsche Wochenschau. What I find interesting about these examples is that both use the „Der Ritt der Walküre“ by Richard Wagner as film music and place it in the context of war with explicit racist contexts. Both these movies are also referenced in a striking scene in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now from 1979 when the ficticious character Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore – who’s name I borrowed as title of this work – attacks a Vietnamese village with a flock of helicopters while blasting the same music by Wagner’s through loudspeakers. Due to this frame of reference, in Kilgore I also use processed and camouflaged excerpts of „Der Ritt der Walküre“ at various points.
In Kilgore the two performers compete against each other. For every assignment there is a winner and a loser and at the end of the piece there is a champion who escapes the collapsing building while the other one is locked inside.
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