Around the tender age of 13 my bedroom walls were covered with pencil and charcoal drawings I had made of composers: Schubert, Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, all copied from an old edition of The Oxford Companion to Music that had turned up in my house.
My favourite etching in the book was on a small article on Mozart’s playing of Billiards – when stuck for ideas, he would listen for new rhythmic combinations in the bashes and trickles that come from the interplay of billiard balls.
Twenty years later, I have spent much of that time discovering that the computer can render music into a constant state of limitless transformation, that the randomness of clanking billiard balls can be sampled, repeated, fragmented, making the nature of sound and therefore the nature of music / composition something completely malleable.
My embedding in the belly of The Opera Group will be leading towards the creation of “Billiards”: An opera to draw a line across history between Mozart’s billiard balls and the internet-instant-metamorphic-music-vortex.
Exploding the nature of composition, collage, technology, and the voice, through the format of the “Essay Opera” – a kind of opera where voice, performance, collage, animation, puppetry, automata, and electronics interweave with one another to explore subjects and ideas.
“Billiards” will imagine a metamorphic billiards table, through a narrative that progresses through the gradual creation of a themed Pinball machine on the nature of chance, games, and composition. We will delve into the world of early electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott and his “Rhythm Generators”, fall down the rabbit-hole of Lewis Carroll’s logic-games and proposed (pre-Dada) chance-operation poems, we will look at stars with Omar Khayyam then trace the lines to John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis, and end in the seemingly eternal rabbit-hole of the internet where all music disappears without trace into the jumble.
If you are interested in delving into the world of my theatrical misadventures (AND why not?), you could do worse than dip into this “The Theatre and Opera of Ergo Phizmiz”
Ergo Phizmiz is Sound and Music’s Embedded Composer-in-Residence with The Opera Group. Find out more information and read his biography here.