The Music of Sound

Bjørn Erik Haugen, Norwegian academy of music

With my research-project I intend to explore the musical-theatre genre both formally and with content. My goal is to see wether the genre has a potential to problematize and mediate political and ideological themes, thoughts and reflections. I intend to do this through producing four musical-theatre productions, which I will analyze during my production- and research-period. I intend to use thoughts from Bertolt Brecht, Slavoj Žižek and Jaques Lacan in my artistic work and in my reflection in my research.

A central theme in my research-project is the voice and language as carriers of meaning. The voice mediates an already existing language that that we are taught and brought into from birth and central for how we experience the world around us. I am interested in that everyone has a voice which has a potential to express meaning and content, but also is an instrument.

The musical-theatre`s combination of narratives, images, scenography and music makes it possible to express a message and a content to an audience which also makes reflection possible over a theme.

Musical-theatre is in many ways an open genre which spans from opera and musicals to contemporary musical-theatre productions where the music is a central element in the theatre production. In a historical perspective one might say that the musical-theatre genre has its Western origin in the Greek tragedy, where the choir recited and sung the character`s destiny in the play.

«You can close your eyes but you can’t close your ears.» Seth Kim Cohen

Hypothesis I intend to explore
There are two research questions that I intend to work with in my research-project:

  • To work with ideology formally with help from the musical-theatre
  • If the musical-theatre has a political potential in the musical tradition of today

I intend that the project uses a correlation between Lacan`s triad and three elements in musical-theatre: Unorganized sound (the Real), The narrative element (the Imaginary) and score-based music (the Symbolic), which is mediated though language, and that already exists before we enter the world.

Central in Lacan`s theories is how we experience the world around us is expressed and mediated through language which is not done consciously. In my research-project I want to lean on this way of thinking, both in my artistic projects and in my reflection.

Ideology as analytical concept
Marx had thoughts about unconscious thought-patterns he called false consciousness. The narrow definition of the concept of ideology as false consciousness is when it is used to give people illusions, that does not hold in reality, which one makes them believe in. The wide definition of the concept is when ideology is a part of the structure of society that decides/forms the people`s consciousness. Marx`s analysis of the concept of ideology has gained great impact on several culture-theoreticians, and I will make use of some of these in my research-project. Friedrich Kittler, Laura Mulvey, Christian Metz and Jean-Louis Baudry will be central, to mention some.