Stills

soundtrack

a production

Background

Stills was the final live → ↑ → project. Lasting 50 minutes, Stills featured 16mm anamorphic rear projection, in front of which 4 performers carried out minimal actions across 10 scenes. A loud stereo musique concrete score accompanies the performance; no acoustic stage sound is audible. With no dialogue and no choreographed dance, the minimalist drive of the project actualizes the idea of a 'movie still' upon a stage - with live performers placed within a proscenium arch setting outlined by theatre lighting. Not exactly 'anti-theatre' but definitely not 'modern theatre'. More like a disjointed sonic film with lumps of catatonic flesh.

Credits

Composition, recording & mix - Philip Brophy

1986

Production, Melbourne

Overview

In keeping with the cine-textual concept of Stills, two aspects of the performance were crucial to the work:
(i) the performers had to be 'nullified' by being visually and performatively 'flattened' against the rea-projection screen; and
(ii) no acoustic sound could be heard.

These aspects were to reinforce the spectacle of being in front of a theatrical presentation while experiencing a removal or reduction of theatrical presence in the performers' physicality. The sound design, then, was focused on 'close-up' recordings of aural textures, so that the sound created a sonic screen of physicality which subsumed the actors' bodily presence. This idea was based on the psycho-acoustic feature central to theatre: that while actors enact characters, take on personae, breathe an author's words and generally represent grand themes, the sound of their feet on the stage and the shimmering reverb of their breath in the theatre space ground them in a palpable corporeal world. Just as heavily post-dubbed cinema (especially Italian and Chinese productions) generate a sense of artificiality through their absenting of audible breath and naturalized reverberation, Stills sought to create a soundtrack which cinematised the acoustics of the theatrical stage. The play=back of the completed sound design was attenuated to ensure the volume overrode the actors' audible noise as they moved on stage.

Technical

Scenography

Scene 1

Running water, crumpled plastic, digital organ.

Scene 2

Door bangs, breath, rattled metal grate, voice drone.

Scene 3

Chest thumps, breath, turntable, formica table scrape, wood blocks.

Scene 4

Burning sparklers, cymbals, scraped metal bowls, gas jet flame.

Scene 5

Metal frame, frying onions, hand-claps, floor thumping.

Scene 6

Drain water, running tap, voice, metal tins, ticking clocks.

Scene 7

Voices.

Scene 8

Turntable, traffic, voice, fridge rumble, gas jets, metal clangs, skateboards on wood.

Scene 9

Shortwave radios, glass bottle.

Scene 10

Hand clapping, digital organ, traffic.