Kagel’s interest in the theatricality of objects is also a demonstration of the detachment he wishes to keep between an object and its function, presenting situations with diverse interpretative possibilities, keeping the audience frustrated as to the purpose of the actions and the objects connected with them. Repertoire, a movement taken from his major theatre work Staatstheater, presents a hundred brief scenes without text or plot, that involve interactions between objects and people. One of the scenes is simply entitled ‘Scratching’ (the scenes were given titles merely so as to make rehearsing them easier): an actor comes on stage with a gramaphone record held in front of his face – a sort of mask. He turns to face the audience, suddenly producing a nail, and viciously scratches the surface of the record. This could affect the audience by its implication of self-mutilation, or by presumption that he is wilfully destroying a consumer product, or any other possibility.
His reactions against musical tradition and convention are equally strong, and are particularly apparent in his ‘instrumental theatre’ works.
In one the movement from Staatstheater called Ensemble, the whole tradition of opera is negated. This section calls for a 16 voice ensemble representative of every vocal category from coloratura soprano to basso profundo. Each singer is clad in typical opera costume, yet without any attempt to adapt to the costumes of other performers. there is no scenery, simply a set of plain screens – representing the alienation of each costume from its ‘natural surroundings’ (which anyway is totally unnatural). Furthermore, the singers are also denied the possibility of dramatic movement, since they are confined to their chairs. Repertoire, with its absurd representation of apparently inconsequential actions, questions the whole tradition of music-theatre.
REPERTOIRE, Szenisches Konzertstück
EINSPIELUNGEN, Musik für Lautsprecher
ENSEMBLE für sechzehn Stimmen
DEBÜT für sechzig Stimmen
SAISON, Sing-Spiel in 65 Bildern
SPIELPLAN, Instrumentalmusik in Aktion
KONTRA-DANSE, Ballett für Nicht-Tänzer
FREIFAHRT, Gleitende Kammermusik
PARKETT, Konzertante Massenszenen