Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

10.5. Forms of Life: Theatre Forms as an Articulated Way of Life
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Herbert Gantschacher (Klagenfurt)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

The Dialogue of Cultures - A Practical Report

Erich Heyduck



Singapore Arts Festival 2001

UROBOS: is an ancient symbol of a snake biting itself on its tail, a representation of the eternity of time.

PROJECT: 1 tr. plan or contrive (a course of action, scheme, etc), 2 tr. cast; impel. 3 tr. Extrapolate (results, etc.) to a future time.

TIME: in every culture the recognition of time is different.

UROBOS: PROJECT TIME was a music-theatre piece exploring the notion of time as perceived and projected by different cultures and how these relate and coexist in and outside the constructed and collective time perception(s) of a society.

The music theatre piece was co-produced by four theatre companies from countries from four continents: Austria, Argentina, Australia and Singapore. Every theatre company represents his/her interpretation of time from his/her culture.

ARBOS - Company for Music and Theatre (Austria) representing Europe expressed the different perceptions of time of three dominant cultures in Europe - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - with newly composed musical offerings. These offerings draw inspiration from musical traditions of the cultures. Accentuating the cultural diversities, these compositions have been written by four composers of varied origins - Lukas Haselböck (Austria), Herbert Lauermann (Austria), Arsen Dedic (Croatia) and Petr Pokony (Czech Republic).

EQIPO DE TRABAJO (Argentine) representing America reflected the landscape of La Pampa, a flat, vast, fertile and yet uninhibited plain provided Argentine composer, Martin Bauer, the impetus to interpret Time as being suspended through the concept of symmetry.

Australia is represented by two indigenous dancers of the Tiwi Islands and the Seymour Group from Sydney. From the perspective of the people of Tiwi Island in Australia, Time was dominated by the rhythm of the land and its seasons, inextricably linked to the stories of the aboriginals' concept of Dreamtime. Through an ongoing cooperation with the Tiwi people, choreographer Raymond Blanco, composer Michael Atherton and members of The Seymour Group have composed a work for two indigenous dancers that explores death and renewal.

Singapore represents in the project Asia. From the point of view of the cultural climate of Singapore, Time can be conceived and projected as the domain where the old and the new coexist and contrast. This domain, interpreted by composer Joyce Bee Tuan Koh, was articulated musically through the confrontation and cohabitation of two acoustics drumming of traditions (Indian and Chinese) and a sound artist using computer technology to manipulate and treat the sound sources in real time.

Each segment of UROBOS: PROJECT TIME harbours the potential to develop into a larger work. While maintaining the characteristic features of each representation of Time, the segments were linked by musical passages, entitled TIMETUNNEL and composed by Austrian composer Werner Raditschnig, to give the music-theatre piece a sense of continuity and coherence.

As an international artistic cooperation project, UROBOS: PROJECT TIME was an exemplification of our present world - a synergy of cultural multiplicity and the multifarious facets of time.

Coproduced by Singapore Arts Festival, ARBOS - Company for Music and Theatre (Austria), Fundacion Centre de Estudios Avanzados en Musica contemporanea Buenos Aires (Argentina), Martin Bauer and Equipo de Trabajo (Argentina), and The Seymour Croup (Australia).


Performed by ARBOS

ARBOS - Company for Music and Theatre is based in Vienna, Salzburg and Klagenfurt (Austria). ARBOS is specialised in the realisation of new forms of theatre, especially projects of contemporary music, scenic concerts, theatre for young people, theatre for the deaf, directed space, theatrical exhibitions and crossover projects that combine various artistic disciplines.

ARBOS productions have received numerous awards in Austria and Europe. In 1993, the opera of Viktor Ullmann and Petr Kien "The Emperor of Atlantis" (written in the concentration camp Theresienstadt in 1943/44) in the production of ARBOS was awarded as "The Music Theatre Production of the Year in Prague".

The opera "Kar" by Herbert Lauermann (music) and Christian Fuchs (libretto) - performed inside a dam 2,300 meters above sea level in the Alp - received the MAECENAS Prize in 1994.

In 1999 the music theatre project "Different Trains" (three chamber operas about deportation and Holocaust performed on a moving train through Europe) got the ARTECO Prize In the same year ARBOS got the European Art Award by the Financial Times.

The scenic idea for the European segment of UROBOS: PROJECT TIME was Instrumental Theatre. The personality of the musician was the centre of the performance. Instruments and persons were essential in the act of performance. The music, text, movement and sound formed a scene in combination with lighting and costumes. All the pieces were performed with visual gestures. The works were as follows:

1. Herbert Lauermann (Austria): Timepiece for clarinet and percussion

2. Lukas Haselböck (Austria): Prayer for flute, clarinet and accordion

3. Herbert Lauermann (Austria): Timepiece for clarinet and percussion

4. Arsen Dedic (Croatia): Urobos about Istria, Dalmatia, Bosnia and the Balkans

5. Herbert Lauermann (Austria): Timepiece for clarinet and percussion

6. Petr Pokorny (Czech Republic): Crying and laughing, lamenting and dancing, everything happens in the right time.

For ARBOS, the performance of UROBOS: PROJECT TIME was the conclusion of a trilogy in search of new open forms of theatre. This "Story of Voyages" was a mosaic of different stories, forming one whole. It was the culmination of a search for the inner nucleus of different cultures, with relation to the concept of open theatre. The main principle of this voyage was to unite the microcosmos of Europe with those of different lands.

The first project "The Singing of the Fools about Europe" involves music and literature of Central Europe. The symbolism of "Water" is explored, as the rivers of Europe unite different cultures within the continent. In the second project "The Concert of Birds" the symbol of "Air" is the focus of the project. While water requires channels like rivers for their movement, air encounters no barriers between lands.

The element of "Time" has different meanings in different cultures, but "Time" is also a relating factor for these cultures. From a Centraleuropean point of view, we are asking how Europe is related to different cultures of the world. A living theatre must deal with such questions, and the different musical cultures from within Europe are represented - from a Christian, Islamic or Jewish point of view.


performed by Equipo de Trabajo

The landscape of La Pampa is for Martin Bauer in UROBOS: PROJECT TIME his affinity to this landscape of South America in his choice of the guitar - the typical instrument of "La Pampa". The guitars are used as the people from this landscape are used to do - mostly using arpeggios, a characteristic of the Milonga typical style of Pampas music. The interplay between light, movement and the music of two guitars and a viola, proposes a sense of timelessness.

Six shining pillars illuminated with white fluorescent lamps, were the conseqent feeling of the expended horizont of a flat and timeless landscape. Divided in two dimmabled current circuits, the endless of time between inside, one component performed by a dancer with two pillars, and outside, four pillars for each musician were the basics of reflecting timelessness. Six lightcues accompanied the dynamic structure of the performance.


performed by The Seymour Group

Fire and Rain

The English colonisation of Australia has had a devastating impact on both the land and its indigenous culture. Europeans sought to dominate the land and its people, to make sense of it in their eyes. Part of this domination has been to impose their own seasons and calendars upon it.

But for Aboriginal people, whose lives are so closely linked to the land, these Western concepts of time are meaningless. They have a far more intricate understanding of the time of this place. Where Western eyes see on two seasons in "Arnhem Land" - the wet and the dry - the Gagadju culture recognises six. Where Western eyes see only linear calendar time, the Aboriginals of the central deserts sees cyclical time, and unending recurrence of night and day. As for many indigenous cultures, the seasons are marked by times of fire and times of rain.

A significant thread in Aboriginal culture is Dreamtime, when the land and all its inhabitants were created. inevitably a sense of time formed an integral part of these creation stories. For the people of the Tiwi Islands, the presence of night and day was an inextricable part of birth and death, and their story of how death came into the world centres partly around the figure of Tjaparra. The moon man who forever dies and is reborn.

Composer Michael Atherton has spent much of his life researching Aboriginal culture and music. During the course of a cooperation project which focused around the Pukamani story of the Tiwi Islands, tribal elders Simon Titungwuti and Celmentine Puruntatameri worked with The Seymour Croup, sharing their stories, dance and songs. This cooperation culminated in Atherton developing musical material which is drawn from the melodies and rhythms of the traditional music of Tiwi culture.

The music for "Fire & Rain" has been adapted by members of The Seymour Group from this material, with the permission and generosity of the Tiwi people and the composer.


Project Time: Singapore

PROJECT TIME: SINGAPORE is a theatre of music. The composition structure is based on a text which Joyce Bee Tuan Koh has amassed from several sources. The text provides the trajectory of the music and determinates the process in which the musical elements unfold and develop. The performers speak and deliver the text while playing on their instruments. These live sounds of the voices and drumming are in turn manipulated digitally. The theatrical aspect lies in the dynamic interaction of the drumming, speaking and digitally manipulated responses.

The most evident trace of an individual's relation to time is the ageing process of the skin. The process of ageing is accentuated paradoxically by the individual's obsession of wanting to reverse the irreversible time by seeking out the ways to look younger, stay healthy and to live longer. This urge of the individual is cunningly manipulated by the commercialized cosmetic world of skin creams and facelifts. The individual is absorbed into a cycle of interdependency, made to believe that there is this need to use their products. The underlying agenda in the consciousness or unconsciousness of the daily life is thus of our reliance to the exterior; an image based on a notion of beauty shaped by the advertising media.

Singapore society's relationship with time can be effectively exemplified from the architectural perspective. The landscape of the island has changed drastically through the 36 years of urban renewal. For instance, new buildings replace older ones, and the new in turn become old with time and are replaced by yet newer buildings. The process of replacement inevitably includes a certain degree of displacement and erosion of what has been there before. When the rate of replacement occurs at a relatively fast rate, the risk of being in perpetual momentum increases. Such a climate demands one to address the issue of what is ultimately left of the old: if the urban renewal is a renewal of the old or through the new which also implies a redefinition of the role of culture.

The coda of the composition draws on the larger view of what is to be outside time. Is time the sensation when we see a change? Is time the moment when we remember? Or is time the speed of forgetting?

© Erich Heyduck

10.5. Forms of Life Theatre Forms as an Articulated Way of Life

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

TRANS       Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  15 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Erich Heyduck: The Dialogue of Cultures - A Practical Report. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

Webmeister: Peter R. Horn     last change: 24.8.2003     INST