Photos: Kaja Thilesen
This new and overwhelming piece by Jennifer Walshe for Andreas Borregaard and the Oslo Sinfonietta explores the notion of “personhood”.
What does it mean to be a person at a time when our every moment is surveilled, mined and monetised by the devices we have extended our consciousness into?
What agency can we hope to have, when even one of the most famous pop stars in the world has no control over her own life?
What does it mean to be human when a billionaire class dreams of upgrading their existence and living forever, while the rest of us struggle with what to do with our hands when talking to a stranger at a party?
In this commissioned work by the Irish composer and vocalist Jennifer Walshe, the Oslo Sinfonietta surround the accordionist Andreas Borregaard and subject him to a range of tests and procedures.
Borregaard plays the accordion, performs obscure choreographies and watches films laden with subliminal messages; he is scored for how well he can fall over, he moves objects in endless patterns and drinks smoothies in strange colours. Are we in a laboratory? Mission control? A luxury spa? Or are we simply at home?
The commission was initiated by Borregaard, sparked by a previous collaboration with Walshe. It is related to his current artistic Ph.D. project at the Norwegian Music Academy (NMH) “Just Do It!? – en undersøgelse af musikerens brug af kropsperformance”. The project stems from a recent current within art music where the performers body is put forward as an essential and co-creating factor. The body is not just operating instruments but is brought into play in diverse and, until now, unheard of ways through movements, dance, touch, recitations, song, shouts, screams, noises etc.
With her essay in the booklet of Borealis 2016, Jennifer Walshe gave this new way of working the name “The New Discipline” – a term that has since gained great currency on the Western art music scene.
For a performing musician rooted in a traditional classical or contemporary music practice, such a bodily practice is a completely new field. How are works like this rehearsed? How do you create a connection with the audience? Should everything be learned by heart? What skills must be honed? And how do you relate to traditional, already acquired skills? How is a performance made relevant? Where – if at all – lies the role as interpreter? What identities are created on stage when you are stripped of your instrument?
In this way, PERSONHOOD is a sort of double exploration. On one hand, the work is part of an institutionalised art research at NMH. On the other hand, the performance itself embodies a live exploration in front of the audience: An artful laboratory where the ensemble subjects the soloist to a series of thought-provoking experiments. In both cases, questions related to individuality, self-worth, presence, and identity are explored. And in any case, PERSONHOOD is a completely overwhelming, profoundly original work of art in its own right, making exceptional demands on both the sinfonietta and the soloist.
Commissioned by: Oslo Sinfonietta, Andreas Borregaard, Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, New Music Dublin
Supported by: Arts Council of Ireland, FFUK, Bergesenstiftelsen
Production: Oslo Sinfonietta, Den Norske Opera & Ballett, Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival