Three Futurists Program Notes

Tatatata (Jacob TV)

If you listen to the ghettoblaster on stage, you will be able to hear the voice and memories of French futurist Guillaume Apollinaire.  Tatatata is one of a series of works by the Dutch composer Jacob Tel Veldhuis (or JacobTV, as he goes by), written specifically for live instruments and ‘ghettoblaster’.  Tatatata is a duet between the double bass and the voice of Apollinaire, who is credited as one of the first surrealists.

Ballet Mécanique (George Antheil)

Written in 1923 by the self-described ‘Bad Boy of Music’ George Antheil, Ballet Mécanique was originally composed as a thirty minute soundtrack to a Dadaist inspired film (you can read more here, composed for robotic instruments.  Antheil was forever experimenting with ways of incorporating mechanical sounds into music (check out his Airplane Piano Sonata), and the Ballet Mécanique originally included sirens and airplane propellers.

In our nine minute version, is Griffyn leading the machine, or is the machine leading Griffyn?  Is technological advancement inevitable?

Song of Seikilos

We don’t know who composed the Song of Seikilos, but it is thought to have been inscribed sometime between 200BC and 100AD on a grave pillar which was later found in 1883 in present day Turkey.  The text translates:

I am a portrait in stone,
I was put here by Seikilos,
where I remain forever, the
symbol of timeless remembrance

Incorporated into the Song is a fragment of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, which relates the story of Helen of Troy, whose beauty led to hundreds of ships being destroyed.

Happy Deathday Mister Robot (Michael Sollis)

There comes a time in every robot’s life when it will be told that the promise of electronic mmortality is all but a story grown-up robots make up to protect the innocence of their younger brethren.  Thus begins The Great Learning, where a robot must come to grips with the inevitability of its future death.  The Robot Congregation marks this rite of passage with the ritual Deathday, welcoming the younger robot into its new stage of life.

Although we have yet to discern exactly how the Deathday is performed or how it affects the psyche of an individual robot (since no human has yet been allowed to witness it), the piece of music Happy Deathday Mister Robot! is a guess as to how the ritual may occur.  This estimation is based on imagery from Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal coupled with the themes from the adapted screenplay Blade Runner amongst several other sources.

Happy Deathday was first performed in 2012 in New York.  This is the Australian premiere of the work.

Jesus Is Coming (JacobTV)

Jesus Is Coming is another work by JacobTV for ghettoblaster and instruments.  Written in 2003, the piece is inspired by the trauma and the role of religion in the history of man: ‘God kills’. Is Jesus really coming? It is about time…

The piece features sound bytes from the streets of New York, an angry street evangelist on Times Square (New York), and a small choir of the Salvation Army.  There is a ‘groove’ based on the rhythmical baby talk from two Dutch girls.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught (Rodgers and Hammerstein)

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is a song from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, sung by Lieutenant Joseph Cable as he struggles to come to grips with the cultural influence of race relations on the South Pacific island, as well as racism more generally.

When South Pacific was first performed the song was particularly controversial, and faced much protest particularly in the south of America.  Rodgers and Hammerstein repeatedly claimed that the message of this song was the most important aspect of the musical.  The song is still considered to be controversial in theatres today and has been known to be occasionally omitted from performance.

Fitter Happier (Radiohead)

Fitter Happier featured on the landmark 1997 album OK Computer, which is noted for its use of electronic instrumentation, Orwellian themes, and political influences.  In the original recording, the work features an electronic voice over the top of electronic sound effects and an out of tune piano:

Fitter, happier, more productive
Comfortable, not drinking too much
Regular exercise at the gym 3 days a week
Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries

At ease, eating well
No more microwave dinners and saturated fats
A patient better driver, a safer car, baby smiling in back seat
Sleeping well, no bad dreams, no paranoia
Careful to all animals, never washing spiders down the plughole

Keep in contact with old friends, enjoy a drink now and then
Will frequently check credit at Moral Bank hole in wall
Favors for favors, fond but not in love
Charity, standing orders, on Sundays ring road supermarket

No killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants
Car wash also on Sundays
No longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows
Nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
Nothing so childish

At a better pace, slower and more calculated
No chance of escape, now self-employed
Concerned but powerless
An empowered and informed member of society

Pragmatism, not idealism
Will not cry in public
Less chance of illness
Tires that grip in the wet
Shot of baby strapped in back seat
A good memory

Still cries at a good film
Still kisses with saliva
No longer empty and frantic
Like a cat tied to a stick
That’s driven into frozen winter shit

The ability to laugh at weakness
Calm, fitter, healthier and more productive
A pig in a cage on antibiotic

Believer (JacobTV)

Believer is a powerful work for ghettoblaster and instrument, based on a Christmas Fox News interview in 2004 between Bill O’Reilley and George Bush Jnr about the Iraq War.  The interview starts off with Bill asking “So you are indeed a true believer?”, and then follows with Bush’s response.

The work also features as a movement in Jacob TV’s White Flag, a powerful piece inspired by the war in Iraq and amateur videos by US soldiers and marines.