In his experimental music theatre work Machinations, French composer Georges Aperghis (1945) sets human being against machine. Machinations is certainly not music theatre in the usual sense. In explanatory notes on the work, the composer refers to the four female protagonists as ‘operatrices’; their voices produce phonemes like distant ancestors of human speech. Alongside the women, and the dancers as their clones, the work also features an ‘assistant électronique’, who operates a computer. He transforms the voices, accentuates first one parameter then another in the flow of sound, uses them to unleash storms.

With the composer’s permission, Romain Bischoff, VocaalLAB Nederland’s artistic director, created his own version of Machinations, specially for Operadagen Rotterdam. Although Bischoff remains faithful to the ‘score’, visually and formally the performance is quite different from the original production by IRCAM in Paris. In VocaalLAB’s confrontational 2009 version, the public sits between the performers, caught within Aperghis’ Machinations and surrounded by film images. The projections show endless tunnels or enlargements of the singers, manipulated live by the film makers. In the 2009 version the voices are doubled by dancers, who in every respect virtually clone the singers.
To Bischoff, Machinations is about the birth of language, the person and the machine. He sees the work as reflecting the state of the modern world: “It’s not exactly a rose-coloured picture that Aperghis paints for us. Actually he believes that as human beings we are becoming machines. Machinations ends with the question, ‘Have we become a machine? We are a machine.’ It’s a beautiful end, but a sad one.”

Direction /film/choreography: Arjen Hosper and Martijn Vorstenbosch (EAST74), Johanne Saunier, Romain Bischoff
VocaalLAB soloists: Jennifer Claire van der Hart, Maria de los Angeles Marques Fernandez, Fanny Alofs, Mo Marcus
Sound engineer: Wouter Snoei
Dance company: Joji Inc (Be)
Dancers: Berengère Bodin, Sandra Ortega, Julye Verbinnen, Johanne Saunier
Lighting design: Henk van der Geest

With many thanks to the IRCAM Paris for the electronics. Special thanks to: Olivier Pasquet, Sylvie Levesque, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Sylvie Sacoun and Geneviève Strosser.
Costume design: Jaqueline Steijlen

NRC Handelsblad, 15-08-2009

The singers from VocaalLAB give a phenomenal performance of their virtuoso, tongue-twisting parts, which often interweave at lightening speed.

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