City Lives (2014)

Music theatre for 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, bass,
chamber ensemble, computer and video projection
Ensemble (1.0.1.0-0.1.1.0-Perc(2)-Pno(2)-1.1.1.1.1)

Concept, Music, Text: Alexandros Mouzas
Video art, animation: Vicky Betsou
Illustrations: Alexia Othonaiou

Premiere: May 9th 2014, Megaron - the Athens Concert Hall

Sopranos: Artemis Bogri, Myrsini Margariti
Mezzo-soprano: Maria Vlachopoulou
Bass: Tassos Apostolou
Conductor: Andreas Tselikas
ERGON ENSEMBLE

Lighting designer: Sakis Birbilis
Costumes: Giorgos Segredakis

I. Intro
II. Street life
III. Social life
IV. Money life
V. Media life
VI. Early life
VII. Inner life
VIII. After life

About the piece

The city is more than meets the eye: the buildings, the streets, the sidewalks, the parks, the town squares or its people. It is the relationships which, like a giant spider’s web, connect all the pieces of one chaotic puzzle.

We are no mere physical entities. Our life no longer depends on our physical presence. Instead, we are multiple entities, veils, levels or concentric spheres that orbit within one another simultaneously.  

Our every activity, be it physical or mental, is one such sphere by which we are surrounded in the natural or virtual environment. Communication and communion with the equivalent spheres of other people connects and integrates us in a different network each time, forming atypical groups, subcultures or networks.

The urban space expands through its narrow geographical definition, taking in turn the form of the concentric circles: from our esoteric self to the vast social groups. 

We are multiple beings of different textures and composition that live many concurrent lives, whether overt or secret, esoteric or public. Together they form the totality of who we really are.

Through this performance I try to approach every kind of ‘life’ as I imagine it to be. I want to deconstruct those different layers, focusing on the point of view not so much of the different sides of life in a city (City Life) but on the different lives created or formed by such defining factors as communication, money, the Media, religion, culture as well as our ideas and belief systems. (Street Life, Social Life, Media Life, Money Life, Inner Life, After Life etc.)

The music of the piece acts in conjunction with the text, while the image and the videos inspire several interpretations of the messages.

The text and the parts of the work

Intro: This section summarizes the basic notions that run through the entire piece. The ideas of thinkers and intellectuals of our time, (such as Castell, Simmel, McLuhan) are evident: global village, Network Society, Meta-city, asynchronous communication, networks, nodes, flows.
Street Life: This is roughly based on the notion of the flâneur and the flânerie, and refers to the active participation in street life and its charm, casting an assessing look on the consistency (homogeneousness), speed and anonymity of the crowd in modern life. The observer is the explorer of the city, a voyeur in a gastronomical feast for the eye. “To see the world, to be in the centre of the world and yet to be hidden from the world.” This text is inspired by writings of Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Auguste-Marseille Barthélemy et.al. The flâneur played a crucial role in the understanding and illustration of the city life at the end of the 19th century and during modernism.
Social Life: “I and me”, “Who am I”, «What do I want to be”: Questions that have been troubling humanity since the time of Descartes. The texts try to travel in time through allusions to different sociological approaches concerning the development of the human personality. I was primarily interested in the contemporary theories of post-modernism thinkers (Castells, MacLuhan, Simmel, Mead) who emphasise the dynamic relation of the indivual to its environment. 
Money Life: Money and how it shapes our life and future. Man’s struggle to survive against the markets and the power of money. The texts, taken from foreign press headlines, create unwittingly a scary and suffocating stranglehold.
Media Life: A life bombarded by information, targeting solely our basic instincts but also molding our needs. The Medium and the Message. Lifestyle and the need to follow the trends of times. The text is a compilation of several advertising slogans of consumer products and companies contesting to offer us a “better” life. Their composition and juxtaposition releases new interpretations, telling of the violence and terror they conceal.
Early Life: Our childhood has been irrevocably traumatised by the heroes of well known fairytales, who, in their deceptive kindness, committed the most hideous crimes. Alice, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Shockheaded Peter are  trapped inside the text in an effort to be permanently ostracised. 
Inner Life: Here we are truly alone, silent, away from the hustle of the people. Alone with everything we love, with things that have something to tell us, our memories, our story, our real self. In this part of the work words are superfluous.  
After Life:  Man’s eternal endeavour to draw near and decipher God. Faith is a factor connecting us to very powerful networks very often determining the history of mankind. As every faith is utterly interwoven with dogmas on the after life, I called upon extracts from sacred texts related to this subject: Hermes Trismegistus (via the Kybalion), the Old Testament, the Tibetan Bible of the Dead, St. John’s Revelation, the Koran, the Ars Moriendi. The intergration of the texts was again most  revealing: a single iniating sequence uncovers gradually to man the one and only Truth.
Alexandros Mouzas

City Lives

Score, Mp3
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Images from the Live Performance:


Images from the Video Projection

 



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