Be QUIET, we will tell you how we composed it

2′ 16′′ and a half: Space Odyssey opera guide
sumYou might be interested in how and from what the 2′ 16′′ and a half: Space Odyssey opera has been composed.
Composer and conductor Marek Piaček collected lots of famous and also less well known compositions. He presented us with his favourite pieces of classical music, opera, film and experimental music and at workshops he and participants played, reshaped and completed their tunes. Musical scientists will be able to reveal it at the first hearing of the opera. For others, this is the article that introduces them all one by one.

Originally we thought that the opera theme would be horror scary stories but eventually it is mostly about silence. Fortunately, we did not lose the horror completely, once in a while there is a joke mixed in and therefore the opera has a drive as well as excitement! But the silence became the main topic. The famous composition 4′ 33′′ by John Cage was an idea behind it. The composition dates back to 1952 and it is easy to find out what it is about:

At the very beginning of the opera there is Introduction to the symphonic poem Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Richard Strauss from 1896. It is a very famous music which became popular thanks to the director Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie 2001: Space Odyssey. (Have you realized that the movie has just returned to cinemas around Slovakia?) A piece of this impressive composition sounds in our opera several times – in various versions – it became a sort of chorus.

Opera aria the Queen of the night from the Magic flute opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart belongs amongst the best known classical operas. It was first introduced in 1871. Can you believe that after passing a mysterious space hole it can be sang by a small girl from the 21st century?

Many of you will definitely recognize the first composition in the second act! It is a famous music by Ludwig van Beethoven called “For Elise” and created probably in 1810.

But… (Watch out, the horror starts!)… Our Elise ends up in jaws of a shark. We used music from the movie Jaws (1975) by Steven Spielberg.

And if it is not enough, they will even try to kill her. Proper psycho! A quote is from the movie Psycho (1960) by another movie giant Alfred Hitchcock.

To take a breath this is followed by something very pleasant. A song by Penguin Cafe Orchestra. We play “till we drop”.

Male – Mailer - Mahler. We play with the name of Gustav Mahler and a part of his serious work “Symphony No. 3” (composed between 1893 and 1896). But there is no malice in it.

It would be malicious if we invited you to a concert on the ship Titanic. Just before sinking of the ship, a group of 8 devoted musicians keep playing the music until they all die. The music Nearer, My God, to Thee from 1841 is by Sarah Flower Adams and a sample is from the movie Titanic (1997).

Politics does not exclude the horror, just the opposite. The two great powers, the United States and China started to approve of each other and in 1972 the US president Nixon visited China for the first time. As it was not only about serious debates, the Chinese Chairman Mao took to the dance of foxtrot. We did not make this up and here is a sample from the John Adams opera Nixon in China (1987).

Girls and boys who star in our opera do not only dedicate themselves to music but also to making movies, animations, sounds and noise. Some of those are played out during breaks between acted parts of the opera. “Folk” song “My little dog Bobby” is from 2011 and it has been also performed by Nina K. These days she does not sing but she plays a Western concert flute in our orchestra. We did not use the music nor video in the opera.-)

We are really a large symphonic orchestra and we are even able to play great symphonic compositions such as The Right of Spring (1913) by Igor Stravinsky. Obviously, we are being assisted by a bunch of wage professionals – boys from the Slovak Philharmonic. Karol, Cyril, Marián - thanks!

We do not only play melodies but also strange noises, screeches and complex compositions which we learned from notable composers of the 20th century such as La Monte Young , Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti, Luciano Berio or John Carpenter.

And if you think that adults are not able to play like children do, listen to this. Again it is our chorus, but it will sound false, even ridiculous. This music has been recorded by The Portsmouth Sinfonia (1970-1979). The orchestra had an unusual entrance requirement – anyone who wanted to play was welcome, from non-musicians to professional musicians. But everyone had to play an instrument that was entirely new to them – in the end it sounded as if they all exchanged their instruments. Everyone played to the best of their abilities and eventual result sounded like this:

We are nearly at the end and can remind of what is the main theme of the opera. Do you remember? Try and record some silence on your mobile phone. That is what we did and in the final part of the opera you can hear the recordings. Theoretically, if large amounts of such “silent” recordings were put together, a sound signal called white noise would be made. Interesting and versatile phenomenon! It is used in architecture acoustics, music, psychology and in the field of healthy sleep.

And what do you think about this? (.-))
A ghost with a red jacket and a cut out mouth asks people whether he is pretty or ugly. If a man replies he is pretty, he will get his mouth cut out. If he says ‘ugly’, he will get killed. The only way to survive is to stay quiet and not to say anything for 24 hours. Then the ghost is powerless.

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