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The Singer in the Empty Space - a Poetics. Performing the Gilgamesh Epic and Songs of John Dowland and Evert Taube.

Research project
Inactive research
Project owner
Academy of Music and Drama

Short description

Dissertation by Sven Kristersson, 2010
The aim of this doctoral project is to explore an expanded role of the singer in an artistic field situated between poetry, theatre, music and reflection.

The project consists of three parts: Firstly, three performances of songs and poetry: (a) Me, Me and None but Me!, a blank-verse monologue connecting songs of John Dowland, (b) Gilgamesh – The Man Who Refused to Die, a musical version of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, and (c) The Poet and Time, interpretations of works by the Swedish chansonier Evert Taube.
As artistic methods, I use the Shakespearean traditions described in Peter Brook’s The Empty Space. Within these traditions, scenic communication is established using verbal imagery instead of a stage set. Secondly, a thesis, where I describe the working process of the performances as a series of problem-solving. I also compare my performances to performances by contemporary artists. In the thesis, I also apply a method of inquiry in which I use the Orpheus myth as a means of understanding the expanded role of the singer. Thirdly, a film by Lars Westman. The DVD contains excerpts from the performances and interviews with me, conducted by Westman and by the Norwegian singer and researcher Astrid Kvalbein.

The results of my research are firstly manifest in the performances themselves. Secondly, the written descriptions articulate a synthesis of artistic knowledge which has not previously been collected in one publication. Thirdly, the comparing of the Dowland performance with other performances constitutes a mapping of new forms of presenting lieder on a national level. The comparison with a Palestinian Gilgamesh performance gives new knowledge about how Western theatrical traditions are combined with Arabian storytelling tradition in an international context. Fourthly, the Taube performance implies new results in literary scholarship. Finally, the inquiries into the use of the Orpheus myth show that the mythic figure can be seen as an embodiment of “knowing-in-action”. Thus, the thesis establishes a link between practice-based research and mythology as embodied knowledge.