In her opera Lautsprecher Arnolt (2004) Huba de Graaff decided to have most roles played by loudspeakers. Only the main character—the writer, Arnolt Bronnen (1895-1959)—is played by a human actor, Marien Jongewaard. Arnolt himself is literally a “loud speaker”, screaming and provoking the kinetic loudspeaker sculptures.
The music theatre work Lautsprecher Arnolt (2004) presents the story of Arnolt Bronnen, a historical figure. Bronnen had a crazy life in a crazy time period: he was a playwriter, he became severely injured in World War I, he was a friend of Bertolt Brecht and of Joseph Goebbels, he married Goebbels lover, the actress Olga; he was a Nazi, but joined the resistance at the end of World War II, he became a communist, and in the end he moved to East Berlin.
Lautsprecher Arnolt is a co-creation. Huba de Graaff (NL) is the composer and the creator of its main concepts, such as the role of the loudspeakers, which is a recurring theme in her oeuvre. Loudspeakers are not neutral, invisible entities in De Graaff’s work, but hilarious theatrical personae, or otherwise prominently present. In Lautsprecher Arnolt, the stage is overcrowded with all kinds of loudspeakers. Some loudspeakers are like singing puppets, which move independently or are manipulated by the only human actor (Marien Jongewaard), seemingly in a dialogue. The loudspeakers are also material entities, funny looking, inventive objects, but also obstacles that stand in the way and are thrown around.
The loudspeakers emit a multitude of voices, sounds and musical styles, partaking in the performance and evolving along with the dramatic course. While having fun with loudspeakers, Lautsprecher Arnolt also has a political focus, dramatizing the role of public address sound technology in Nazi Germany and other mass movements: loudspeakers as a political medium.
A male composer and a female vocalist are a common combination in electroacoustic music, as I showed in my dissertation and previous articles; and this relates to gender patterns in other cultural domains. The performance of male actor Marien Jongewaard is remarkable in this respect. Marien Jongewaard’s performance is intense, bodily, emotional, expressive; ranting, singing, screaming and crying like a madman. In Lautsprecher Arnolt, the bizarre story of Arnolt Bronnen becomes a display of excessive masculinity going rampant. This man is a ‘loud-speaker’ in a world of loudspeakers.
Lautsprecher Arnolt is a show with loudspeakers, about loudspeakers. Instead of the assumption of neutrality, abstraction and perfection of the electroacoustic apparatus, in Lautsprecher Arnolt there is an emphasis on both playfulness and socio-political meaning of sound technology.
compositie/concept: Huba de Graaff
libretto/regie: Erik- Ward Geerlings
installaties: Bart Visser