Antonin Artaud: "We do not mean to bore the audience to death with transcendental cosmic preoccupations. Audiences are not interested in whether there are profound clues to the show's thought and action, since in general this does not concern them. But these must still be there and that concerns us."
My relationship with 'tHE pHILOSOPHER"S sTONE" is rife with strange connections to many other arts and people I've known. I was first introduced to Antonin Artaud's "The Philosopher's Stone" in 1987, shortly after I began working with my first NYC theatre group Protean Forms Collective (PFC). This group, of whom I served as music director, was very much influenced by Artaud and his writings on theatre as were their forebears: Carlos Altomare's Alchemical Theatre and before that the Living Theatre of Julian Beck and Judith Malina. Interestingly, PFC had members who worked with and/or were taught by members of the Alchemical as they were by the Living etc. so this could be said to represent a lineage of sorts, a tangent being Malina's relationship with the late great American gamelan pioneer Lou Harrison in the 1950s. I worked at C.F.Peters, Harrison's publisher, and when he would call I'd often speak with him on the phone where he'd graciously answer my neophyte questions regarding the gamelan and non-Western tunings. The works of Robert Wilson owes a debt to Artaud and to the Living and his connection with the Indonesian arts is evidenced by his yearly trips to the archipelago in search of inspiration. I played with Gamelan Son of Lion, a new music gamelan based in NYC, that was founded by Barbara Benary, Philip Corner, and Daniel Goode. Barbara was in Philip Glass' original ensemble before he went off to create operas with Robert Wilson. I have always regarded Barbara and Dan as mentors of mine in the NYC brand of minimalism that was born in the SoHo lofts of the 60s and 70s and of world music in general. I had the pleasure of creating a musical work last summer for Rober Wilson's Watermill Center on Long Island, NY. The piece was a study in 5 tone scales and influenced in part by the Bali banjar-style working conditions of the Center.
These are just a small example of the coincidences that helped shape this present work of mine. Perhaps the most interesting ones are the ones that I have recently discovered in the creation of the piece and contained here in these pages.
In the search for useable graphics for the piece a web site dedicated to the quest of authenticating a possible Picasso painting was found. The painting is known as the "The Black Picasso" or as "The Three Dancers" and dates from around 1934. It abounds with hidden symbolism: alchemy, mythology, imagery central to Wagner and Satie, a numerological key by Albrecht Dürer (whose birth date of May 21st I share), and multiple Harlequins, a character not only central to "The Philosopher's Stone" but also regarded by Picasso throughout his career as his alter ego.
Interestingly, the painting, when turned upside down, reveals an abstract yet unmistakable double portrait of the Frankenstein monster.
When I first visited Martin Hatch at Cornell to suggest "The Philosopher's Stone" as a possible project I was delighted to discover that it had so much affinity with the larger "Frankenstein in Ithaca Project". Artaud wrote "The Philosopher's Stone" in 1931, the same year that Universal Studios released their original version of "Frankenstein" with Boris Karloff. It was from all of this kind of serendipity that this piece has finally come into being and being performed at Cornell.
I give my deepest thanks to Martin Hatch, Raharja, Ann Warde, David Borden (for introducing me to Marty and for being yet another musical mentor), and to the Cornell Gamelan Ensemble.
tHE pHiLOSOPHER'S sTONE Pages