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If Music Be the Food of Love: An Acoustic ‘Fourth World’ in Ong Keng Sen’s Awaking”

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  • Marcus Tan

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Staged as an attempt to ‘bring together Shakespeare’s plays and Tang Xian Zu’s classical Kunqu opera, The Peony Pavilion,’ (Ong, Programme Notes) Awaking stands as Singapore Director Ong Keng Sen’s most recent and prominent attempt at engaging issues of the intercultural through music and sound. While Ong’s previous intercultural projects sought to explore the politics of intercultural performance through the exchange, layering, confrontation and inter-mixing of Asian performance modes as visual aesthetics, Awaking is a performance at the borders of theatrical and musical conventions, as it features the music and musicians as central performative devices of staging the intercultural. Northern Kunqu opera, Chinese classical music and Elizabethan folk tunes from Shakespeare’s plays were re-moved, re-contextualised, and juxtaposed to explore ‘differing yet connected philosophies on love, death, and the afterlife’ (Awaking, Publicity). These humanist and ‘universal’ themes found expression in the ‘universal’ language of music. Through a study of the musicalities and sonic expressions of Awaking, the paper seeks to explore the implications of such cultural-musical juxtapositions. The paper engages, specifically, with the problematics and possibilities of music as a ‘universal language’ as implied by Ong’s concordance of Eastern and Western sounds in the final act. It further considers the politics of an intercultural soundscape and the acoustemologies of such an intercultural approach.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)37-57
JournalPlatform: Postgraduate eJournal of Theatre and Performing Arts
Journal publication date05 Aug 2009
Issue number2
StatePublished - 05 Aug 2009

ID: 2600210