Critical concepts


As soon as you say this is a Living Room Opera not a living room, something happens.[1]

The chamber of chamber opera has been, variously, the rooms of a palace, the homes of musicians, village halls, small performance venues. Its form changing along with patterns in arts patronage and education, emerging music technologies and compositional practices. Thus the chamber is not a room, but a space that responds to varying constraints and potentials within performed music. To be sure it contains, like the heart of a labyrinth, contact between musicians and their audience somehow, but it is also a conduit facilitating the making of music more broadly, where making is a process that involves music’s patrons, audiences, players and composers; their varied techniques of engagement and access to resources; their changing needs and aspirations.

(F)inding a space to present, that’s “the chamber”. The chamber isn’t an extant space, the chamber is a concept, it’s an idea.[2]

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries the chamber has embraced the digital technologies that have so profoundly affected art-making and the socio-technical spaces in which art is produced, shared and understood. That heart-of-the-chamber—performance—is now frequently entwined with digital instruments and materials, projected images, synthesised sound, responsive lighting systems. It is increasingly accessed via networked devices, so audience and performers, attending the same performance, need not even be in the same room or performance-time together.

[The] videos capture moments which, although constructed for the camera, were once live. They grew from conversations and artistic inquiry, that grew from a common point of inspiration, itself a film. And you are located within them. Your presence in this setting completes it.[3]

Restless curiosity creates the chamber, a room becomes something else, cameras project thought, producing community. Curiosity manifests in this indefinable proximal space. The chamber is a conceptual space that refers to the stage, to the performance of music, to the ritual presentation of creation itself: Artaud’s alchemic theatre that ‘releases conflicts, disengages powers, liberates possibilities’.[4] Erkki Veltheim’s Another Other: a concrete poetics of creation, direct address to the nerves, risk .

[1] David Young, interview with Lawrence Harvey, 2014, unpublished transcript.

[2] Stephen Armstrong, “Video interview with Stephen Armstrong,” in 25 Years: Our First Quarter Century. 

[3] Sam McGilp, “Another Other: 0:00 and 1:24″, Agile Opera Digital, January 2018.

[4] Antonin Artaud, The Theatre And Its Double, Grove Press: New York, 1958: 31.


Photo credit: Pier Carthew

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