Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Soldier's Tale

The Soldier's Tale

Hard at work on a performance on June 17th for the Festival O/Modernt in Ulriksdals Slottsteater Confidencen near Stockholm, my head is full of the jumpy hard-edged multi-rhythmic music of Stravinsky's l'Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier's Tale). With a bit of Tango, Waltz and Ragtime thrown in, this music is alternately humorous, wistful, crazy and full of irony. It seems to me to reflect the visual art style Cubism, where the subject is fragmented then re-structured as geometric forms, seen from multiple viewpoints. Stravinsky must surely have seen Picasso's early Cubist works in Paris, ten years before he composed The Soldier's Tale in Switzerland in 1918. By then the first signs of Art Deco were also taking shape and this had an influence on the designs and cut-outs you will see in my performance of kinetic painting to this wonderful music.

Stravinsky was stuck in la Suisse Romande during the First World War. Without access to major funding, he was forced to devise small-scale, compact music-theatre for a small group of players that could travel easily. Having lived in the Canton of Vaud for eleven years, I can vividly imagine this scene, even hear the Swiss-French accent of those performing the première.

What a good "Tale" it is! Igor Stravinsky and Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz based their subject on the Russian fable of a fiddling soldier, who trades his beloved violin (his soul) to the Devil for a means of becoming incredibly rich. With witty insights into the human condition, they create an anti-capitalist, anti-war allegory and a personal lesson to any one of us. 

Lively unpredictable rhythms, prickly irregularities, ironic marches keep you hopping, the Devil twitching and wheedling, the Soldier plodding on and getting hopelessly side-tracked on his way home. And my brushes have fun in synch with it all, taking on the characteristic movements and colours of first the Soldier, then the Devil, then the Princess. 
We feel the Soldier's hope, disillusionment and despair, as he philosophically shares his realisations with the Narrator (and us): "No one can have it all.... you must not seek to add to what you have, to what you once had", to the accompaniment of a sad atonal Chorale and my downward flowing colours. It's all still so relevant to today's common insatiable greed.
The above images are all taken from the performance of l'Histoire de Soldat that I gave ten years ago in the Concertgebouw. I wrote about it in my very first blog (link). 
Here's the opening sentence of De Telegraaf review:

"Stravinsky would have undoubtedly have given his approval to the fantastic synthesis of paint, theatre and music this weekend in the Concertgebouw.... With a superbly chosen combination of abstract and concrete images that flow into each in an ingenious manner, Perryman follows the structure of the music, but at the same time allows the development of his interplay of forms and colours. Rhythmically he moves his brush along the route the Soldier is following. When the devil cuts across the route, the brush is transformed into a threatening black monster."

I'll show you some of the new images soon, all painted live on about twenty-five glass plates on overhead projectors. I can't wait to perform with the talented ensemble that violinist Hugo Ticciati has assembled for his delightful festival. 


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