Ex Pharao, mechanically manipulating an orchestra

Ex Pharao

Ex Pharao is a re-elaboration of the Moses und Aron serial work by Arnold Schönberg and of the lives of Moses and his brother Aaron, their relation with the people of Israel and the internal struggle that pitted the two brother against each other among doubts, idolatrous temptations and renewed faith. André and Michel Décosterd, a musician and an architect, artistically united under the name Cod.Act, have attempted to visualize the work of the Austrian composer in an installation where the watcher is an actor who turns into a conductor. That is, by interacting with the installation, the watcher embodies the people of Israel, while, by moving within the installation, he can change the intensity of the orchestra and the choir, replying to the statements of the prophets. This installation (currently exhibited at the [plug.in] gallery in Basel) was built trying to be as faithful as possible to the original work from which only one scene was taken: the one where Moses and Aaron try to convince the skeptical people of Israel. To obtain such a fidelity, the Décosterd brothers, applying a serial logic, have rewritten the score in such a rigorous way as to adapt it perfectly to the sound manipulation software. As a result of this effort, in Ex Pharao, the sound alterations triggered in real time by the interaction of the visitors never produce any significant variation with respect to Schönberg’s original work. The installation is made of a corridor delimited by two sets of ropes which represent the physical context of Schönberg’s work. There are cables to control the rotation of two levers at whose ends there’s a loudspeaker. These two loudspeakers, according to the authors, represent Moses and Aaron. When a visitor enters the corridor, he literally stands in front of the prophets and, by pulling the cables, he can tweak the sound parameters, changing the expressiveness of the orchestra and choir. Proceeding through the corridor, the visitor is then reached by the prophets’ voices. He’s part of the drama with his every sense. It’s a unique occasion to live a truly multisensorial experience whose interactive nature creates the context for a profound relationship with Schönberg’s work, to absorb the power of the myth and feel the destiny of the ‘chosen people’ as his own.

Vito Campanelli