Aikainen [='early/about time'] is an opera about time and its different aspects. The work spans the realms of many art forms; besides music theatre, it also embraces elements of visual arts, performance art, poetry, and film, bringing together 3D-printed instruments, 3D-video and a walk-in score in the form of a a Moebius strip. The text material combines prose and poetry by the Finnish authors Riikka Pelo, Saila Susiluoto and Henriikka Tavi with philosophical and scientific texts.
Musically, the opera is a confession of love to the human voice and its flexibility. Two vocal artists on stage together with three opera singers on 3D-video provide a wide spectrum: From 'Sprechgesang' to overtone singing and from cattle call cries to dramatic opera voice. The musical language of Aikainen is based on prime numbers and the pendulum movement – both of the core elements being audible and visible in many aspects of the piece, from melodies and structures of the work to the stage setup.
Aikainen is a conceptually dense piece, but there are no wrong ways of navigating through it. Every experience is right. Different aspects of temporality become intertwined, but the performers of Aikainen are hostages of the now: They have no other option but to work through each moment as they best can. Like temporal explorers they are mapping the musical landscape and trying to figure out where and how time is situated around them spatially: Is it running in a linear manner from left to right, or perhaps moving horizontally? Are we watching the future evolve ahead of us, or is it actually the past that we are able to see? The past, the future and the futures of the past also manifest themselves as projected images, while the now commands the performers in the form of time code, in its futile attempt to keep time, space and events in synch.
The pendulum is an object cutting space and time - Forced into the form of an instrument.
The prime numbers are the best metaphor for time: every new prime contains all the information of the previous ones. They are everywhere in the piece, the number of performers, parts, notes, pitches, rhythms and performances. How many can you find? Is it of any importance?
The fractal form is a combination of those two and could be coded like this: normal-normal-short-long-short-normal-normal. It is the form of the whole piece, but a rhythm so nice it can even be used as the structure of the tiniest of details.
Act I – The Endings
Different endings symbolize the beginning of Aikainen. Endings form a temporal bridge to something new, they are all childish games, the end of something we used to love: music, tonality, joy, applause, death! The games decide who performs and who dies.
Act II – Fräulein Zeit
Real-time: How does a musical piece actually find its form in time? First we hear the music come out of the text. That one must have taken a lot of practice. And then we witness composing on video with the singer performing it prima vista: Is this opera or a circus act? Finally, the composing takes place live. Shouldn’t they be using a safety net?
Berlin, 04:15 h: Different times.
Act III – Generations
Two singers, perhaps two generations, chained by a Moebius strip. They sing with each other, against each other and about each other. In the middle of a philosophical fight time slows down.
We see another variation of generations in the form of the norns; virgin, mother, witch. Their interaction happens on a level that is incomprehensible to us, it is in other dimensions. Afterwards everything repeats itself.
Helsinki, 16:15 h: As a child I could make time slow down.
Act V – Memories
Retrospection: Composers love recycling.
The act of remembering becomes part of the performance. Can memories be shared? Is it possible for two people to remember anything the same way?
The memory of Act IV – Timespace
Simultaneousness : 12 poems / 12 months / 12 games. Albert Einstein’s timespace consists of four dimensions, every point in space and time is different, for the piece, for the performers and for the audience.
Photos © Patrick Neumann.