L’Amour à sept cordes

Spectacle de Théâtre Musical conçu et interprété par Garth Knox,
alto et viole d’amour

Mise en scène : Emmanuèle Stochl
Musiques : Garth Knox
Régie son, lumière : Philippe Boses
Décors : Jack Vanarsky

L’amour à sept cordes is a theatrical concert for solo performer playing violas and of course viola d’amore, which explains the title. There is a small amount of selective amplification (explanation to follow) and pre-recorded tapes of the live instruments, but no electronic effects are used. The general tone is intimate and simple, ideally to be presented in small theatres where the audience is reasonably close to the action.

The original idea for the show came from my discovery of the viola d’amore, great enthusiasm swiftly followed by equally great disappointment when I realised that the magical aura of sound created by the seven sympathetic strings underneath the fingerboard is hardly perceptible to anyone more than two metres away, unless they make a great effort. So in fact you who are playing, and the beautiful girl sitting on the bench next to you are transported by the heavenly sound, and no one else can understand why.
Then I realised that whereas in the eighteenth century there was nothing you could do about it, except to entertain your audience one by one, nowadays we have the technology to enhance this miniature musique of the spheres and make it clearly audible to a hall full of people.

After a few experiments, I found a good way to amplify only the sympathetic strings of the viola d’amore leaving the natural gut strings above with their real acoustic sound, giving a kind of hybrid instrument, half baroque and half modern.
It occurred to me that these sympathetic strings were a kind of memory for the instrument. Everything which is played on the normal strings leaves acoustic traces in the sympathetic strings - not a straight echo, but a kind of harmonically encoded souvenir. And with this amplification, it is possible to boost the level of these memories so they become as audible as the original sound, or even louder than the received memory, even much louder than the gesture responsible for the vibration.

This realisation, combined with the wish I had already to find a way to combine small pieces into a bigger form without losing their self-contained aspect led me to imagine a show in the form of a large viola d’amore - seven pieces, corresponding to the seven strings of the viola d’amore, and as each string has its double, so each piece would have its sympathetic string, or memory, represented by the tape. Added to this would be the real-time memory of the viola d’amore, the amplified sympathetic strings, and also the musical memory of the types of musique it has lived through over the centuries (and some others it definately never knew!)

The idea is to put all these strings together and to find a way to make them resonate with each other, so that we have the impression of being ourselves sympathetic strings inside an enormous viola d’amore.


© François Figlarz