Resonancias: Revista de investigación musical

ISSN 0719 - 5702 (en línea); ISSN 0717 - 3474 (impresa)

N°50 /

Junio 2022

Portada Resonancias nº50 2022-p


Erasing Memory and Trauma in Mark Ravenhill and David Chisholm’s The Experiment. The effort of remembering, or how to not fall into oblivion through the use of vestigial forms in contemporary contexts

Mauricio Carrasco

Artistic Director CRI, création recherche interdisciplinarité, Geneva, Switzerland
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Resonancias vol. 25, n° 49, julio-noviembre 2021, pp. 201-220.


“When a new work deliberately extends the possibilities of a tradition, […] a further source for uncertainty is introduced in knowing the degree to which an inherited term is apposite.”

Naomi Cumming, from The Sonic Self: Musical Subjectivity and Signification


The Experiment[1] deliberately aimed to extend the possibilities of the musical monodrama tradition, creating a further source for uncertainty that could have explained why almost every critic felt disoriented reviewing the work. Newspaper and magazine critics were not sure to whom to send their review (whether a music or a theatre journalist), highlighting the specialisation that dominates the different art genres. Jacques Derrida argued “[g]enres are not to be mixed” (Derrida 1992, 223), since doing so can open a space of uncertainty that destabilises the public and the critics’ appreciation and judgment of a transdisciplinary work. The twelve reviews of performances during the 2015 Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne Art Festivals presented diverse opinions of the show yet were almost unanimous in criticizing Mark Ravenhill’s text for its lack of a coherent narrative. It was as if neither Hans-Thies Lehmann’s classic text Postdramatic Theatre nor Samuel Beckett had ever existed.

As with Arnold Schoenberg’s early-twentieth-century monodrama Erwartung, The Experiment “seeks to provide the audience with the opportunity to have a ‘co-experience’ with a protagonist” (Payette 2008, 139). Unlike traditional opera or melodrama, monodrama requires the spectator “to piece together a fragmented plot, or in extreme cases, to construct one”.[2] This experience is one of an intricate narrative: “the linguistic and physical disjunction that is characteristic of modern monodramatic protagonists often makes this task a rather daunting one” (Ibid, 139).

A logical and linear narrative was the opposite of what The Experiment presented to Australian audiences. For this work, a multidisciplinary team formed by Mark Ravenhill (playwright), David Chisholm (composer), Mauricio Carrasco (performer), Jude Anderson (dramaturge), Emmanuel Bernardoux (painter and video artist), and Matthew Gingold (media artist), conceived “a challenging, demanding and at times ‘in your face’ performance”.[3] Theatre critic Aleks Sierz used the term “in-yer-face” to designate a group of playwrights including Sarah Kane, Martin Crimp, Anthony Neilson, and Ravenhill:

The widest definition of in-yer-face theatre is any drama that takes the audience by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until it gets the message. It is a theatre of sensation: it jolts both actors and spectators out of conventional responses, touching nerves and provoking alarm (Sierz 2000, 4).

Ravenhill’s text produced a sense of discomfort in Australian critics shared by their British colleagues some decades earlier: “unlike the type of theatre that allows us to sit back and contemplate what we see in detachment”, Sierz noted, “the best in-yer-face theatre takes us on an emotional journey, getting under our skin” (Ibid, 4). Strong images and strong language are an essential part of these plays; “I can’t piss. It’s just blood”, says a character in Sarah Kane’s play Blasted.[4]

David Chisholm’s compositional inquiry explores the resurrection and reinterpretation of vestigial musical forms. These include KURSK: An Oratorio Requiem (2011) and Parlour Tricks (in development), a songbook with music featuring baroque instruments. I met the composer after a concert I gave at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, where Chisholm was an artist-in-residence in 2009. I expressed my interest in collaborating with him on a new solo music theatre work that explored the origins of the monodrama genre. While we were starting to search for texts that could serve the project, Chisholm attended a reading of The Experiment by Ravenhill at the London Southwark Playhouse in 2009, just weeks after our first conversations about a collaboration. The composer and the playwright met and agreed to work on The Experiment, which, after multiple funding applications, residencies, and developments, premiered at the Sydney Festival in 2015.

While at times historically and conceptually opaque, monodrama usually employs spoken word in combination with instrumental music as its principal technique. As with many musical forms that emerged during the Classical period (the first official monodrama being Rousseau’s Pygmalion in 1762), the genre took shape during the nineteenth century in works such as Louis-Hector Berlioz’s Lélio ou le Retour à la vie and Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden. After the turn of the century, Schoenberg led monodrama’s “attempts to transplant the audience into the protagonist’s psyche” by “exposing the state of mind of a traumatised individual to listeners” (Payette 2008, 139). The Viennese composer –strongly influenced by psychoanalysis and the German cabaret– transformed expressionist melodrama into an art form in which the protagonist’s psyche emerges in an intricate narrative of text and music. Schoenberg’s work continues to inform the monodrama genre, as seen in The Experiment.

Chisholm’s interest in resurrecting vestigial forms shaped the way he structured the work, finding inspiration in “this Pygmalion, with its half-prose half-music state”, in which the authors apply “a strict melodramatic alternation between text […] and music”.[5]The Experiment follows this same principle of alternation that can be traced far beyond Horace Coignet and Rousseau’s work:

We strive to find predecessors to Pygmalion. That exercise is however, quite dangerous, because of trying too hard to go back in time; we can arrive at medieval miracle plays, or even ancient Greek drama: Pygmalion was considered by many of Rousseau’s contemporaries as an imitation of that model. [6]

In a fifty-minute show that premiered on January 15, 2015 at Carriageworks during the Sydney Festival, the performer alternated between recital of text and performance of instrumental passages. But, the text passages were not entirely free from music. Through the surround system, complemented by a 48-speaker array created by Gingold, Chisholm sampled extracts from historical monodramas to construct a soundscape that “accompanied” the text: “haunted, muffled extracts from Enoch Arden and the prologue to Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw [were] rendered unrecognisable, stretched and muted through extensive experimentations and editing in multiple software applications” (Chisholm 2020, 117).

Mark Ravenhill’s text functioned as a monologue in which the protagonist tried to reconstruct traces of his memory after having experienced traumatic events. By putting together pieces of a puzzle that quickly dissipated and continuously contradicted each other, the author created an unconventional narrative wrapped in a “wry pop aesthetic warping of the medical, the scientific and the experimental” (Ibid, 115). The text served as the perfect material from which the creative team could develop this musical monodrama.


The structure

I. Pre-show

In a pre-show of about five minutes images of a rural homestead are projected onto an imperfectly aligned screen. The theatre’s sound system and the 48-speaker array project clips of radio and television reports on child kidnapping cases, as well as fragments from the question and answer section of a Karlheinz Stockhausen lecture. The lights and sound fade, the scene goes dark, and the show begins.

II. Prologue

For the first three minutes of the work, complete darkness and acousmatic sounds accompany the emergence of spoken text. Gradually, a subtle light reveals the performer surrounded by a microphone cage on the stage opposite prompt side. The cage –a recurrent element in the monologue– corresponds to a common image associated with experimentation, especially on animals. For the beginning of this monodramatic experiment, “seven microphones hang in a semicircle around Carrasco, capturing his voice from different angles and projected them, along with pre-recorded text, in a disjointed chorus”. [7] By positioning a DPA voice microphone discreetly near the performer’s mouth, the reviewer perceived that one of the microphones surrounding him captured his voice, processed in real time. The microphones were decorative and inexpensive; the theatre illusion proved to work once more.


Figure 1 / Mauricio Carrasco, The Experiment. Sydney Festival, 2015. Image by Jamie Williams.

III. Movement #1, “We ran the tests on the children”

Under subdued general light, a projection of a slow morphing of red, pink, and white viscera resembling “a conscious figuration of microscopic blood platelets and sperm” (Chisholm 2020, 117), accompanies the performer during the first text section and the first guitar interlude.


Figure 2 / Mauricio Carrasco, The Experiment. Adelaide Festival, 2015. Vimeo. Screenshot by the author.

The performer remains seated as he recites the text, surrounded by the microphone cage. Then, he crosses behind the projection to a different zone of the stage to perform the first interlude in standing position. During the first conversations about The Experiment, Chisholm and I agreed that it was essential to invert the traditional stage configuration, in which an accompanying musician sits next to a standing narrator. I recalled conversations with the Genevan luthier Jacques Vincenti who had mentioned the tripedisono, a pedestal invented and used by nineteenth-century composer and guitarist Dionisio Aguado to play the guitar in a standing position.

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Figure 3 / Tripedisono. Image from Tabazar – Geschichte der Guitarre,

A modern interpretation of Aguado’s tripedisono was commissioned from sculptor and instrument maker Nara Demasson. A short-lived experiment, the tripedisono is an appropriate prop in this monodrama; it supports the inversion of narrator and musician as well the failure of memory that underpins the dramaturgy of the text.

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Figure 4 / Nara Demasson’s tripedisono for The Experiment. Image by the author.

IV. Interlude #1

The first interlude for acoustic guitar and fixed electronics is played on the instrument held by the tripedisono. It opens with harmonics that resonate on the electronics, followed by a tremolo in accelerando, which bends a half tone at its fastest part and is echoed by the tape.

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Figure 5 / David Chisholm, Interlude #1 from The Experiment for solo guitar with acousmatic electronics (2011/15), BabelScores, bars 1-4.

The Spanish guitar rasgueado effect appears in four different moments during the piece, and in each instance, fades immediately afterward. As a classically-trained guitarist, I constantly was forced to accommodate the rasgueado throughout my training, just as I often had to accommodate a repertoire that I secretly loathed within a post-dictatorial and heteronormative milieu that were the conservatories, universities, and competitions I attended in Chile in the 1990s and early 2000s. I was closeted and traumatised, and the desire to get away as far as possible from this guitar cliché and the repressive environment it symbolised was one of the principal motivations that led me to specialise in contemporary music and later in hybrid manifestations of musical theatre. Chisholm, however, momentarily and episodically brings back the rasgueado in a fragmented manner that corresponds to the fragmented reconstruction of the protagonist’s memory post trauma. That trauma was caused by experiments performed on children to cure an “as yet incurable disease” (Ravenhill 2013, 429). The victim is expressly unidentified and at times was the narrator himself, his twin, or his son. The narration constantly covers its tracks and contradicts itself before leaving one thing clear at the end of the piece: “You are going to live my darling – and here’s the first pill” (Ibid, 437).

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Figure 6 / David Chisholm, Interlude #1 from The Experiment for solo guitar with acousmatic electronics (2011/15), BabelScores, bar 11.

A more agitated section constitutes the middle part of Interlude #1, giving it a classical A-B-A form, where B corresponds to the climax.

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Figure 7 / David Chisholm, Interlude #1 from The Experiment for solo guitar with acousmatic electronics (2011/15), BabelScores, bars 33-37.

V. Movement #2, “Fairy Tale”

A video section follows the end of Interlude #1. If the cues for the text were sonic in the first section, they are all visual in “Fairy Tale.” The voice is processed live; the only recorded text is the very “in-yer-face” word “cunt.”

VI. Movement #3, “The Room”

At minute 26, one of the screens is raised, creating depth for the performer to wander the stage and begin the new section. He engages in dialogue with a series of characters represented by floating heads that appear randomly on the back and side screens.


Figure 8 /The Experiment , video art by Emmanuel Bernardoux. Adelaide Festival, 2015. Vimeo. Screenshot by the author.

VII. Interlude #2

After this five-minute section, the performer goes to the “incubator”, which contains the e-guitar. Cameras inside the incubator project close-ups of the musician's gestures.

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Figure 9 / Mauricio Carrasco performs the Interlude for e-guitar by Fernando Garnero in The Experiment. Melbourne Festival, 2015. Image by Shane Reid.

Argentine composer Fernando Garnero was commissioned to compose this interludein homage to and reflective of a long-term collaboration between the composer and performer. I have performed Fernando’s music since we were students at the Haute Ècole de Musique de Genève and premiered the last four works that he has composed for e-guitar: Ojo de Buey (2013) for ensemble, Limae Labor (2014) for e-guitar and string trio, this Interlude (2014) for solo e-guitar, and Neon Pig (2017) for ensemble. In each of these works, the composer uses the e-guitar in a flat position, to be played over the lap, on a table, or, in the case of The Experiment, inside a cabinet in which the instrument was the subject of Garnero’s “experiment”. In this Interlude, the guitarist holds objects in both hands: a sponge and a slide in the left hand and a ruler in the right hand. The tablature specifies:

  • the rhythm
  • the objects and their placement (placement on a specific spot on the guitar will determine the pitch)
  • the direction in which the objects will move, indicated by arrows
  • the level of pressure of the objects over the strings, indicated by rectangles (white for light pressure, black and white for medium pressure, and black for hard pressure)
  • the control of the wah pedal, indicated by a circle for ON and a cross for OFF


Figure 10 / Fernando Garnero, Interludefor e-guitar (2014), BabelScores, bars 9-12.

Garnero, like many composers of his generation strongly influenced by Helmut Lachenmann’s musique concrète instrumentale, uses specific nomenclature to designate gestures, objects, and extended techniques. That nomenclature is personal to each composer; however, it is possible to detect common graphic elements with fellow composers such as Santiago Diez Fischer or Dan Tramte. Learning these new and idiomatic forms of notation can present challenges for even the most experienced performer. My approach has been to practice each of the elements separately and united them afterward. For example, in this Interlude, the correct coordination between the ruler in the right hand and the sponge and slide in the left hand is the first aspect of practice. A rhythmic reading of their interaction, in the first instance, can be followed by the correct application of pressure for each of the objects, and finally, by the addition of the wah pedal.

In Garnero’s music, the repetition of elements has little to do with minimalistic intention and more with an obsessive, constant repetition of a short pattern preceded by an obstacle that prevents it from going further. Garnero’s repetition of a 3/16 bar twenty-one times reflects this:


Figure 11 / Fernando Garnero, Interludefor e-guitar (2014), BabelScores, bars 4-5.

Once the obstacle is overcome, the musician confronts a hesitancy to continue, manifested by way of a lengthy seven-second fermata. Like a toy running out of batteries, the fermate become longer and longer by the end of the Interlude.


Figure 12 / Fernando Garnero, Interludefor e-guitar (2014), BabelScores, bars 67-69.

The last fermata is the longest of the Interlude (eleven seconds pause) and succeeds the last loop of the work, a seven times repeated 2/4 bar of a rising gesture in diminuendo produced by gradually closing the wah pedal. It is vital to keep a “frozen” attitude during this last fermata, so the audience will not think that the work has finished. A fragile final gesture between the sponge and the wah pedal in pianissimo concludes the work.


Figure 13 / Fernando Garnero, Interludefor e-guitar (2014), BabelScores, bars 71-72.

VIII. Movement #4, “I forget."

In the following section, the performer carries out a self-examination with electrodes that he positions on his own torso. Once he is fully fitted with the cables, he places an archaic yet futuristic helmet designed by Anna Cornick on his head. The helmet’s light turns on, and memory flashes of the patient/performer, a still motion film by Bernardoux, appear on the main screen.


Figure 14 / Mauricio Carrasco. Helmet built by Anna Cornick for The Experiment , Adelaide Festival, 2015. Vimeo. Screenshot by the author.

The entire text of this section consists of the performer’s pre-recorded voice; the style is detached and journalistic, as if he were answering questions in an interview.

IX. Interlude #3, “The White Room”

A final interlude follows, featuring video and acousmatic electronics; this is the only section of the work during which the performer leaves the stage.


Figure 15 /The Experiment , video art by Emmanuel Bernardoux. Adelaide Festival, 2015. Vimeo. Screenshot by the author.

X. Movement #5, “Nothing lasts forever."

The performer reappears to deliver the monodrama’s melancholic final spoken part, returning to the microphone cage first used in the Prologue and picking up one of the (still illusory and purely decorative) microphones to address the audience directly, acknowledging their presence in the space for the first and only time.


Figure 16 / Mauricio Carrasco. The Experiment, Adelaide Festival, 2015. Vimeo. Screenshot by the author.

XI. Epilogue, “Galatea”

The epilogue is an homage to the sculpture Galatea that Pygmalion brings to life in Rousseau’s monodrama and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, from which the former drew direct influence. Here, Galatea is a self-playing guitar constructed from two different instruments joined together. This conjoined twin-guitar was built by Nara Demasson, with robotics by Benjamin Kolaitis: “The guitar is constructed from two guitars stuck together top-to-tail with a variety of solenoids and servo motors activating beautiful copper, brass, and wooden arms, plectrums, and wheels”.[8] The performer stares at the Frankenstein’s monster-like guitar, quite perplexed. Chisholm’s decision to close the work in this way emphasises that in musical theatre manifestations “the performer's body is not in a direct relation with the physical phenomenon of excitation/resonance anymore. It can even completely disappear from the scenic space”.[9]


Figure 17 / Benjamin Kolaitis and Nara Demasson, “Siamese Guitar” for The Experiment. Adelaide Festival, 2015. Vimeo. Screenshot by the author.

Textual undercurrents

The Experiment was inspired by Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics (1979): “[i]f experimenters are not prepared to use orphaned humans with severe and irreversible brain damage, their readiness to use nonhuman animals seems to discriminate on the basis of species alone” (Singer 1993, 67). This was the starting point from which Ravenhill constructed his intricate monologue. An unidentified protagonist constantly alternates between point-of-view narration from different perspectives: of the protagonist himself, his twin, his neighbour, his son, his partner. Ravenhill did not use this indeterminacy to explore the dramatic potential of multiple personalities within the same individual. However, the monologue could suggest the protagonist has a mental health condition known as dissociative identity disorder or DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder. Among its symptoms are personality, temporality, and memory disruptions. DID “comes about when a child’s psychological development is disrupted by early repetitive trauma that prevents the normal processes of consolidating a core sense of identity ”.[10]

The Concord Theatricals website used to promote Ravenhill’s monologue by asking, “If you could cure thousands of a fatal disease by experimenting on a single child, would you do it?”.[11] Almost every reviewer of The Experiment during its three seasons at Australia’s major festivals attempted to find fixed and rational explanations in the narration. Elle Hunt of The Guardian described “[a] natural inclination of humankind to pass off responsibility and distance itself from the horrific”.[12] The reviewer for Aussie Theatre noted “[v]ivid descriptions about children being injected with viruses and diseases” and that “the entire monologue [was] chilling and uncomfortable […], [theatregoers] left feeling uncomfortable, horrified and maybe even a bit confused”.[13] “It is a darkly ingenious essay on the ambiguity of memory,” wrote Maxim Boon for Limelight, “expressed through a story of Mengele-esque experiments on children”.[14]

The metaphor, which in its simplest Aristotelian definition “consist[s] in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else”, was completely overlooked.[15] As much as “[i]t was impossible to not talk about HIV when people were dying from AIDS” (Chisholm 2020, 117), nowadays, no one talks about it anymore. The disease that was incurable then manageable thanks to a pill a day –a central motif in this monologue/monodrama– refers to HIV/AIDS. This was not mentioned once in any of the twelve reviews the show received, as if it was “highly desirable for a specific dreaded illness to come to seem ordinary” (Sontag 1990, 180).

“Better not to talk about certain things”[16]

Ravenhill’s article in The Guardian, “My Near Death Period”, was subtitled “HIV, epilepsy, comas and memory loss haven't stopped Mark Ravenhill writing –in fact, they are what drive him”.[17] This provides a clear clue to understanding The Experiment's metaphor: a generation that lived on the edge of dying from an illness could suddenly be partly saved thanks to a therapy consisting of a prescription drug cocktail. The illness was not cured, but its progress was suspended; death was deferred, but not avoided. Ravenhill's health improved, but the consequences of AIDS-related diseases such as toxoplasmosis and memory loss have remained with him.

Ravenhill sheds light on the critics’ tacit agreement not to mention the HIV/AIDS embarrassing subject, as explained by the author himself at the end of The Experiment:

But as long as we don’t talk about the experiments

We’ll have a few years

And that’s lovely (Ravenhill 2013, 438).

While The Experiment mostly touches on ethics and illness, science fiction elements also appear unexpectedly:

Humanity has ended. Soon the last human will go

But that’s alright

Because I’m going to make new humans

You see that’s why I’m doing the experiments on you

So that when the time comes there’ll be a new human race

And they’ll all be made from your cells

If only I can get the experiment right

Do you see? (Ibid, 435).

This is not completely surprising if we consider Ravenhill’s later works, including the libretto for the opera Elysium, which takes place in the year 2118 and involves human and transhuman survivors of countless wars and atrocities. Elements of horror and science fiction combine with issues of ethics to make The Experiment a strange hybrid of genres:

What if we’re not humans

None of us are real humans anymore

But we’re all just made by the man who cut at those boys in a shed in the… (Ibid, 438).

Ravenhill’s oeuvrenavigates tensions between human and transhuman and between explorations of memory and trauma, all delivered in “in-yer-face” aesthetics. The enfant terrible that provoked London audiences in 1996 with just the name of his first playShopping and Fucking –usually programmed as Shopping and F**king– continues to push the queer theory envelope to alien dimensions. Two decades later, in his opera libretto, the wife tells her husband about the encounter she had with a transhuman:

I met one

Not like me but not so unlike

She wasn’t frightening

She was beautiful.

To what the husband answers:

Beautiful? Human is best

You’re diseased. Mad.[18]

Monologue becoming monodrama

Chisholm’s monodrama and Mauricio Kagel’s “Instrumental Theatre” share the quality of being “not synthetic but reconstructive” (Heile 2007, 184). The musical memory of the piece is gathered from the reconstruction and the further deconstruction of a tradition. Strauss and Britten’s recorded materials serve to create the sound landscape that will sustain the text: “[m]usic does not accompany theatrical actions, but it constitutes the theatrical action” (Heile 2016, 40). Everything in The Experiment is scored in this way; the text fits the music, and the text is music since it becomes one with the acousmatic sounds. In other words, “[i]n the music with fixed media, the tempo, the rubato and in more general terms the temporal scale are exact parameters in which the composer and the performer become one”.[19] Every gesture, intonation of the text, movement on the stage, and musical intention of The Experiment was rehearsed with the composer. Each show was presented in symbiosis with the composer, who cued the hundreds of sonic events that guided me throughout the work.

The Experiment also raises questions about the figure of the “actor-musician”. As Chisholm noted, “[t]he work's spoken word is delivered in muted underplayed tones –and by a musician, not an actor”.[20] This points to a controversial issue in new musical theatre, that of how trained in acting a musician should be, and where the actor-musician could receive the training that would allow them to perform challenging works successfully.

It is important to acknowledge that there are occasions when musical and acting skills can and indeed should be developed in isolation, actor-musicians require approaches to the breaking down and understanding of text, for example, and to physical and vocal flexibility and release as applied to the training of all actors (Harrison 2016, 63).

The Experiment , however, takes its cue from the origins of monodrama, reflecting on the interaction of spoken text and music as conceived by Rousseau in Pygmalion. Rousseau wrote in 1754 that “cadence and sounds are born together with syllables: passion rouses all of the organs to speech, and adorns the voice with their full brilliance; thus verse, song, speech have a common origin” (Rousseau 1997, 282). Derrida reinterprets Rousseau two centuries later: “There is no music before language. Music is born of voice and not of sound. No prelinguistic sonority can, according to Rousseau, open the time of music” (Derrida 1997, 195).

This primitivism formed part of the conception of The Experiment, where an unaffected voice recited the text “in a careful monotone, trying to remember the circumstances of a series of horrific experiments”.[21]The Experiment did not try to hide the performer's lack of traditional acting training. Instead, it tended to emphasise it, attempting to sublimate the words by simply speaking them and not performing them more theatrically as if it was trying to emulate Maurice Blanchot's description of the moment where the word becomes Orphic:

Then to speak is a glorious transparency. To speak is no longer to tell or to name. To speak is to celebrate, and to celebrate is to praise, to make of the word a pure radiant consumption which still speaks when there is no more to say, does not name what is nameless but welcomes it, invokes and glorifies it (Blanchot 1982, 158).

The Experiment opened for me as a performer/collaborator a glorious exploratory space where spoken word, instrumental, and gestural performance celebrate and praise new experiments such as facial recognition interaction in Daniel Zea’s The Love Letters?,[22] fasting as a metaphor of essentiality of water in the adaptation of Stockhausen’sAus den Sieben Tagen for Punctum’s Public Cooling House,[23] and the queer historiography exploration in Luis Felipe Fabre and Andrés Núñez’s monodrama Retablo de Sodomitas.[24] Extending the possibilities of a tradition that creates a further source of uncertainty has resonated with me since I first approached Naomi Cumming’s text The Sonic Self. The title itself constituted a clear invitation for introspection that I humbly have accepted since, through autoethnographic research in which I "[u]tilise the researcher’s autobiographical data to analyse and interpret their cultural assumptions” (Chang 2016, 9). As I previously mentioned, feeling trapped in a traditional conservatory environment was extremely difficult. Growing up as a queer boy in a society that penalised homosexuality until 1999, inflicted upon me an inner sense of shame, I was defined by law as a delinquent and socially as a deviant.[25]

Trying to determine if The Experiment is a queer work or not does not really occupy my mind. By simply embracing under the genderqueer umbrella those works produced, conceived, and/or performed by a mainly non-straight and/or nonbinary team, a work can be defined as queer by default. “The question becomes more semantic and philosophical than a detective’s mystery to be solved”, making the cultural representations of queer identity a form of militancy I share with Ravenhill and Chisholm.[26] “If ‘queer’ can mean a departure from the status quo, then the social perception of queer artwork being transgressive corresponds to the moral rigidity of the society in which it develops”.[27] Its potential of creating social awareness by questioning inherited perceptions transcend the purely artistic and can accompany societal change and evolution.

Works Cited

Blanchot, Maurice. 1982. The Space of Literature, translated by Ann Smock. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Chang, Heewon. 2016. Autoethnography as Method. New York: Routledge.

Chisholm, David. 2020. “The Memory of Remembering, Exomologesis and Exagoreusis in The Experiment." In The 21st Century Performance Reader, edited by Teresa Brayshaw and Noel Witts, 113-120. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cumming, Naomi. 2000. The Sonic Self: Musical Subjectivity and Signification. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1992. Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge. New York: Routledge.

_____________. 1997. Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, corrected edition.

Harrison, Jeremy. 2016. Actor-Musicianship. London: Bloomsbury.

Heile, Björn. 2007. “Mauricio Kagel’s ‘Instrumental Theatre’: Metaxis, Framing and Modes of Presentation – Five Propositions”. In La musique et la scène. L’ecriture musicale et son expression artistique au XXème siècle , edited by Giordano Ferrari, 183-192. Paris: L’Harmattan.

__________. 2016. The Music of Mauricio Kagel. London: Routledge.

Kane, Sarah. 2001. Complete Plays / Sarah Kane. London: Methuen Drama.

Lehmann, Hans-Thies. 2006. Postdramatic Theatre. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Payette, Jessica. 2008. “Seismographic Screams: Ertwartung’s reverberations through twentieth-century culture”.PhD dissertation, Stanford University.

____________. 2011. “Dismembering ‘Expectations’: The Modernization of Monodrama in fin-de-siècle Theatrical Arts". In Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama, edited by Sarah Hibberd, 137-159. Farnham: Ashgate.

Ravenhill, Mark. 2013. Plays: 3. Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat; Over There; A Life in Three Acts; Ten Plagues; Ghost Story; The Experiment . London: Bloomsbury.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1997. “Essay on the Origin of Languages in which Something is said about Melody and Musical Imitation”, in The Discourses and other Early Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sierz, Aleks. 2000. In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today. London: Faber and Faber.

Singer, Peter. 1993. Practical Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed.

Sontag, Susan. 1990. Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors. New York: Picador.

Waeber, Jacqueline. 2006. En Musique dans le Texte. Le mélodrame, de Rousseau à Schoenberg. Paris: Van Dieren.


Internet Sources

Aussie Theatre. 2015. The Experiment, Sydney Festival. Accessed May 2, 2021.

Boom, Maxim. 2015. “The Experiment (Sydney Festival)”. Limelight Magazine. Accessed May 2, 2021.

Chisholm, David. 2015. “The Experiment is a Musical Monodrama to Love, Hate or Both”. The Conversation, October 22. Accessed April 10, 2020.

Hunt, Elle. 2015. “The Experiment Review”. The Guardian. Accessed May 2, 2021.

Lorenzon, Matthew. 2015. “Melbourne Festival: The Experiment”. Partial Durations. Accessed April 10, 2020.

Núñez, Andrés, Luis Felipe Fabre, directed by Carolina Sagredo. 2018. “Retablo de Sodomitas” (teaser). Accessed May 2, 2021.

Punctum’s Public Cool House.

Ravenhill, Mark. 2008. “My near death period”. The Guardian. March 26. Accessed April 10, 2020.

Salter, Michael, Martin Dorahy and Warwick Middleton. 2017. " Dissociative identity disorder exists and is the result of childhood trauma". The Conversation, October 4, 2017.

Sandow, Suzanne. 2015. “Review – The Experiment”. Accessed April 10, 2020.

“The Experiment”. Concord Theatricals. Accessed May 2, 2021.

Wallin, Rolf and Mark Ravenhill. 2016. Opera Elysium (demo). Accessed May 2, 2021.

“What makes a work of art ‘queer’?”. Plinth Magazine. April 4, 2017.Accessed May 2, 2021.

Zea, Daniel. 2018. “The Love Letters?”. ZKM Karlsruhe. Accessed May 2, 2021.



Chisholm, David. 2011/15. Interlude #1 from The Experiment for guitar with acousmatic electronics. París: BabelScores.

Garnero, Fernando. 2014. Interlude for e-guitar. París: BabelScores.

[1] A video of the performance of The Experiment is available on the platform Vimeo, at the following link: / El video de The Experiment se puede visualizar en el siguiente link:  

[2] Emilio Sala, ‘L’Opera senza Canto: Il mélo romantico e l’invenzione della colonna sonora’’, quoted in Jessica Payette, “Dismembering ‘Expectations’: The Modernization of Monodrama inFin-de-siècle Theatrical Arts”, in Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama, p. 139.

[3] Suzanne Sandow, “Review – The Experiment”, accessed April 10, 2020,


[4] Sarah Kane (2001). Blasted, scene two.

[5] “Ce Pygmalion avec sa statue moitié prose moitié musique”. Galiani Abbot, Gazette des spectacles, 1773, quoted in Waeber, En musique dans le texte, p. 17; “applique strictement le principe d’alternance mélodramatique entre texte […] et musique.” Translation by the author. Waeber, En musique dans le texte Le mélodrame, de Rousseau à Schoenberg , p. 17.

[6] “On s’évertue encore à trouver des prédécesseurs à ce mélodrame. L’exercise est toutefois assez dangereux, car à trop vouloir remonter les pistes on finit par arriver aux miracles médiévaux, pour ne rien dire du drame grec antique: le Pygmalion fut d’ailleurs considéré par nombre de ses contemporains comme une imitation de ce modèle.” Translation by the author. Ibid, p. 17.

[7] Matthew Lorenzon, “Melbourne Festival: The Experiment” on Partial Durations, accessed April 10, 2020,

[8] Lorenzon, “Melbourne Festival: The Experiment”.

[9] “Le corps de l’interprète n’est plus en rapport direct avec le phénomène physique d’excitation/résonance. Il peut même disparaître complètement de l’espace scénique”. Translation by the author. Ferrari (ed.), La Musique et la Scène. L’Ecriture Musicale et son Expression Artistique au XXème Siècle , p. 123.

[10] Salter, Dorahy, Middleton, “ Dissociative identity disorder exists and is the result of childhood trauma” , The Conversation, October 4, 2017, 8.12 pm BST,  


[15] Quoted in Sontag, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors, p. 93.

[16] “Mejor no hablar de ciertas cosas”, song by Sumo (1985). Translation by the author.

[17] Mark Ravenhill, “My Near Death Period”, The Guardian, March 26, 2008.

[18] Extracts from Elysium – an opera by Rolf Wallin. Libretto by Mark Ravenhill, 2016.


[19] “Dans la musique sur support, le tempo, le rubato et plus généralement l’échelle temporelle sont des paramètres absolument précis pour lesquels le compositeur et l’interprète ne font qu’un”. Ferrari (ed.), La Musique et la Scène, p. 122. Translation by the author.

[20] David Chisholm, “The Experiment is a Musical Monodrama to Love, Hate or Both”, in The Conversation, accessed April 10, 2020,

[21]Ibid .

[25] The 365 article of the Chilean Penal Code penalised sodomy with prison until 1999.


[27] Ibid.

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