Brecht, Modern Theatre

Brecht, Modern Theatre - 3 CM 7 BRECBT 0N THEATRE...

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Unformatted text preview: 3?. CM 7%. BRECBT 0N THEATRE: 1918—1932 vidual shares in the music, thus obeying the principle that doing is better than feeling, by following the music with his eyes as printed, and con- tributing the parts and places reserved for him by singing them for himself or in conjunction with others (school class).’ . Der Flug tier Lindberghr is not intended to be of use to the present—day The radio not radio but to alter it. The increasing concentration of m be served but mechanical means and the increasingly specialized training ’0 I" ‘1’“"5’ ’1 ~ tendencies that should be accelerated - call for a kind of resistance by the listener, and for his mobilization and redrafting as a producer. The employment of Der Flug der Lindberghs and the use of radio in its The gamma”, changed form was shown by a demonstration at the Baden- ”‘150 “Mime” Baden music festival of 1929. On the left of the platform the radio orchestra was placed with its apparatus and singers, on the right the listener, who performed the F Iier’s part, i.e. the paedagogical part, with a score in front of him. He read the sections to be spoken without identify- ing his own feelings with those contained in the text, pausing at the end of each line; in other words, in the spirit of an exercise. At the back of the platform stOod the theory being demonstrated in this way. This exercise is an aid to discipline, which is the basis of freedom, The Why my Der individual will reach spontaneously for a means to pleasure, Flug der Lind- but not for an object of instruction that offers him neither befxbjgffdizf profit nor social advantages. Such exercises only serve the struction andthe individual in so far as they serve the State, and they only “1‘1"” be ‘h‘mg‘d? serve a State that wishes to serve all men equally. Thus Der Flag der Lindherghs has no aesthetic and no revolutionary value independ- ently of its application, and only the State can organize this. Its proper application, however, makes it so ‘revolutionary’ that the present-day State has no interest in sponsoring such exercises. , Here is an example of the effect of this application on the text: the figure of a public hero in Der Flag der Lindbergh: might be used to induce the listener at a concert to identify himself with the hero and thus our himself off from the masses. In a concert performance (consequently a false one) at least the Flier’s part must be sung by a chorus if the sense of the entire work is not to be ruined. Only concerted I — singing (I am so—and-so, I am starting forth, I amnot tired, etc.) can save something of the paedagogical effect. [From Versuche I, Berlin 1930. Signed ‘Brecht, Suhrkamp’.] Wall‘i‘ie 32 KiJEN Wu E AN EXAMPLE OF PAEDAGOGIGS OTE: The music to Dec Flug cler Lindbergh: was by Kurt Weill and Paul Hindemith. Brecht subsequently changed its title to Der Ozeanflug, as which it new figures in the reprint of the Verruche. Peter Suhrkamp, his collaborator on the notes, became his West German publisher after 1948. The principle underlying the Lehrrtz‘ich form - which began as a kind of didactic cantata, with solos, choruses and scraps of acting — was the notion that moral and political lessons could best be taught by participation in an actual performance. ‘When performing a Lehrstiick,’ says a note (Schriften zum Theater 2, p. 128), you must act like pupils. The pupil will use a particularly clear manner of speaking in order to run over a difficult passage again and again so as to get at its meaning or fix it in the memory. His gestures too are clear and help towards clarification. Then there are other passages which have to be quickly and fleetingly delivered as if they were frequently practised ritual actions. These are the passages which correspond to sections of a speech conveying particular items of information needed for the understanding of the more important item that follows. Such passages are Wholly useful to the overall process and must be delivered as performances. Then there are parts that demand acting ability of very much the old kind. E.g. when a typical way of behaving has to be shown. For there is a certain practical human way of behaving which may bring about situations that demand or facilitate new ways. To show the typical gestures and manners of speech of a man trying to convince somebody, one has to apply the art of acting. The next few essays were published and almost certainly written subsequently to the switchover to ‘paedagogics’, even though the plays to which they relate were written earlier. They should be read in the light of the political and economic crisis which developed in Germany during the second half of 1929, making revolutionary change seem not only desirable but imminent. This was the period of Brecht’s most sharply Communist works. {3 mutt? I 3 ' Th Modern Theatr (Notes to the opera Aufstieg and Fall der Stadt Mahagonny) s the Epic Theatre OPERA — WITH INNOVATIONS! For some time past there has been a move to renovate the opera. Opera is to have its forngmodernized and its content brought up to date, but without its culinary character being changed. Since it is precisely for its backward- ness that the opera—going public adores opera, an influx of new types of listener with new appetites has to be reckoned with; and so it is. The inten- tion is to democratize but not to alter democracy’s character, which consists in giving the people new rights, but no chance to appreciate them. Ultim— ately it is all the same to the waiter whom he serves, so long as he serves the 33 389%: S 2:: BB Emamoo NE BEECH ms 38 Riga m1: BRECHT ON THEATRE: 191841932 food. Thus the avant—garde are demanding or supporting innovations which are supposedly going to lead to a renovation of opera; but nobody demands a fundamental discussion of opera (i.e. of its function), and probably such a discussion would not find much support. The modesty of the avant-garde’s demands has economic grounds of whose existence they themselves are only partly aware. Great apparati like the Opera, the stage, the press, etc., impose their views as it were incognito. For a long time now they have taken the handiwork (music, writing, criti— cism, etc.) of intellectuals who share in their profits — that is, of men who are economically committed to the prevailing system but are socially near— proletarian ~ and processed it to make fodder for their public entertainment machine, judging it by their own standards and guiding it into their own channels; meanwhile the intellectuals themselves have gone on supposing that the whole business is concerned only with the presentation of their work, is a secondary process which has no influence over their work but merely wins influence for it. This muddled thinking which overtakes musi- cians, writers and critics as soon as they consider their own situation has tremendous consequences to which far too little attention is paid. For by imagining that they have got hold of an apparatus which in fact has got hold of them they are supporting an apparatus which is out of their con— trol, which is no longer (as they believe) a means of furthering output but has become an obstacle to output, and specifically to their own output as soon as it follows a new and original course which the apparatus finds awk- ward or opposed to its own aims. Their output then becomes a matter of delivering the goods. Values evolve which are based on the fodder prin— ciple. And this leads to a general habit of judging works of art by their suitability for the apparatus Without ever judging the apparatus by its suit- ability for the work. People say, this or that is a good work; and they mean (but do not say) good for the apparatus. Yet this apparatus is conditioned by the society of the day and only accepts what can keep it going in that society. We are free to discuss any innovation which doesn‘t threaten its social function — that of providing an evening’s entertainment. We are not free to discuss those which threaten to change its function, possibly by fusing it with the educational system or with the organs of mass com- munication. Society absorbs via the apparatus whatever it needs in order to reproduce itself. This means that an innovation will pass if it is calculated to rejuvenate existing society, but‘not if it is going to change it ~ irrespec— tive whether the form of the society in question is good or bad. The uvmzt—garde don’t think of changing the apparatus, because they fancy that they have at their disposal an apparatus which will serve up 34 THE MODERN THEATRE IS THE EPIC THEATRE whatever they freely invent, transforming itself spontaneously to match their ideas. But they are not in fact free inventors; the apparatus goes on fulfilling its function with or without them; the theatres play every night; the papers come out so many times a day; and they absorb What they need; and all they need is a given amount of stuff.1 You might think that to show up this situation (the creative artist’s utter dependence on the apparatus) would be to condemn it. Its conceal— ment is such a disgrace. And yet to restrict the individual’s freedom of invention is in itself a progressive act. The individual becomes increasingly drawn into enormous events that are going to change the world. No longer can he simply ‘express himself’. He is brought up short and put into a position where he can fulfil more general tasks. The trouble, however, is that at present the apparati do not work for the general good; the means of production do not belong to the producer; and as a result his Work amounts to so much merchandise, and is governed by the normal laws of mercantile trade. Art is merchandise, only to be manufactured by the means of production (apparati). An opera can Only be written for the opera. (One can’t just think up an opera like one of Bucklin’s fantastic sea—beasts, then hope to exhibit it publicly after having seized power — let alone try to smuggle it into our dear old zoo. . . OPERA - Even if one wanted to start a discussion of the opera as such (i.e. of its function), an opera would have to be written. Our existing opera is a culinary opera. It was a means of pleasure long before it turned into merchandise. It furthers pleasure even where it re— quires, or promotes, a certain degree of education, for the education in question is an education of taste. To every object it adopts a hedonistic approach. It ‘experiences’, and it ranks as an ‘experience’. Why is Mahagonny an opera? Because its basic attitude is that of an opera: that is to say, culinary. Does Mahagonny adopt a hedonistic ap— proach? It does. Is Mahagonny an experience? It is an experience. For . . . Mahagmmy is a piece of fun. The opera Mahagmmy pays conscious tribute to the senselessness of the operatic form. The irrationality of opera lies in the fact that rational ele— ments are employed, solid reality is aimed at, but at the same time it is all washed out by the music. A dying man is real. If at the same time he sings 1 The intellectuals, however, are completely dependent on the apparatus, both socially and economically; it is the only channel for the realization of their work. The output of writers, com- posers and critics comes more and more to resemble raw material. The finished article is produced by the apparatus. 35 BREGH‘I‘ 0N THEATRE: 1918-1932 we are translated to the sphere of the irrational. (If the audience sang at the sight of him the case would be different.) The more unreal and unclear the music can make the reality — though there is of course a third, highly com- plex and in itself quite real element which can have quite real effects but is utterly remote from the reality of which it treats - the more pleasurable the whole process becomes: the pleasure grows in proportion to the degree of unreality. The term ‘opera’ — far be it from us to profane it ~ leads, in Mahagonny’s case, to all the rest. The intention was that a certain unreality, irrationality and lack of seriousness should be introduced at the right moment, and so strike with a double meaning.1 The irrationality which makes its appearance in this way only fits the occasion on which it appears. It is a purely hedonistic approach. As for the content of this opera, its content is pleasure. Fun, in other words, not only as form but as subject~matter. At least, enjoyment was meant to be the object of the inquiry even if the inquiry was intended to be an object of enjoyment. Enjoyment here appears in its current historical role: as merchandise.2 It is undeniable that at present this content must have a provocative effect. In the thirteenth section, for example, where the glutton stuffs himself to death; because hunger is the rule. We never even hinted that others were going hungry while he stuffed, but the effect was provocative all the same. It is not everyone who is in a position to stuff himself full that dies of it, yet many are dying of hunger because this man stuffs himself to death. His pleasure provokes, because it implies so much.3 In contexts like these the use of opera as a means of pleasure must have provocative effects today. Though not of course on the handful of opera- goers. Its power to provoke introduces reality once more. Mahagonn] may not taste particularly agreeable; it may even (thanks to guilty conscience) 1 This limited aim did not stop us from introducing an element of instruction, and from basing everything on the gest. The eye which looks for the gest in everything is the moral sense. In other words, a moral tableau. A subjective one, though . . . Jetzt trinken wir noch eins Dann gehen wir nicht nach Hause Darin trinken wir noch eins Darin machen wit me! cine Pause. ~ The people who sing this are subjective moralists. They are describing themselves. '3 Romanticism is merchandise here too. It appears only as content, not as form. 3 ‘A dignified gentleman with an empurpled face had fished out a bunch of keys and was making a piercing demonstration against the Epic Theatre. His wife didn’t desert him in this decisive moment. She had stuck two fingers in her mouth, screwed up her eyes and blown out her cheeks. The whistle was louder than the key of the safe.’ (Alfred Polgar on the first production of Mahagamiy in Leipzig.) 36 THE MODERN THEATRE IS THE EPIC THEATRE make a point of not doing so. But it is culinary through and through. Mahagmmy is nothing more or less than an opera. — WITH INNOVATIONS! Opera had to be brought up to the technical level of the modern theatre. The modern theatre is the epic theatre. The following table shows certain changes of emphasis as between the dramatic and the epic theatre:1 DRAMATIC THEATRE plot implicates the spectator in a stage Situation wears down his capacity for action provides him with sensations experience the spectator is involved in something suggestion instinctive feelings are preserved the spectator is in the thick of it, shares the experience the human being is taken for granted he is unalterable eyes on the finish one scene makes another growth linear development evolutionary determinism man as a fixed point thought determines being feeling EPIC THEATRE narrative turns the spectator into an observer, but arouses his capacity for action forces him to take decisions picture of the world he is made to face something argument brought to the point of recognition the spectator stands outside, studies the human being is the object of the inquiry he is alterable and able to alter eyes on the course each scene for itself montage in curves jumps man as a process social being determines thought reason When the epic theatre’s methods begin to penetrate the opera the first result is a radical separation of the elements. The great struggle for supremacy between words, music and production — which always brings up the question ‘which is the pretext for what?’: is the music the pretext for the events on the stage, or are these the pretext for the music? etc. ~ can simply be by—passed by radically separating the elements. 80 long as the expression ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (or ‘integrated work of art’) means that the integration is a muddle, so long as the arts are supposed to be ‘fused’ together, the various elements will all be equally degraded, and each will 1 This table does not show absolute antitheses but mere shifts of accent. In a communication of fact, for instance, we may Choose whether to stress the element of emotional suggestion or that of plain rational argument. 37 BREOHT 0N THEATRE: 1918—1932 act as a mere ‘feed’ to the rest. The process of fusion extends to the spectator, who gets thrown into the melting pot too and becomes a passive (suffering) part of the total work of art. Witchcraft of this sort must of course be fought against. Whatever is intended to produce hypnosrs, is likely to induce sordid intoxication, or creates fog, has got to be given up. W ords, music and setting must become more independent of one another. (a) Music For the music, the change of emphasis proved to be as follows: EPIC OPERA The music communicates music which sets forth the text DRAMATIC OPERA The music dishes up music which heightens the text music which proclaims the text musrc which takes the text for granted music which illustrates which takes up a position music which paints the psychological which gives the attitude situation Music plays the chief part in our thesis1 (b) Text . . . We had to make something straightforward and instructive of our fun, 1f1t was not to be irrational and nothing more. The form employed was that of the moral tableau. The tableau is performed by the characters in the play. The text had to be neither moralizing nor sentimental, but to put morals and sentimentality on View. Equally important was the spoken word and the written word (of the titles). Reading seems to encourage the audience to adopt the most natural attitude towards the work.2 (c) Setting ' Showing independent works of art as part of a theatrical performance 15 a new departure. Neher"s projections adopt an attitude towards the events on the stage; as when the real glutton sits in front of the glutton whom Neher has drawn. In the same way the stage unreels the events that are fixed on the screen. These projections of Neher’s are quite as much an independent component of the opera as are Weill’s music and the text. They provide its visual aids. 1 The large number of craftsmen in the average opera orchestra allows of nothing but associa~ tive music (one barrage of sound breeding another); and so the orchestral apparatus needs to be cut down to thirty specialists or less. The singer becomes a reporter, whose private feelings must remain a private affair. , 2 The significance of the titles is explained in the ‘Notes to the Threepenny Opera [see page 43], and in note I to the ‘Dreigroschenfilm’ [in Brecht’s Versuche 3]. 38 THE MODERN THEATRE IS THE EPIC THEATRE Of course such innovations also demand a new attitude on the part of the audiences who frequent opera houses. EFFECT OF THE INNOVATIONS: A THREAT TO OPERA? It is true that the audience had certain desires which were easily satisfied by the old opera but are no longer taken into account by the new. What is the audience’s attitude during an opera; and is there any chance that it will change? Bursting out of the underground stations, eager to become as wax in the magicians’ hands, grown-up men, their resolution proved in the struggle for existence, rush to the box office. They hand in their hat at the cloakroom, and with it they hand their normal behaviour: the attitudes of ‘everyday life’. Once out of the cloakroom they take their seats with the bearing of kings. How can we blame them? You may think a grocer’s bearing better than a king’s and still find this ridiculous. For the attitude that these people adopt in the opera is unworthy of them. Is there any possibility that they may change it? Can we persuade them to get out their cigars? Once the content becomes, techni...
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