Objectology: The Opera.


I think the only appropriate way to encapsulate a grand historic event is to write an opera about it. Here’s a general outline for whoever eventually decides to take on this immense project:

Prologue I: A toaster, a coffee mug (blue) and a cotton sock, left in the dangerous vicinity of both the toaster and the stove, open the opera with a witty yet profound exchange about the woes and the joys of their object life.

Prologue II: A choir of raggedy students sing about their ultimate need for a new fresh philosophical movement, something to get excited about yet without too much actual work: “Kant, oh Kant, why do you write in such convoluted and effort-requiring sentences” etc…

Act I: Set in an unidentified city by the lake, an older discouraged student Greg Hartmann is reading a turgid Foliant by some German thinker. Contemplates his future philosophical existence. Struggles to understand his creative block and complete lack of motivation. Recalls decisive moments of his life that are replayed for everyone to see in the background.

Notable arias: “Ah, why am I so lonely and obscure” – “My toaster browns my bread so perfectly” – “Islamic occasionalism is the best, man” [addressed to an imaginary interlocutor] – “I fancy you, Nancy, but you fancy me not” – “Good things vs. Bad things”

Act II:  Set in the same city, but in a different (yet familiar) part. Set changes only slightly, same furniture, same surroundings, stagehands change them while the new hero, introduced as Brian Levin in his future ex-wife’s aria (“Oh no, I don’t love you anymore, I’m leaving you, Brian”), sings the aria “Now that I have finished my dissertation, whatever will I do for a living”… Faustian overtones in music (citations from Berlioz and Gounod). Wife leaves, Brian is alone, leaves the house to go for a walk.

Heros pass each other unknowingly on the street, sing a duet (from opposite sides of the stage, full of consonant harmony a la Rameau), continue about their lives (share the stage, use the same set), hope for some kind of future happiness.

Notable aria/duets: “Blue coffee mug, you’re all I have left” – “Sex and intimacy, I have read about you in book and I long for you” – Duet: “Will anyone ever know how brilliant I am? Will anyone ever write my biography? I better keep a diary of important events for future reference! What do you mean you are out of milk!?” – “Must I apply for a job in Kentucky, dear ducky?”

Choral Divertissement: Choir of graduate students (now spread around in the audience) sings of their future academic dreams and tenured security. Start off in a dissonant chaotic glossolalia, end with a beautifully harmonious refrain “And then everyone will know how smart and original we are!”

Ballet Interlude I: Several dancers in costumes of bananas, hot dogs, toasters, chairs, large cotton swabs, rush around the stage, bumping into each other, eventually destroying each other’s costumes.

Act III: A foreign and excitingly busy and exotic city. Large crowds with name tags, murmur of exciting philosophical conversation among the name tagged people (young and old, men and women). Greg and Brian enter from the opposite ends of the stage. Greg’s aria “I know how to orient myself now” – crowd on Greg’s side of the stage stops talking and turns heads in his direction. Brian’s aria “I have tried everything, and yet I only found loneliness, why must philosophy be so hard?” – crowd on Brian’s side of the stage turns heads, nods empathetically. Greg and Brian catch a glimpse of one another, they approach the center stage, orchestral interlude suggests nervous excitement, doubt and, ultimately, consummation.  Greg and Brian embrace, leave the center stage, crowd excitedly whispers something that eventually becomes an audible and ever growing in volume chant:

“Object-oriented,
greatly underrated,
will it be appreciated?
surely they will hate it!
we are exhilarated!”

Table with Greg and Brian spotlighted – members of the choir now eagerly lean forward and nod. Suddenly, someone exclaims: “I have an idea” and then another “And I have an idea” – enthusiastic orchestral part ends the act.

Act IV: Greg and Brian in their apartment surrounded by various objects, objects are everywhere, yet the heroes are chatting away about this and that. Door bell rings, it’s another shipment of objects, Greg steps outside to sign for it. Brian looks longingly in the direction of the orchestra pit, approaches the front of the stage, jumps into the pit, emerges with three tubas and an assortment of strings, attempts to play them, produces amusing cacophony, puts the instruments in the pile of discarded pizza boxes. Greg returns, some friends show up, everyone is happy and singing by now familiar “Object-oriented, greatly underrated, we are exhilarated” tune into the night. There are women and wine, jokes and occasional high-fives, laughter and running around.

Ballet Interlude II: Dance of the Objects – various objects and people dance around holding hands, carrying objects that cannot dance, general anarchy soon ensues, things falls down, pieces of set are destroyed, a scream here and there, the crowd suddenly divides into several groups, toaster convulses on the floor, socks catch on fire, coffee mug is broken. Dancing continues and time passes quicker and quicker, some dancers are down and are carried away, new faces join the frenzy.

Epilogue: Unrecognizably handsome, even if slightly overweight and balding, Greg and Brian are now old. They moved into separate larger apartments, got married and have children. We see them on the opposite sides of the stage working on their respective books, only to be interrupted by a phone call here and a student visitation there. Greg sings “The history of the movement is almost complete, now I only have to write about my late work and my untimely passing” – as he puts finishing touches on the manuscript, he is ceased with melancholic episode. Brian senses the mood and sings “Yes, we have made it this far, mate – don’t be sad, be glad” – music becomes more and more sparse and minimal, lights dim. In the quiet peaceful music everyone is ready for a final chord.

Suddenly the lights are completely out, music stops, candelabra collapses with horrible screech, everyone panics and runs for the door. Doors are looked, people with flashlight dressed as toasters and armed with tasers appear on the stage and proceed to shock everyone they come across. General panic. A large sign appears above the stage, it reads “The Revenge of the Objects, Motherfuckers!” A group of toasters surrounds Greg and Brian, they are pursued and tased continuously. Music is heard again, but now it’s only two ominous chords (“Re-venge! Re-venge!”). The chaos continues for 20-30 mins – audience members are now seriously freaking out, police sirens are heard outside. Toasters are joined by socks and coffee mugs – they no longer tase but hit everything and everyone with whatever they can get their parts on. Russian special forces surround the opera house and pipe in poisonous sleepy gas. Everyone but inanimate objects dies.

Anyway, something like that. I need to work on the ending, of course, but it’s almost supper time.

23 thoughts on “Objectology: The Opera.

  1. Its brilliant (and a little savage). But co-dude, you got to know that when you post a new post some people get emails with a link to click. We are way beyond the refresh, refresh, refresh days. Old School.

    The oddest thing is, I was busy posting a post about this fellow’s life long project of putting on an Opera for an undervalued historical figure, Elizabeth Bathory. I was calling for donations, and then you come up with this. I only skimmed the post at the time, but now that I have read it I was laughing aloud, especially at the set direction.

  2. I might add, I don’t mean my applause in anyway a comment on the lives of persons so depicted. I sincerely wish them the best for their happiness and intellectual vehicles.

  3. Is there an aria like “Show me the way to the next philosophical fad, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask why!” in this opera?

    What about some love triangle of allure and vicariousness between Greg, Brian and some object (their couch?) – surely, there’s more meat to put on these bones!

  4. Nothing half-assed about it, what’s yer prob-limm??? I think you don’t give yourself credit, ya know that? I was just thinking how fucking LONG-WINDED it was, and what a lot of trouble you went to!

    BUT…the opera is THIS. It wouldn’t play, of course, as you well know, much like when a lawyer advised me to write a piece called ‘Financial Symphony’.

    Veddy clever, monsieur. Some of the lyrics that won’t rhyme because they have to approach truth at whatever ugly price are the best parts.

    • I suppose it’s half-assed because I really didn’t go into any sort of trouble, just proposed an idea with some general remarks. If I really put my mind to it, I’d end up writing parts (Greg is clearly a bass/baritone and Brian is a tenor, but what if those traditional roles were reversed?) and more detailed scene settings. This would be a long opera, of course, and to be honest a very boring one, since it’s sort of “Nixon in China” kind of chronicle, not a real tragedy (Greg and Brian are discovered to be long-time enemies and they kill each other in a duel etc etc, the end here is purely chaotic-lazy destruction of all that most likely is a simple projection of my desire that all of this just died already), and not a buffa piece because, as funny as the whole business is, there’s no real funny-funny twist (like Greg Hartmann actually blogging under a pseudonym and attacking his own philosophy fiercely and smartly)…

      Also, of course, it would be sung in French, if it was a tragedy (tragédie en musique).

      In any case, this fun exercise made me realize a) it’s good to take a break and do something unrelated to the task at hand, and b) I’d be fucking awesome as a director for some dingy provincial opera house: I’d wear bow ties and yell at everyone with my thick Russian accent: “Mooove, azkholes! Zis iz how vee do it in Mariinsky!” And chain-smoke, I would also chain-smoke.

  5. b) I’d be fucking awesome as a stage director for some dingy provincial opera house: I’d wear bow ties and yell at everyone with my thick Russian accent: “Mooove, azkholes! Zis iz how vee do it in Mariinsky!” And chain-smoke, I would also chain-smoke.

    Love it, and have some old ballet mistress to work with you who will be throwing tantrums all the time. I’m sure Natalia Makarova was always bitch on wheels backstage…AND on.

    Am listening to the second piano youTube now, and then will also post a link on Picasso thread of Javier De Frutos dance piece. Is Venezuelan working mostly in London, but I think you will see why both Picasso and Goya would have liked this. It’s the first movement pas de trois that is so compelling. I’ll just link it in a few minutes.

    • “ON ICE” version is certainly coming, but you have to have the original production first and then we can make money by doing it “ON ICE” and “OFF ICE” – I think a TV movie is a must in this case (I already have an actor in mind for Greg’s role).

  6. I agree, I think mikhail’s aiming a little too high with those ballet interludes. What is needed is ICE DANCING INTERLUDES, and why not just use Torville & Dean video to ‘Bolero’ even if somebody thinks it’s cute to superpose other music on top. Somebody just choreographed a new ballet to ‘Bolero’ recently, and the D.C. critic said it took her the whole piece to get T & D out of her mind. But ‘skates’ can be an object to relieve ‘toasters’, now couldn’t they? I must say that, for someone who has always enjoyed peripheral vision into these matters, I still haven’t been unable to avoid the way ‘toaster’ keeps coming up.

    • I think toasters are essential to the plot this tale – I don’t know why, I just think that they are – Do I need to argue for the necessity of toasters? Any reasonable person (not tied down by the great weight of correlationist hegemony) would see that toasters are important, so if you don’t see it, you’re a troll – done and done!

      Yeah, I think I originally thought of having a toaster drop into a tub and electrocute one of the protagonists, but then it would have needed more dramatic development.

      As for ballet interludes, I watched too many horrible modern adaptations of Lully/Rameau – you know the ones with nice baroque opera music and some weird costumes that suppose to bring the opera back from the olden days and show it’s relevance. Here’s a good example (I do kind of like this particular production – mainly because there are naked people in it, of course, but not the general tradition itself):

  7. Creepy, but Hartmann’s father’s name is Gregory, so the opera it technically about him then?

    How awkward is this photo?
    http://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/live-dinner-photo/

    Not only is this not a “dinner photo” (no food) but no one but Shaviro is drinking and Levi Bryant is nowhere to be found (“left a second ago”) – this looks like it’s going to be the most awkward symposium ever! I really do hope someone goes and takes pictures (this time with Levi Bryant, please).

    Did he not like the conversation and just left? I thought this was the meeting of “friends I’ve never met” that was suppose to go into the night? The Big Brother flew all the way from Egypt for this thing – probably cost him a leg – and Bryant wouldn’t hang out?

    This is a truly bizarre group, isn’t it?

    P.S. How old is Steven Shaviro? 65?

      • The ‘no food’ and ‘Shaviro drinking alone’ could mean that Justin is a Food & Drink editor, I guess. I’m still on pins and needles about this embarassment of exoticisms, I’ll grant you. What about today?

      • Probably. I’m almost sorry I clicked on the link though, looks like a fun night, doesn’t it? It almost feels like there was a long awkward silence and then Greg goes: “Oh, let’s take a picture everybody! For historical record!”

        Hey, whatever tickles your pickle, you know?

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