Listening Intertextually in Beat Furrer's Music Theatre Works


This article focuses on three of Beat Furrer's works described as opera or music theatre: Begehren (2001), FAMA (2005) and Wüstenbuch (2010). Each of these pieces sets texts from Roman, contemporary and historical authors in exploration of the liminal spaces between life and death, and the possible transitions between them. In Wüstenbuch one such text is included from the Papyrus Berlin 3024, known as the source of the Ancient Egyptian philosophical text ‘The Dispute between a Man and his Ba’, a reflection on the meaning and value of life and the transition between life and death. Furrer's compositional style does not offer a linear narrative on such questions but rather multiple perspectives and tableaux, each of which calls the others and itself into question. In order to explore this and understand what the meeting and interchange of the different texts and authors offers within the context of Furrer's music, I outline a method of ‘listening intertextually’ in order to hear the liminal spaces not only within but between these compositions. I consider the hybrid and hypertexts that arise within the music, and the ways that they can be therefore considered – as in the subtitle often given to FAMA – a ‘drama of listening’

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