Gong Ex Machina; A Sonic Theatre performance

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(photo: IO/Yoga Agusta)

IO – The title of the performance, “Gong ex Machina”, is a word play on a technical term in ancient Greece in the 5th century: Deus ex Machina, which more or less means “God out of a machine”. The term refers to the technique to present actors playing as gods on the stage of a Greek tragedy using equipment like cranes, moving up and down, or a trap door, to allow the actor coming from below the stage. Hence, “Gong ex Machina”, a gong in or out of the machine.

The concept of the performance evolves from a reflection following an extensive research by Morinaga on the gong culture throughout South East Asian countries. One of the significant findings of the research is that how a music/ sound produced by a gong, as well as the gong itself, serves as a communication medium between humans and supernatural beings (the ancestors, gods, and God) or even as the supernatural being itself (God in the Gong or Through the Gong).

Gong ex Machina also stems from the history of an encounter between music or sound cultures and the modem technology of sound recorders and players: phonographs or gramophones. Similar to other encounters between tradition and modernity which took place against a background of the industrial revolution and European colonialism in the 17th to 20th century-the encounter of gong culture with gramophones is a story of a complicated acquaintance. Apart from stories of adaptation and appropriation are also stories of distortion and manipulation. It was an encounter that changed the way we experience and understand music, in particular, or sound in general.

As a performance, Gong ex Machina tries to reflect on how sound or voice (or also noise) plays a part in shaping our experience and understanding of the world. Another contemplation is: which god we listen to and which god moves us?

The performance takes the form of a sonic theatre where the theatre was created based on the sound composition instead of a script, and also highlights and develops the presence of sounds as its anchor. The performance is presented in a 3D-immersive sound system, which will put sound output not only in the stage but throughout the entire theatre room, including audience area. (Yoga Agusta)

(photo: IO/Yoga Agusta)
(photo: IO/Yoga Agusta)
(photo: IO/Yoga Agusta)