She has commissioned eight composers to create five-minute music-theatre pieces for solo performer on the theme of DOG/GOD. These will be premiered by Alwynne at this year's Bergen International Festival onThursday 4 June at Østre.
Innocent, divine dogs
The seeds of this project were sewn many years ago when Alwynne was a child. During the 1970s, a Japanese show called Monkey was screened on UK television. It was based on the Chinese novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en and told the story of Monkey and his gang's anarchic quest for enlightenment. For Alwynne, one of the most endearing characters in the show was Pigsy, a voracious beast, half animal, half human and the comic butt of the story. He embodied innocence and guilt at the same time – there was much that was dog-like about him.
– Dogs are completely innocent and open. Unless trained or provoked, they are without shame. They embody the animal within us. At the same time, their ability of to forgive, their generosity and patience is nothing short of divine, says Alwynne.
Twenty-five years after watching Monkey, Alwynne read Timbuktu by American writer Paul Auster, and the DOG/GOD project finally began to take shape. It tells the story of Mr. Bones, a dog travelling around with his dying, down-and-out master. It is told through the dog's eyes and yet is absolutely the story of human frailty, compassion, fear and loss.
- I love that book! It caused me to dream strange dreams and even to begin writing a story of my own. Dogs are like mirrors that reflect parts of ourselves we don't or choose not to see. They are insuppressible. After reading Timbuktu, my idea was to speak to composers about creating pieces on the theme of DOG alone. But the first composer I talked to was François Sarhan, who drew my attention to the use of the word dog as a substitute, one might even say a euphemism, for God. It fitted the project perfectly, expanded it in the right direction you might say, and I immediately decided that my title should be a mirror – a palindrome. That DOG and GOD should sit face to face.
Alwynne in eight different musical worlds
Alwynne's brief to the composers is to write pieces that make use of her as a physical performer as well as a vocalist. Singing, speaking, moving, dancing – she is available for anything and everything.
– It is hard to say what people can expect from the performance, because right now only one of the pieces is complete. Although the one I have so far seen is a mini drama of doggie madness and human grotesqueries. I can't wait to get my teeth into it! One thing you can expect, however, is eight brand new pieces by composers whom I love as artists and people.
Time to think slowly
From 2008, Alwynne was artistic director of the Borealis festival in Bergen, but left her office in March 2014. She is now focusing on her own career as a composer and artist.
- One of the reasons that I left Borealis was to be in a position to think slowly, to think broad and to have time. During my six years at the festival, I learned to think fast, work fast and take risks. It was an amazing experience and I learned a huge amount, says Alwynne. But now it is all about exploring the dog within!
Text: Eirik Kvam Goksøyr