The Contemporary Performer

Homework - Zaza


Versatility, re-invention and pushing boundaries are the three key ingredients of the contemporary performer, both in the acoustic and digital worlds.

As a percussionist, my whole background is based on blurring the distinction between musical instruments and sound objects – chiefly thanks to a very nice guy, a certain John Cage, painter, philosopher, composer and mycologist, active throughout the 20th Century.

The video here includes body-percussion, a bit of hip-hop text, some basics of acting, imaginary instruments and, occasionally, the use of props.

The message is very similar to that of Conductive Music: everything can become an instrument. Whether this is an existing instrument (or object), which is used in a different way, or an augmented digital device, it can, and should, be used in your own performance.

In contemporary music, composers tend to refer to extended techniques when they use instruments in unconventional ways. These could be ‘weird’ vocal sounds, or the use of objects as percussive instruments (stones, paper, broken glass, etc.), or the research for different timbres (types of sound) such as the multiphonics on the clarinet.

I particularly enjoy merging the acoustic and the digital worlds, using both the extended percussive techniques I learned in contemporary music and the digitization of the instrument, by applying sensors and conductive material – please refer to my Drumactica 2.0.

As you watch Homework 2, and try to makeup the story – there isn’t one, it is a downward spiral descending into schizophrenia – try to imagine the sound of the imaginary instruments. Expand the spectrum of your perception and do not make expectations from the performance. Absorb its energy, copy it, make it yours.

If you would like to know more of Sarhan’s music, please visit his official website, there are plenty of scores available for free. If you want even more, I suggest checking the work of other French composers active in the field of music theatre, such as Vinko Globokar and Georges Aperghis.