a performance oratorio in four colors (1997-2003)
Created in collaboration with Lucio Pozzi
The story of MACHUNAS is an emblem of the end of twentieth century culture, in all its tragedy, irony, delusions and immense vitality. It’s inspired by and based on four key episodes in the life of George Maciunas, an architect, artist, activist and founder of the Fluxus art movement, the last avant-garde utopia of the modern era. His name is misspelled on purpose, both due to phonetic considerations and the desire to separate this story from any accurate description of his life.
The four acts of MACHUNAS are divided into Yellow, Green, Red, Blue, and each act has 9 parts.
MACHUNAS begins in Yellow, narrating the days of a young child in the old Lithuania that’s about to be extinguished by the Nazis and Soviets and transitions into Green through the story of a teenager strangely out of place and time in an American-controlled refugee camp in Germany at the end of World War II. In Red, Machunas emerges as a revolutionary crusader protesting the Vietnam War, founding Fluxus, and igniting the downtown SoHo art community in New York City. Finally, in Blue, Machunas is a forgotten and rejected outcast dying prematurely of cancer in Boston.
Throughout the oratorio the protagonist, Machunas, is played by a man singing on one note. All other parts, male and female, are sung by women and are nameless. The score ranges from Lithuanian folkloric songs, Romantic music, twelve-tone compositional structures, a fluxus rock band of electric guitars, sax, synthesizer, shakuhachi, live radio and theremin, to period instruments from the Baroque era. Each act consists of different ensembles, with varying keyboard instruments serving as a continuo. Whereas each of the four acts features a completely different orchestration and stylistic orientation, they all share melodic and harmonic material. The libretto and music have been written in strict collaboration between composer Frank J. Oteri and visual artist Lucio Pozzi.