Hollywood Squares and Steppenwolf As Music Theater


Newmusicbox Fall 2007

I can’t think of a game show to represent my music, but I have considered trying to create a music theater work loosely combining Hollywood Squares with the “Magic Theater” scene at the end of Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf.  Hollywood Squares always seemed to me sort of like a finale from a Rossini opera – stock characters all carrying on in their archetypal personas, variously flashing out of the group to roil forth with their most typical kinds of phrases. 

At the end of Steppenwolf, a saxophonist named Pablo leads the main character, Harry Haller, to a sort of Jungian “magic theater” where he seems to have a series of hallucinations, each beginning with opening a door and entering a room in the magic theater.  Harry is consequently judged by Mozart, who condemns him to "listen to the radio music of life", challenging him at the same time to "revere the spirit behind it".

It could be a way of studying the unreal and even hallucinatory reality created by the mass media – the way it explodes our identities and reassembles them into something else.  We end up with a collection of media-mediated personalities within us, like a set of Hollywood Squares, a Magic Theater coming out of the boob tube that manufactures what we think life is.

I have already done something a bit like this with my music theater work “Cybeline.”  Well, back to notating.  Uggh.

William Osborne