Cross Reality Music Theatre / Opera

Book by Chris Eales. Music by Rupert Cheek.

Prelude - Book - Characters - Scenes - Music - Visual - Virtual Worlds

Earth & Moon - Gallery - Highway - Team - Jobs - Fund - Events - Links


A list of 'models' from a musical stand point as well as the libretto, theatrical, operatic, visual senses. You can download a list of influences/inspirations
here (this is the same as the Visual inspiration list).

"A second handicap for the non-Russian listener is that the dramatic structure is very
different from that of, say, Figaro, Don Giovanni or Cosi fan tutte,Tchaikovsky employing
the characteristically Russian technique of the stage picture where each of his seven
scenes presents a single crucial incident or stage of the drama. The method is that of the
strip cartoon, requiring of the listener powers of deduction to supply the intervening action;
...Yet while this denies Onegin that sense of evolution and that natural variety which we
associate with Mozart's opere buffe, with their swift succession of dazzling musical
realisations of dramatic an emotional complexes, such single-situation scenes, whose life
lies in the intense emotions of the participant(s), afforded Tchaikovsky opportunities for
music of remarkably concentrated, sometimes very heightened expression."

Eugene Onegin, D Brown, in Tchaikovsky / Eugene Onegin,
cond. Solti, ROH Covent Garden, Decca, (p) 1975/ (c) 1987

Listening to other singers, directors talking about operas they've been involved
with is another way to learn about opera from different perspectives.

Charles Reid's discussion with Phelim Mcdermott, a director and actor poses
some interesting questions, such as an artists' relationship with silence.

"This Opera Life ... is a podcast bringing the listener conversations about
the personal lives of those who make opera happen...singers, directors,
conductors, company managers, and the list goes on."

I met Anthony Doherty on LinkedIn when he commented on a post about WAKTM. He shared some insight he'd gained into opera and music in general with me via email; I thank him for giving me permission to publish what he shared. He is
a composer, arranger, voice teacher, tutor and editor as well and sometimes
dusts off his stage manager clothes. He spoke to me about an opera he
was working on as well as opera in general.

"Recitiative is often dialogue - when information is communicated. I'm including everything
from C18th secco recitative over harpsichord chords to Puccini, where short text phrases
are sung on top of melodic stuff in the orchestra. Then you have arias, duets, ensembles,
which are usually more expressive of feelings. Sometimes the precise words are secondary. That's why we Anglophones can follow operas sung in Italian or French. We know what
the feelings are and we get the idea. A small amount of text goes a long way here."

I hadn't thought in terms of Recitative having so much drama that it leads to /
requires an Aria afterwards until I watched this youtube video.

Anthony Doherty's email posed some 'new' questions for me;
Would it be possible to have just 1 set in WAKTM?
Do all the ('spoken') words of the Story need to be Sung?
Which words to take out?

Here is some of the music in progress on soundcloud.

WAKTM by rupertcheek.
Some parts were composed & produced by Derek Gifford

I have a number of primary concerns
when composing the music for WAKTM;

Book to Musical - Religion & Science: Religion - Science
Music & Place inc 'Space' & Highway aka Virtual Reality
Music of the Future - Music for Image / Film / Dance
Text, Character, Narrative inc 'de-composing' - Duration



"[...] has grasped the essentials of libretto-writing: a libretto isn't the same as a play script
- much shorter, since singing a text takes from 3 to 10 times as long as saying it, and more
basic and direct. The nuance is mainly in the music. And we use such things as repetition, overlap, counterpoint, etc. She also comes up with nice phrase-lengths that can be sung
on one breath, and lovely dark vowels right where I would need them."
(Anthony Doherty)

“For musicals that come out of ... books, you have to create characters with the same
respect and fondness as if it was an original play of yours...I followed its general plot,
and we had these characters, but in many ways I looked at this as starting from scratch.”

Mr O'Brien;

“You have to have some inherent musicality in the film’s story or its characters
for the nonmusical [film] to make sense as a musical. In ‘Hairspray’ the movie,
all that the main character, Tracy Turnblad, wanted to do was dance -
so it was a natural in many ways for a musical."

Patrick Healy, Published: August 26, 2009,

"As the nineteenth century progressed...relying on Commonly-agreed sequences of fixed
forms, patterms of recitative and multi-movement aria or ensemble piece that were understood
in both poetic and musical terms, and could pass as "poetry" when printed in the form of a libretto. By the time of Puccini, even those formal codes had largely disappeared;..."

Parker, R., 2001, Giacomo Puccini, librettist, CD notes for Puccini; Tosca, EMI)

"An indespensible ingrediant of an effective opera is a libretto that tells an interesting
and easily understandable story of human conflict;...romantic qualities, especially
the love between man and woman, that seem to the pre-requisite of an operatic plot."

(H Rosenthal, 1978, Biblical Opera and ' Nabucco', in CD notes for Verdi; Nabucco, EMI)

More often than not, operas have choruses to help tell the story to the audience.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir, which I discovered by watching
his TED talk (below), suggested one possiblity.

Rather than having a choir perform live from the stage, one could be
assembled from a collection of individuals' recordings which could
then be projected / reproduced.

What if we combined both a 'real' choir witha 'virtual' one?

What if the 'virtual' choir members became 'real' by coming on stage?

Or vice versa? If we could do it with the chorus,
why not do it with the main characters?

If we could do it with singers why not do it with other musicians?

I discovered that the Little Symphony project had already posed that question.

How far can one go before it ceases to be a live performance?



(How) could/should I imagine the music of C22nd and C23rd to be?

The ‘prelude’ of WAKTM is starts roughly at the present day (c2000) & runs through
the next 200 years or so. I can not predict what music will be like in 200 years –
the Queen/Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You suggests that all music will be
the same, that music will not be borne from personality, passion or creativity,
which is why the characters long for music like Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

Philip Glass' 1992 opera The Voyage (libretto by David Hwang after Glass' story),
inspired by Christopher Columbus' journey to America, "is about discoveries and
the people who make them" (Glass, CD booklet). Act III Sc 1 is set in 2092,
which is about the time, in WAKTM, that the New Earth Colony is agreed upon.
(How) does Glass write music for this time?

The Voyage moves from the past through to the present into the future.
When the natives' Amens (Act II sc 1) are overpowered, sonically and visually,
by Colombus' Amens (Act II sc 2) we realise that we have seen/heard a memory.
One way for me to (musically) imply flashbacks in WAKTM is to have
a single common (musical) idea which changes from the
end of one scene to the start of the next.



Religion and science are two of the main ideas in the story. Talking about their
video opera/theatre work Three Tales, Steve Reich and Beryl Korot discuss science,
religion and humanity; Dolly, the last 'act' of the work "deals with how we are
beginning to alter our bodies using technology" (Reich).

"For me, and for many others, there is no conveivable contradiction between
religion and science. Science investigates the nature of the physical world.
Religion investigates how we should act as human beings." (Reich)


"...of course we're going to rape the earth, because Genesis
tells us we were given dominion over everything."
(Reich, viz "Bikini")

"[man and woman] are placed in the Garden of Eden "to serve and protect it"..." (Korot viz "Bikini")
(S. Reich & B. Korot, A Theater Of Ideas, D. Allenby, 2002,
Three Tales CD/DVD booklet, Nonesuch, 2003)

"Does God abhor a naked singularity?", "What is the mind of God?",
"Can man picture a universe created without God?" (3 tales..)

The Voyage, like WAKTM, also questions God;

From prologue;

"Lovers and defilers of God...
Does God abhor a naked singularity?
What is the mind of God?"

(Libretto by David Hwang,
after story by Glass)

From Act 2, Sc 2;

"Empowered by God
Your vision of such lucidity
Such certainty, it is clear
Can only have come from God


Korot believed that 'the development of technology, with increased accessibility,
physical and social impact is transformative' and that "we have little say over
this impact". She asked "Is this part of our evolution? Are we in control?
Can we be? Have we ever been?"


"Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Arthur C. Clarke:
God, The Universe and Everything Else" (52 mins)

"God and the laws of science"



(How) does / can music imply a place? Or to put it another way;
Eddie Conlon came up with a few potential verses for some songs.
How could I set them?

"I wanna be where the world is true
I wanne see a sky that is blue
If i had one wish, i wish i could be
On a real world with you next to me"

"I wanna get myself way outta hear
been stuck on the moon for too many years
I wanna be in the place of my dreams
I wanna go where the grass grows green
get me back to the world of birth
take me back to the sweet mother earth"

I asked Chris if he had any ideas about what the music should be:

Jazz, with a hint of Electronica, maybe
along the lines of Herbie Hancock?

I had what I thought could be a jazzy chord progression so I
used this as the basic theme for Trixie's (the bar). I need to listen to
some Herbie Hancock!Jazz' instruments - double bass, sax, trumpet, piano...

classical / traditional "score", full of drama, epic.

This ALSO made me think of "The Grid" but I don't believe
that this is what Chris means by classical.

Glass inspired - energetic, full of movement,
subtle enough not to drown out everything else...

This immediately made me think of "The Grid" from Glass' Koyaanisqatsi although
it may not be "subtle" so I started to try to write somnething similar. I started by
composing a 'pastiche' of Glass' (title) from Koyaanisqatsi using a 4 chord
sequence (B-D-A-E). For Naqoyqatsi, Glass chose to use ‘real’ instruments
to chronicle the shift to a ‘technological, synthetic, virtual world’

“The powerful & endless stream of information that flows from terminal to terminal
in every town & every city on Earth, and every orbiting station, ship, and shuttle that
travels to & from the home planet. ...began at the end of the C20th, although it is
now almost unrecognisable when compared to its humble origins. Back in the day,
they called it the Internet, or so I hear. What had started out as simple networking
rapidly became an unparalleled source of information sharing & distribution,
a revolution in technology with vast influence in the fields of entertainment, news,
communication, government, and eventually almost every sphere of Human existence.
It came to impact upon our culture in a way that few technological advances
had done before or have done since. The Highway is the grandchild of
what began over 250 years ago [c1980?] and it has grown & developed
in ways that those early pioneers of the ‘web’ may never have dreamed were
possible. Today, the Highway has redefined the meaning of the word interactive,
stretched the concept of what we call communication. It has advanced the
capabilities of our species, and documented our collective experience in a way
that some people have described as almost spiritual in scope.” (Eales, WAKTM)

Tod Machover's opera Death and the Powers is a source of inspiration as it deals with
"what it means to be human" and 'wanting to live foreve'. (YouTube video)

"a successful and powerful businessman and inventor, who wants to go beyond
the bounds of humanity. Reaching the end of his life, Powers faces the question
of his legacy“When I die, what remains? What will I leave behind? What can
I control? What can I perpetuate?” He is now conducting the last experiment
of his life, passing from one form of existence to another in an effort to project
himself into the future. Whether or not he is actually alive is a question.
Simon Powers is himself now a System. His family, friends and associates
must decide what this means, how it affects them, and whether to follow."

Nico Mulhy's opera Two Boys also provided some inspiration, in terms of music,
subject matter as well as production / visuals. Whilst arguably not discussing as
an immersive world as waktm, as Machover's work, it does discuss
"Reality blurred by fantasy" and hypothesises that 'the facelessness of
Internet “personal connection” allows true identity to be completely disguised
to massively manipulative effect'. One of the musical ideas that interested me
was using 2 singers for the same character; one for their real life,
the other for their online persona.

(David Benedict, Pub Wed., Jun. 29, 2011,

The making of Two Boys - the opera from 59 Productions

When nowness asked Mulhy about his attraction to being online, he answered;

"It's about a desire for engagement. You can often have a more meaningful relationship online than offline. Two Boys touches on this. The work contains
an example of how the internet can be dangerous. But it also contains
moments of extreme beauty and connection."

Ask Pamala Clift aka Virtual Handhold to respond.

Norman Lebrecht wrote that the English National Opera premiere of Two Boysgave"the surest sign yet that opera is getting to grips with the way we live now,
in parallel virtual and actual realities." and that he " was struck by [Mulhy's] emotional concern for the effects of internet exposure on vulnerable
young people – the subject of his opera."

Lebrecht "was amazed at how gripping the work could be simultaneously
on different planes of engagement – total and detached, virtual and real,
human and online." and realised that Opera "can succeed better than
any other performing art in reflecting the split levels of our lives,
the psychological complexities of our electronic times."

Has anyone else written an opera 'about' the internet? argues that The Whos Pete Townshend did.

"Part of Pete’s plan was to stage what amounted to a never-ending rock concert, one where data could be collected from audience members to seemingly turnLifehouse into an ongoing show that would change and morph indefinitely."

"Pollution is so bad that the populace are forced to wear Lifesuits, suits that could simulate all experiences in a way that no one would have to leave home. The suits are plugged into a huge mainframe called the Grid… supposedly, someone could live out tens of thousands of lifetimes in a very short period within the Grid. The Grid is controlled by a man named Jumbo....[the audience's] souls would leave their bodies and they would be in a type of heaven; a permanent state of ecstasy" (wikipedia)

I began listening to music associated with space, such as Star Wars™,
2001; A Space Odyssey
, Star Trek® and Philip Glass' opera The Voyage.
I also explored the music of Morphon / Akasha Project (musicians I came to
know through involvement with the international arts event transit station) –
whose music based on the “cosmic octave” sought to transpose the
frequencies of hydrogen.. the planets etc into audible sounds. Holst's
Planets Suite;apocalyptic visions of war, peace, mystery......
orchestration, melody, rhythm...


Text, Character & Narrative

How to set the words to music
"Madrigalism" - portraying words directly in music

Telemann's opera Socrates
[Judit Peteri, The Music Of Socrates, ...]

Socrates is an "otherworldly" character; "abstract,
floaty orchestration (lacking a bass)"

Using polyphony for a character who otherwise sings
(homophony) suggests conflict.

"I want to die" = change from major to minor,
slowing of pulse, descending melody

Chains = simultaneous quavers + crotchets
2 entwining instruments

Variety of music within each character suggests they are human

Musical character of arias centres around a key word

Contrasting orchestral ostinati with vocal variety = ...

"alone" - unaccompanied voice
Canon = equality + emulation
Canon as dramatic device
"short" - "clipped" note(s)
"laughs" - long coloratura
"long" - held note(s)

Character 'importance'
Who opens (duets)?
Whose music intruduces instruments?
First on stage / Contrast to other characters.
Consider the (comparative) number of arias each character has.


One of the first specific ideas I had about the music for WAKTM was to base the music for the Trinity on the number 3 - ("tri" meaning 3) - intervals, time signature, number of instruments, and to include a triangle. I chose to use 3 in the time signature as well as the harmonic pattern - 3 chords, based on an
augmented triad (major 3rds) - C - E - Ab.

Each member of the Trinity could be symbolized by one of
these chords, e.g. Victoria = C / David = E / Szymek = Ab.

The idea of combining themes of a number of (characters) into a single theme
was partly inspired by Glass' opera The Voyage, which is also 'about geographical and scientific discoveries' (Glass), covers the past, present and future.

"While hiking in the Andes, one of then heard a low-pitched tone; the other was in digging near the ganges when she heatd a high-pitched tone. As the Earth Twins bring the crystals together, the original three-note chord is recreated, causing
the space station's scanner to focus on the "home planet in the mosmos
from which the original visitors came" (synopsis Act 3, Sc 1)

I want to be able to musically portray the 'rise and fall' of the Faculty which was achieved/caused by the Trinity. One way of doing this would be a rise and fall in pitch; another would be to use major / minor / diminidished / augmemnted chords. One of the models/inspirations of this aspect was the motif in Glass' Akhnaten, an opera about the "rise, reign, and fall" of Akhnaten, who attempted to introduce monotheism. I started to wonder how similar Reverend Stanton is/will be to Akhnaten, and how different The Trinity is/will be. Perhaps whilst The Trinity is rising, Stanton is falling, and when The Trinity begin to fall, Stanton begins to rise again. Religion is overtaken by science, which is then overtaken by religion.



When "WAKTM" pertains to The Trinity I plan use the 3 note chord or the 3 chord sequence; when it pertains to one more of the members of the Trinity, I will
use the relevant chords, depending on who is talking/singing.

How should the music for the Trinity relate to / be different
from the music for Rev Stanton who defends God?
At this point I turned to Eales for some guidance;

"I think [the music for Stanton] should be “related” in that the music for Stanton & his bad guys should remind the audience of the music for the trinity, but still be separate Perhaps Stanton /
bad guys music should be darker, perhaps with a similar theme to the trinity but in a minor key….Having a similar theme for the Trinity & the Religious fundamentalists also helps to show that they are really 2 sides of the same coin. They all are thinking about the same thing ie:
the future of Humanity etc…They just take very different opinions of it. The trinity are all for “progress” whereas Stanton & the boys are afraid of what we might become,
and want to hold back any changes or progress."

One possibility is to have the same sequence (C-E-Ab) but using minor chords instead of major ones. To distinguish between Stanton and the Trinity would,in this case, mean not using minor chords for The Trinity. Another possibility would be to use chords based on notes a MINOR third apart (e.g. C-Eb-F# / C-Eb-A / C-Eb-F# -A~) as opposed to a MAJOR third apart (C - E - Ab). The use of "C" as both Victoria's theme and Stanton's starting chord implies, at least to me, some connection between their characters as Chris suggested.

C - Eb - F# - A
c - eb - f# - a - ~

Victoria (C)
David (E)
Szymek (Ab)

I then started to think about the music for Matty and Joe - as they were the first two
characters to appear, and Matty seems to me to be the main character. So far,
"C" seems to be a central key/chord so I wondered about using the same chord for Matty to suggest his centrality in the work but this also meant his chord would be
the same as Victoria's; I was not sure I wanted this.

In March 2011, whilst working on an 'overture' / video teaser score, I decided on

MAJOR chords based on an AUGMENTED triad (C - E - Ab)

Reverend Stanton:
MAJOR chords based on a DIMINISHED triad (C - Eb - F# - A - etc)

This would allow "C - E - G" / "c - e - g" / "C - Eb - G" / "c - eb - g"
for scenes which combined The Trinity & Stanton

Mian Li

"Mian Li is an Asian lady. Her hands are small, soft, manicured and she is dressed immaculately in a slender white dress-suit. Her voice is lovely, melodious. She chose to call Matty by his surname, but Matty sensed that this formality was her custom, rather than an indication of a desire to keep her distance." (Eales)

So I needed a "slender", lyrical melody for her, and I wanted to suggest that she is Asian. I started to think about asian classical solo/chamber music. Whilst discoveringC20th Chinese/Japanese composers, I learnt that some of them have been heavily influenced by Western classical music - often as a result of studying Western music at college/university in China/Japan or travelling to e.g. USA to complete their musical studies.I also thought about the story's 'research centre in Tokyo'. For Monkey, Journey to the West, Damon Albarn chose to use the "pipa, the gu-zheng and the zhongran" to play Chinese sounds. I started to research these instruments, and to listen to Chinese music; the kind of music that most people would recognise as being from China.



Part of the story of WAKTM is about a transfiguration / transformation from a physical being to a virtual one. Richard Strauss' "Tod und Verklarung" (Death & Transfiguration). Mahler's 2nd Symphony, 'Resurection', marks his view of the "beauty of afterlife and resurrection".

The libretto of Glass' 1992 opera The Voyage asks
what impact living in a spiritual realm will have;

"Or perhaps her hopes lie in a spiritual realm
Will we know what to do, where to touch, where to kiss?
Will we one day find ourselves loving the stranger?"

(How) does (Glass) compose music that also concerns these issues? Glass uses
a 3 note chord to symbolise the 3 crystals that shows the travellers (3 travellers
+ doctor) of Act 1 the way home. The internet, in 2010, allows us to 'visit' places,
real and virtual, without leaving our seats/computers.

Jean Cocteau's 1950 film Orphee is about and 'immortality and art' (Glass). Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete is "a journey through the unconcsious to the site of the creative" (Glass, P. in Cott, J. 1995, "A conversation with Philip Glass on La Belle et la Bete", pp12). In WAKTM, Matt makes the decision to 'die' so that he can 'live' in the virtual world. Perhaps the migration from real to virtual is like the mirror in Belle et la Bete which is"the entrance to the otherworld or the world of the transcendent" (Glass). WAKTM is a journey, of Matt (and others) from (his) 'real', 'first life' self, to a"virtual universe where a Human can transcend into, and live forever" (Eales).



One of my considerations is what format(s) any possible future recording of the work may be available in - and hence, what durations would be possible / suitable. Steve Reich & Beryl Korots video operaThree Tales is available as a CD & DVD release, with the CD only containing the music of 2 of the 3 tales. Some time
ago wondered about writing some music that was specifically for CD release
- i.e. that was c80mins long. With the development of DVD/DVD-A & Blu-ray
discs, possible recording durations have increased enormously.
he future of (portable) media is ...[yet to be written].


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WAKTM Text © Chris Eales & 2006 - 2013.
Other Text* & Music © Rupert Cheek 2009-2013.
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