Friday, 13 June 2008

Welcome to Orpheus Complex

Welcome to Orpheus Complex, London’s newest classical music blog. I’m a slightly lapsed musicologist and composer but ever committed concert-goer. This blog will be about the classical events I get along to, and as it is already June, you can expect a strong Proms focus in the coming months.

But first a word or two about the title of my blog. Cursory research (i.e. Googling it) suggests that I’m not the first to have thought up the term ‘Orpheus Complex’. The New York based composer and artist Elodie Lauten writes eloquently (here) about the Orpheus complex as the psychological consequence to the artist of working in a ‘time of cultural devaluation’. A kind of Freudian superstructure for writer’s block perhaps? One of the composer’s ‘neo-operas’ is entitled Orpheo, suggesting that she takes the classical references slightly more seriously than I intent to.

The notion of an Orpheus complex has also been invoked by Terence Dawson in an article about Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (abstract here). Dawson’s abstract makes the point that the persistence of mythical analogies in 20th century arts and criticism is mainly a result of masculine thinking, as women seem better able ‘to free themselves from identification with the mythic pattern.’ We men all have lessons to learn from the ladies then, and perhaps no one more so than Woody Allen.

‘The Orpheus Complex’ is also the name of a mime-based stage work performed by Theatre de l'Ange Fou in London in 2005, a work based, not surprisingly, on the myth of Orpheus. This too appears to be a highly appropriate use of the term and far more apposite than my own misappropriation. In fact, you are unlikely to find any deep psychology in the posts that follow. Mythical archetypes will also be notable by their absence. To the authors, artists and scholars mentioned above I offer my heartfelt apologies for using their terminology in vain. The fact is, I just think it sounds good.

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