Status Quo: Dance for Full Orchestra


HD video 13 mins color/sound.

The film Status Quo: Dance (for Full Orchestra), a performative lecture, unfolds the final movement of Johanna M. Beyer's unrealized political opera Status Quo. The modest structure is similar to the initial table read used in theater, here guided by the conductor and pianist Christian Hornef, part of the Oper Leipzig ensemble. The performance can be seen as a translation, a way to imagine a symphony of music when you do not have the economic means or access to an orchestra. For someone unable to read musical scores, it offers a key to understanding a language that is not yours. The performative gesture aims to provide long-overdue access to an institution, the Opera House in Beyer's city of birth. For her, a room that was out of reach due to political and social barriers.

In 1938, the Leipzig-born and NY-based ultra-modernist composer Johanna M. Beyer (1888—1944) composed two fragments of music intended as part of her visionary unrealized political opera Status Quo—the prelude Music of the Spheres and the final movement Dance (for Full Orchestra). The compositions use collages as form and blend compositional styles and musical themes. Beyer wrote them during the interwar period; she touches on utopian ideas, and a commitment to social rights movements and uprisings is visible. She addresses political turbulence reminiscent of what we experience today, with the rise of fascist parties and traces of postcolonial conflicts. You can sense her holistic approach and interest in a spherical form of time in her compositional work. The same year she embarked on this project, she was diagnosed with ALS. Johanna M. Beyer was scarcely recognized and almost faded into obscurity; these pieces were not performed during her lifetime. However, in recent years, a new interest has emerged, with scholars, composers, musicians, and artists rediscovering her body of work—and at a slow pace, her compositions come to life.

Status Quo,: Dance for Full Orchestra, film stills. Cinematography: Katharina Schelling.
Status Quo,: Dance for Full Orchestra, HD video 13 mins.  Cinematography: Katharina Schelling.
Installation view, LIA: Leipzig International Art Programme, 2019. Photo: Conny Karlsson Lundgren.
Status Quo: Narrative Outline of the Opera, Music of The Spheres, Announcer’s Voice, Act IV Geneva, Dance for Full Orchestra. Riso prints.

Conductor and Pianist: Christian Hornef. Director, Editing and Grading: Conny Karlsson Lundgren. Cinematography: Katharina Schelling. Sound Recordist: Tuukka Haapakorpi. Assistant Camera Bjargey Ólafsdóttir.
Special Thanks: Christian Hornef, Franziska Severin and Patrick Bialdyga at Oper Leipzig, Laura Bierau and Anna-Louise Rolland at LIA, Ludwig Kameraverleih, Leipzig, Amy C. Beal and Larry Polansky.Status Quo: Dance (for full Orchestra) is part of The Johanna Series, an ongoing body of work and collaborations in dialogue with Johanna M. Beyer's legacy. The piece was produced during the Nordic Leipzig residency at LIA: Leipzig International Art Programme, in collaboration with Goethe Institut, Iaspis, and Oper Leipzig. Other projects in The Johanna Series include The Spheres (2015), Status Quo: ACT I–IV, and Clusters (2019).

 ©MMXIV Conny Karlsson Lundgren