Otto Piene and I developed the concept further, integrating performers with the visual media and air sculptures we used in other work. We collaborated on the labyrinth scene, combining lasers, music, and inflatable sculptures for performances at the Biennale für Visuelle Kunst und Graphik in Vienna in 1979 and in January, 1982, at M.I.T.'s Hayden Gallery.
In September, 1981, scenes from Ikarus were performed for the first SKY ART Conference at M.I.T. Daedalus "flew" through a combination of live performance and superimposed video images. For the SKY ART Conference '82 in Linz, Jan Strasfogel created a new scenario and text; three new characters (Minos, the Minotaur, and Pasiphae) were added to the cast. Otto Piene transposed the new text into German, which I then used as the basis for the Ars Electronica production.
Three layers of music have been written for various productions of Ikarus, dating back to 1978. The present concert hall / theater production in German contains revisions of previous music as well as a great deal of new music to be premiered in Linz. The musical idioms are eclectic. They rang from electronic processing of voices to jazz and folk music. Other elements are non-pitched electronic and instrumental sonorities; analog and digital musical synthesizers; aleatoric procedures; serial processes; directed improvisation; tonality-, traditional triadic sonorities, and finally, a set of variations on a popular melody (including a March and Chorale-Dirge).
The musical personalities differ widely. Daedalus, the boastful, self-confident compostite of Leonardo, Bacon, Newton, Edison (and Drs. Frankenstein and Moreau), sings lines which allow for great expansiveness of gesture. Ikarus's charm is represented by a children's chorus which occupies a good portion of the musical spectrum. Parsiphae, the passionate, complex woman whose identity and actions penetrate all parts of the myth, has the widest musical range, e. g. introspection, motherly love, lust. Minos, a steely, bitter old man, is represented by an electronically processed speaking voice. The Minotaur is embodied in the trombone and French horn pitched and noise-producing playing techniques. The work is one continuous "act", with nine "scenes". Each of the three performers dominates a third of the work, beginning with Pasiphae, then Daedalus, and ending with Ikarus.
I create music layer by layer. First I sketch out vocal lines which are revised after consultation with the singers who inidicate where they need particular instrumental help to find their pitches. From this I compose a bare instrumental harmonic/rhythmic framework to serve as basis for more expressive, figurative elaboration. When electronic music or a tape is present, it is created first (e. g. the other elements key off of the taped speeches of Minos). However, voice, when present, is generally the musical focus. I feel that the text be clearly understood; hence I labor at clarity and use repetition of key phrases.
Ikarus is my fifth opera. My first opera, Flight (1965), after the novel by Evelyn Eaton, was already an indication of my fascination with the theme. In that earlier work, a commercial airline trip served as an elaborate metaphor for the Rite of Passage, a community en route to the life after death. Ikarus also concerns a flight towards death. Ovid says that the body of Ikarus was never found. We have followed this convetion by having our Ikarus fall when - coming too close to the sun, but there is another possible interpretation which I prefer; that flight of the soul in Dantes's Paradiso, which seeks reunion with ligth, wisdom, life, and its creator personified by the sun.