The Inquisitive Musician

by Cindy Bernard


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"The Inquisitive Musician" is a translation and adaptation of a 17th century German satire attributed to Johann Kuhnau, "Musicus Curiosus, or Battalus, the Inquisitive Musician; the Struggle for Precedence between the Kunst Pfeifer and the Common Players". The satire pits itinerant “beer fiddlers” against the official “Kunstpfeifer” in an argument over who is the better musician – those who play tunes by ear and memory or the “Kunstpfeifer” who relies on printed music in order to perform. Although the original play is situated in the world of music of the 17th century when the financial stresses of war prompted an increase in the hiring of itinerant musicians, the tension between academic and self taught forms of production continues to this day. The text acts as a metaphor for similar struggles both creative and class based.

I see "The Inquisitive Musician" as an open matrix which allows me to work with different creative communities, facilitating relationships between diverse groups of artists through working together on the production. Roles are populated by artists and musicians who identify with the struggle represented in the play. Two performances of "The Inquisitive Musician" are currently scheduled: at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on May 7, 2011 and at the Kunsthaus Dresden, Summer 2011.

"The Inquisitive Musician" is presented as a staged read with musical interludes. However, Act 6 is a play within a play - "The Comedy of Waschebleil" – which the beer fiddlers perform to prove their skills. To distinguish this section of the performance from the rest of the staged read, I want to shoot a video of "The Comedy of Waschebleil" on location at the studios and homes of the artists and musicians involved and insert it into the live staged read.

I’m seeking funding to produce videos of Act 6 - "The Comedy of Waschebleil" for both of the upcoming productions. The first video will be shot with the Los Angeles cast which includes artists Dave Muller and Marnie Weber, experimental music bagpiper David Watson and punk icon Mike Watt and screened as a part of live staged read at LACMA. The second video will be shot with the German cast in Dresden. These two videos will be used interchangeably as a part of future live reads of “The Inquisitive Musician.”

Since this project went online at US Artists in December, I received a $3,500 Durfee ARC to support the Los Angeles video shoot. The ARC grant enabled me to reduce my initial $8,500 minimum goal to just $5,000. However the ARC funds are $1,500 short of the $5,000 needed for the Los Angeles video shoot and do not support the costs of the German video shoot.

Your contribution towards my new minimum goal of $5,000 compensates the German cast and technical crew for the rehearsals and video shoot as well as provides travel funds for players not residing in Dresden. It also supplements the ARC grant enabling the hiring of additional necessary technical crew. Funds raised above and beyond my minimum goal support the purchase of a high definition video camera and underwrite a professional storyboard, the construction of props and post production.

The LACMA performance on May 7 is extremely important to me as it is the first time I have ever presented a solo project at a museum in Los Angeles (my home town) and the Dresden production is my first solo project in Europe in several years. Your support is crucial to making both upcoming productions of “The Inquisitive Musician” the best they can possibly be!

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