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[whitespace] Christopher Gaynor God Complex: Christopher Gaynor leads Ensemble Momo on Sunday at Kuumbwa.

Nealon Mundt

Shock Therapy:
Santa Cruz's Ensemble Momo takes on Antonin Artaud's controversial French work

JUST WHEN YOU THINK every interesting piece of music from the archives has been performed, revised and interpreted, local musician Christopher Gaynor digs up a work long overdue for a performance. On Sunday night, he and an illustrious cadre of local musicians band together for the premiere of To Have Done With the Judgment of God, the final work by French philosopher, playwright and rumored madman Antonin Artaud.

The piece, originally commissioned for French radio in the late 1940s, was considered too controversial, obscene and macabre for the masses, and was nixed moments before its scheduled broadcast. It disappeared into obscurity for decades.

Enter Gaynor. "Basically having lived with his work for more than 20 years ... since 1973, since the first translation," he says, "and knowing that it had never been performed before, I started envisioning if this was given emphasis with music, what it would sound like."

He enlisted the sonorous assistance of local musicmakers Pipa Pinon, Nancy LeVan, Rick Walker and Dylan Morgan, now dubbed Ensemble Momo, all of whom possess both the musical ability and the willingness to express their vulnerability through the controversial work.

"These are people who can go outside with what the words demand," Gaynor explains. "[The piece] goes outside of conventionality, of what people think of as a poem.

"It's a highly emotional work; the words themselves are charged areas. What's interesting is the work acts as a catalyst or form of divination for the ensemble. It gives a sense of vulnerability as to how we work together."

Gaynor gave direction to the group at its onset, likening himself to a film director, but explains that Judgment really morphed into an egalitarian collaboration.

"I laid out the instrumentation of each segment," he says, "and tried to sense the characteristics--if parts were more spoken, if they needed singing, but it became a group project as we moved further into it. I trusted in [the musicians'] innate intelligence with what the work is demanding."

To Have Done With the Judgment of God is not by any means a palatable, easy-listening work. With its apocalyptic visions, denouncements of America as a war machine and extremely anti-Catholic sentiments, Artaud's work--even when set to music--is a violent, scattered, yet philosophical statement. Its censorship was vehemently protested by such mental giants as Jean Cocteau, Rene Clair and Paul Eluard, and it offers something undeniably different.

Ensemble Momo's production gets started on Sunday at 7:30pm at Kuumbwa, 320-2 Cedar St., SC. Tickets cost $7. For more info, call 425-2131.

It's Showtime

The newly remodeled Riverfront Twin--once a UA venture, now owned by Signature Theatres, parent to the neighboring Cinema 9--opens its doors on Friday, Nov. 13. The spit-shined new moviehouse features state-of-the-art sound, handicapped seating and one of the coolest things in flick-watching amenities--stadium seating. The theater's first cinematic offering? Meet Joe Black. See Film Santa Cruz for showtimes.


The Chookasian Armenian Ensemble offers up a cultural smorgasbord of songs and dances at Palookaville on Sunday. Moving and Storage/Crash, Burn and Die present two evenings of dance on Nov. 20-21 at the SC Dance Gallery. The E/motion dance series opens Dec. 4-5, also at the Dance Gallery.
--Karen Reardanz

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From the November 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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