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What is Music Theater?

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Name: Claudia Hansen Main Subject: T.I.M.E. Research Coaches: Ines van der Scheer and Arnold Marinissen Title of Research: What is Music Theater? (A definition by a staging musician.) Research Question: What is the difference between Music Theater – the modern performance art form and sub-genre of Music Theater – and other hybrid art forms that include musical and theatrical elements grouped under the hypernym ‘Music Theater’? And, is it possible to construct a definition for Music Theater? Research Process: I used the word ‘music theater’ to describe the hypernym and the word ‘Music Theater’ to describe the subgenre. First, I researched the history and the evolution of the tendencies in Music Theater as hypernym genre and made a historical overview from the beginning of Music Theater up until the emergence of the subgenre ‘Music Theater’. I focused on the development of Music Theater as a subgenre. In order to find out what the essence of Music Theater is, I analyzed the three major components of Music Theater. I made an overview of challenges that a creator faces in Music Theater and proposed several solutions, which are based on reasoning and existing performances. I tried to see as many performances as possible, which in the widest sense could be considered to be Music Theater, in order to get a wide overview of present day streams and chose six performances that in my opinion are perfect examples to illustrate my concept of Music Theater, and analyzed the various components of these works (such as music, visuals and text) in detail. Finally, I worked towards a new definition of Music Theater. Summary of Results: Music Theater is a heterogeneous but symbiotic performance genre, which is constructed with a multitude of art forms. The name might suggest that the main focus lies on music and theater. However, any existing art form can be included. The art forms can be divided into three major categories called components: music, theater and visuals. Each art form is equally important as Music Theater is based on the structural equality of voices. Music Theater is constructed by first distilling four innate languages out of the art forms and then applying them to either the same art form or inducing them into another art form: musical language, verbal language, body language and visual language. Each language element has a valuable existence of its own and is an autonomous element of the performance that adds a particular atmosphere to the whole picture. The languages are either layered in the performance or the aspects of the performance, such as the protagonists (human or material) or the art forms themselves. Music Theater is a performance genre that rather focuses on the impact that it has on the audience than on the compositional art forms. It is outcome-based and not medium-based. This creates space for each audience member to have a completely personal experience and interpretation of the Music Theater performance.

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