Tekst (smal)

Venice Immersive 2023: Songs for a Passerby

Interview by Nick Cunningham.

Celine Daemen returns to Venice with her Songs for a Passerby, described as a VR opera about our tenuous relationship with the transitory nature of reality. Back in 2022, Daemen presented the VR Eurydice, a Descent into Infinity, her very particular take on the mythical tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Still: Songs for a Passerby
Dutch VR director Celine Daemen underlines how her Venice Immersive selection Songs for a Passerby is a meditative quest through a musical dreamscape that allows the user to step outside reality and look at themselves. “As a puppeteer of your own body you will be entering a poetic space where the melancholy question arises: is this me passing by moments, or is it rather the moments passing by me?”

In the 30-minute VR users will follow their own 3D mirror image and, in the process, pass by various scenes: a dying horse, a choir of murmuring people, two playing dogs.

“How does one relate to a world of things that are passing?” Daemen asks. 
Are we a part of it? Or are we just looking at it? And what about the body – is it something that we are or that we have? There is an ambivalence here that prompts the question: could this be the origin of all melancholy?”

 To achieve the dreamlike environment, Daemen worked with Aron Fels on photogrammetry capture and volumetric video.

“We worked with a lot of found footage and a lot of staged footage for both the architecture and the people that you see passing by in the scene. I think in Songs for a Passerby, there are more than 500 passersby that were all individually captured with volumetric video.”

For the soundtrack and soundscape Daemen worked with composer Asa Horvitz. “I think in this piece there is not really a division between sound and music. All the entities that you meet in the piece, whether it's a dog, a rock, or a person, they are all these sounding entities that are singing in a way.”

 What’s more the libretto, sung by twenty singers and four soloists, was very much inspired by the idea of incantation. “They are searching with words in these kinds of repetitive and mantra-like texts,” Daemen explains.

“Asa asked them to focus on hearing more than on pronouncing. So the melodies are always sounding like something passing through them, more than something that they really want to express. These dreamlike images, mesmerizing sounds, mantra-like texts and repetitive melodies somehow, by making you take a distance from yourself, bring you in effect closer to yourself. Diminishing distance by taking distance,” the director ends.

Songs for a Passerby will feature at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 20-30 September.  

Songs for a Passerby is directed by Celine Daemen and produced by Silbersee in co-production with Muziekgebouw Productiehuis, Studio Nergens and via Zuid. It is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and Creative Industries Fund (Immerse\Interact).

VR art direction: Aron Fels
Composer music & sound: Asa Horvitz
Libretto: Olivier Herter
Sound: Wouter Snoei






Director: Celine Daemen
Festival: Venice