listening automat (inverted opera)

card game for a random audiences and circular improvisations

LISTENING AUTOMATE (former Inverted Opera)

David Helbich & Holly Gramazio 
set by Rosario Talevi

"Follow the instruction on the other side of this card, then exchange it for a new card or swap with another player. Play and listen for as long as you’d like."

Listening Automate is a contemporary sound&listening concept for preferably public spaces, where spread out musicians meet spontaneous audiences and random passer-byes. 
The work took place in
  • Frankfurt, Opernplatz/Alte Oper, Playsonic Festival, 2018 (with Ensemble Modern)
  • London, Somerset House, Now Play This festival, 2018
  • Frankfurt, HfMDK, Neue Musik Nacht, 2019
The work is inspired by contemporary music, deep listening and game design.

It has mainly two aspects:

1. an improvisation concept for the musicians, consisting of a circular sonic movement (tones are send around in circles and are taken over from each other) and reactive sound and performance events.

2. a set of approx. 50 game cards that are given to passer-byes, bystanders and invited listeners. The audiences are invited to join "the game" with the tasks written on the cards or, in case they are done or don’t like them, exchange them with cards by others. 

The tasks are partly very “intro-active” (a term I use for many of my more internal concepts) or more extrovert. Some cards are even interactive: they have to be shown to the musicians and will change their musical or performative behaviour.
"Anyone who wanted to would take cards from facilitators, each card providing a suggestion of how to respond to the music (and to the ambient noise of the square, which formed a key part of the piece). Players listened and took part for as long as they liked, exchanging cards with facilitators and other players.

There were over fifty different cards, which from a game design perspective fell into four categories:
  • Cards about listening, providing prompts for ways to hear the music differently. Listen while facing away from the musicians; listen while focusing on the sound of nearby cards.
  • Cards about movement: move your tongue inside your mouth along with the music; find a line and balance along it, taking as if the music is trying to make you fall.
  • Cards about making noise: find a bell and ring it; find a word written down and yell it as loud as you feel comfortable.
  • Cards to show to musicians, which cued the musicians to play differently: faster, slower, suddenly loud, even to follow the person who showed them the card around the square for thirty seconds."

A game on many levels: a mobile architecture opening new perspectives on the space in front of Alte Oper; scattered musicians sending and receiving sounds; a mixed audience invited to join the exchange through action cards.
You can play for yourself, or with each other. And with the space, the installation and the spatial dimension of sound. What does it mean to become an audience?

Inverted Operas has no fixed beginning or end. Festival visitors and passers-by can join spontaneously and decide on their own how long the experience should last: just the dip of a toe into the water - or an immersion in play.

"Listening Automate" was initially premiered under the title "Inverted Opera", which was a commission by PLAYSONIC Festival, that was curated by Josa Gerhard and Sebastian Quack, members of the Invisible Playground network) and a joint project by Alte Oper Frankfurt, Ensemble Modern and Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt am Main.

Playsonic Festival, Platz der Alten Oper, Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt, May 2018

HfMDK, Nacht der Neuen Musik, Frankfurt, April 2019 (photo: Björn Hadem)

HfMDK, Nacht der Neuen Musik, Frankfurt, April 2019 (photo: Hansjörg Rindsberg)


instrumental compositions & co.


Album NYH