Hysteria: A Song Cycle for Singer and Psychiatrist (2018)
Hysteria: A Song Cycle for Singer and Psychiatrist is the third part to a trilogy exploring manifestations of mental health, and was born out of an absorption with the power of the mind, and its interplay with the body. Less talked about and acknowledged, though undeniably still prevalent, is psychosomatic phenomena, which, taking its roots in Freudian analytical theory and case studies, is often overly used to refer to the experiences of ‘hysterical women’.
From a series of interviews with individuals explaining their personal experience of psychosomatic phenomena, or ‘unexplained physiological happenings’, Pook has created a series of movements interspersing observations of psychiatrist Dr Stéphanie Courtade with the ‘patients’ own stories – the music and lyricism of narrative, emotion and recall generates an evocative immersive picture of what it’s like to live with psychological distress, breaking through to the corporeal self.
The performance included video accompaniment by Dragan Aleksić and Georgia Anderson (excerpts contained in the video below) and was followed by a Q&A with Errol Francis, artistic director of PS/Y, Jocelyn Pook, Dr Stéphanie Courtade and Lamis Mary Bayar, chair of mental health organisation Dragon Cafe in London.
The project was kindly supported by The Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.
Jocelyn collaborated with singer Melanie Pappenheim and director Emma Bernard on a new piece for H7STERIA with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Charles Hazlewood. Hearing Voices is inspired by Jocelyn’s great aunt, Phyllis Williams, who spent much of her life in an asylum struggling to make sense of the voices she heard and writing her experiences in a series of diaries and notebooks.
Hearing Voices uses the testimony of five women across different generations who have all been diagnosed with a mental illness. Melanie Pappenheim will duet live with these women’s words, protests and laughter drawn from a mixture of recorded testimony and written texts. Hearing Voices uses the words of artists Bobby Baker and Julie McNamara, Jocelyn’s relatives Phyllis Williams and Mary Pook, and the seamstress Agnes Richter — who stitched cryptic texts into a jacket she wore in German asylum, at the turn of the last century.
Hearing Voices was performed at Queen Elizabeth Hall and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Ingerland Jocelyn Pook / ROH2
In June 2010, Ingerland, Jocelyn’s first opera premiered at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio. Ingerland is a big, raw, energetic exploration of the world of the football crowd. Directed by Tony Guilfoyle, with evocative video imagery by Dragan Aleksic, the cast includes Tannishtha Chatterjee, Mike Henry, Jonathan Williams, Olivia Chaney, Mikhail Karikis, Melanie Pappenheim, George Ikediashi, and Lore Lixenberg. Ingerland was commissioned and produced by ROH2 as part of a triple programme of short contemporary operas written by artists with established reputations in non-operatic fields.
Speaking in Tunes
Jocelyn received a British Composer Award (Multi-Media) for the music-theatre piece Speaking in Tunes, a collaboration with visual artist Dragan Aleksic and director Graeme Miller. Speaking in Tunes was a quartet for four women. It was inspired by everyday sounds that were woven into the music in a journey driven by the quartet’s thoughts, memories and dreams. Film landscapes were mixed with fragments of interviews about music, performing and the course of life. Falling carpets, junk shop violins, stories, a collage of notes, movement and shadows, portraits of the musicians all feature in a performance crossing theatre, music and visual art.