Herakles! retells the myth of Hercules through a complex web of intersecting dramatic and musical allegories. Drawing specifically on various embodiments of cultural ‘demigods’, Herakles! invokes the spirits of Rock guitarists, Arnold Schwarzanegger, the Kabuki play Shibaraku, the Mortal Kombat video-game franchise, and the superhuman healing powers of the ‘Quack Doctor’ as portrayed in the traditional British Mummers play, amongst others. Binding all of this together is an audible sound and video ‘click track’. Made up of mostly bodily sounds this track serves to contain these wildly varying and conflicting influences in a tightly choreographed and synchronised framework. The piece positions these influences in stark, bathetic, contrast to one another, mixing high and low culture, classical and contemporary influences. The final movement of the work references the strange and arcane ‘Mummers’ folk play. Conflating many aspects of traditional English culture (music, maypole dancing, song-calling and the play itself), the movement draws heavily on the composer’s involvement in live art practices, as well as musical ones. Herakles! was written for, and developed with the ensemble ARCO.
ARCO is made up of a number of musicians and artists from different backgrounds. Some players are classically trained contemporary-music specialists, some rooted in improvisation, some from rock and experimental backgrounds, and others from performance art and other practices. In this regard, the score and performance responds to the individual abilities of these players very closely, bringing together strictly notated music with graphic elements, improvisation, video, and text scores. Herakles! showcases some of Neil Luck’s collaborative partnerships. The film ‘Muscle Movie’ was created especially for the work by his frequent collaborator (and performer in Herakles!) Adam de la Cour. Also, the fight-scenes which are shown throughout feature footage of a performance created by Neil in collaboration with the renowned Tokyo based performance artist Takahiro Tomatsu. Herakles! was developed over 3 years, premiering in its complete form at Tête à Tête Opera Festival 2014 in London, before embarking on a UK tour. It has received support from a Help Musicians UK ‘Emerging Excellence.