The Gurs Zyklus May 18, 2012

by Ruth Lockwood

I think I heard some of the best sounds I've ever heard last night, and they're indescribable.  The sounds of voices, piano, fire organ and water, all in service to a spectral place.  The Gurs Zyklus is nominally about the town of Gurs, which was a waystation for prisoners on their way to death camps in WWII, but it's also about memory, discovery, hope, loss and about Trimpin himself.


This is a town and a story translated by image, sound, semi-automation, fire, and water.  The result is as if you squeezed it through a filter, or pressed it with a mold, and it comes out in an unexpected shape, concentrated and changed.


The Gurs Zyklus is about the place, and what happened there, but it's also about the people who passed through there, and the people who lived there.  So there's always a juxtaposition of the town, its trees, the train stations you pass on the way to the town, with the letters- desperate and hopeful stories by individuals writing to people who knew them before they came to this place.


How is it that spelling something out makes it more human and more real than even just saying it?  The Gurs Zyklus presents us with written accounts- letters- to families and friends.  But just as crucial to the story are breaking words down into their individual components- letters.  Spelling is rhythmic, hypnotic, reverant.


Rinde Eckert guides us through the piece but also continually asks us to step back and think about Trimpin's process of discovery and creation. The disbelief that we checked at the door of the theater keeps getting called back.  Trimpin becomes a character in the piece like Gurs itself: not physically present on stage, but there, semi-spectral.