Mediumship and Real Estate — Roy Hart and Malerargues

Following the publication of the article titled Towards a Docta Memoria of Roy Hart [1], a philosopher colleague involved with the Roy Hart Centre, sent me some comments concerning especially the relationship between Roy Hart (1926 – 1975) whom he did not meet, and Roy Hart’s teacher, Alfred Wolfsohn (1896 – 1962) whose writings he is very familiar with, in the original German. I told him that an exchange like ours could already constitute a “doctoral” agenda.

This article has two parts. One that is ‘internal politics’ and a second one that is philosophical. At this juncture, especially, I cannot separate the two, and it is essential for me to state my position on Malerargues, the property, in the South of France, where the Roy Hart Centre is based, as well as on the use that is made of Roy Hart’s name[2].


I start with Malerargues. Last summer (August 2017) there were four long consecutive meetings, presided by Jonathan Hart-Makwaia, the current president of the Roy Hart Centre Association (a not-for-profit French legal structure). The meetings were about the further renewal or not of a Roy Hart Teacher Diploma[3], and by extension about the use of Roy Hart’s name. These meetings were, for me, a final “disaster”, and, after over four years of talks trying to find a common ground, I no longer wish to be involved in these matters. But, I am a shareholder-owner of Malerargues and, with my companion, Linda Wise, I own a house there, which ‘anchors’ this article in “real estate”. Pantheatre is also legally based in Malerargues with a strong artistic presence in summer. It is based in Paris in winter.

The details and causes of my position do not belong in this article. But the outcome does because it intertwines philosophy and deontology. My wish now is that these societal and legal matters (internal politics) be foremost, and hopefully exclusively, based on the notion and spirit of co-propriety of Malerargues. The role of the Roy Hart Centre Association is, for me, also based on the copropriety of the name Roy Hart, especially in terms of its use for teaching (commercial) or performance (artistic). One example: I have opposed, from the beginning, the nature (catalogue and franchise) and the ‘unitarian’ tone of the Roy Hart Centre website which, astoundingly, still calls itself Roy Hart Theatre.

In last summer’s meetings I actually came to agree with the  president, Jonathan Hart-Makwaia, also a personal friend, who stated his own opposition to the use of the name Roy Hart or of a diploma. Until those meetings, and out of ‘real-politics’, certainly not out of conviction, I thought differently, and worked quite hard, four years, proposing detailed schemes for an a minima common consensus.

In my reply to my colleague, I point to the following: he uses the plural “we”. And I remember him, and another colleague, saying that “…we could decide what to call our work”. I must state clearly that I do not belong nor wish to belong to such a plural “we” (community, family, generation, elders, and least of all “theatre”, as in Roy Hart Theatre. That “theatre” belonged to Roy Hart – knowing well that he intimated, in sibylline manner, what would happen after his death – sometimes with utopic connotations (speaking of Malerargues as a “universe-city”), and sometimes in rather somber, apocalyptic, sectarian terms. Those pronouncements belong to his idealism and to its shadow.

There are persons who own Malerargues, others who claim its commercial use and others who use of the name of Roy Hart. It is on these counts that my position is now one of civil co-ownership, civic juxtaposition of differences, and, yes, respectful, fair and adult competition. What I reject is what I call disloyal friendships and binding calls for solidarity (or trumped democracy) – while using Malerargues and Roy Hart’s name, to put it diplomatically: inappropriately. These matters must be dealt through serious, civil attitudes. What I term “disloyalty” shows mostly in naïve assumptions as the result of fusional communitarian presuppositions.

I turn now to some philosophical points on Memoria, putting aside the shadow echoes of these topics, even though they will be resonating (and should) in the background.

  • On body. “To embody” was a foundational notion for Roy Hart, and possibly his ultimate “existential” argument: to be or not to be… embodied. This notion needs as my colleague writes, serious doctoral work. I would say: the sort of thinking that can relativize and update the very notions of body and of voice as used by Roy Hart. There is now a huge philosophical corpus on body and embodiment, mostly written after Roy Hart’s passing in 1975, and triggered especially by three French philosophers: Foucault (whom the student uses as reference, as mentioned in my Docta Memoria article), as well as Derrida and Deleuze. The corpus includes gender studies and research on the “disembodied voice”.
    My colleague describes the voice as “a unique medium… always in contact with the inner situation and the body of the one who ‘sings’ and at the same time with the outside –  the listener, the space, the world. This is one reason why the voice work goes beyond psychology.” I certainly agree with the first part, the phenomenological description of the voice. Some notes:

    1. The voice as medium. We probably all agree that McLuhan’s now dated “The medium is the message” falls drastically short as far as the voice is concerned. My take on the voice today is mostly in terms of mediumship: the voice as oracular medium. Maybe Roy Hart would agree with this, today. The oracular voice is one of the main reasons for my return to the Sibyl of Cuma in the coming Myth and Theatre Festival.
    2. I am eager to hear what Julie Wilson-Bokowiec[4] has to say on her take on the disembodied voice. She is doing performance research on Eight Songs for a Mad King, Roy Hart’s emblematic performance[5]. This piece (polemically written by Peter Maxwell Davies) was part of the 1960’s fascination with schizophrenia, understood mostly in terms of ‘creative’ multiphonic and polysemic (disembodied?) mediumship – a feature which tended to occlude the imploding reverse of the coin: schizophrenia as autism[6].
    3. At the core of these questions I see the age-old dilemma of the one and the many. I think Roy Hart thought of his quest for embodiment in terms of monistic theologies, of unity, moral norms and the pursuit of self, a set of principles he subsumed in the notion of consciousness. He certainly insisted on the “individual” (the non-dividable self) in his ‘sermons’ in L’Economiste, his last artistic statement. This is clearly in line with C. G. Jung, who, on the other hand, reopened, studied and advocated the plural principles of polytheism.
    4. My last point is that I remain puzzled and rather skeptical when my colleague writes: “This is one reason why the voice work goes beyond psychology.” I hope to hear where that “beyond” is.

One last thought on the question of embodiment. The student who consulted me about giving Roy Hart’s work an academic framework referring, along with Foucault, to body, pleasure and Wilhelm Reich, actually has a strong point, certainly in the context of the period: 1968 and the 1970’s, where the similarities and differences between Roy Hart and Wilhelm Reich should be articulated. I hope the student tackles this theme.

  • On pleasure. Linda Wise reminded me that it was none other than Liza Mayer (1936 – 2009) who spoke most of pleasure, and of the pleasure principle in her voice teaching. Liza was a most intimate friend of ours. She was also very close to Roy Hart. In the last years of her life she turned fiercely against him, possibly mostly on this count.
    1. At one point, in the late 1990’s, she as it were lost control of her vocal chords [7]. To a great degree Liza Mayer blamed Roy Hart for the excess heroics and violence in his approach to the voice. I had serious talks with her on this topic, often diverging[8].
    2. Pleasure is not only “soft” and not only “body”. I would for instance encourage reflections on Roy Hart’s sexual philosophy (or call it his Psyche/Eros dynamics), both in his private life – he was open about it – and in his “guru” inductions to his followers against the danger of unconscious stagnation and regression in the couple model. Again, this is parallel to Wilhelm Reich and in line with the 1960’s sexual revolution: the concern with repression and the quest for – not only freedom – but consciousness. The last years of Roy Hart’s life were, to put it starkly, all about triangles. A doctoral student should ask here: “Was this his main teaching? Was this what his voice work was about?” I would answer: “Yes, at the time”, because such an answer will hopefully provoke “doctoral” thinking and analytical developments. Otherwise the risk is one of sinking (singing) into what I once termed “voice idolatry” – of the soft kind.
  • On Roy Hart and Alfred Wolfsohn – also known as Awe. These are mostly historical questions. A few remarks:
    1. I remember clearly when, in what was called Chalet Awe, in Switzerland, after telling a dream to those gathered around him (I do not recall the dream – maybe someone wrote it down), Roy Hart concluded to the effect that: “Now the transmission from Awe to me is completed”[9]. Roy had a tremendous sense of, and need for ritual, especially, I would say, given his responsibility at having, at the time, drawn over forty persons ready to follow him “voice, body and soul”. His transmission statement was ritually made at Chalet Awe, and, if my memory is correct, on the occasion of his first performance of Biodrame. We also listened in grand recueillement to a recording of Mozart’s The Magic Flute[10].
    2. I also was told how, when Peter Brook took Jerzy Grotowski to meet Roy Hart, Grotowski, in a way, ignored Roy Hart and spoke of feeling the presence of an ancestral authority – i.e. Alfred Wolfsohn. I heard Roy Hart’s anger, years later, at Grotowski’s move. I sometimes feel it is still going on (the ancestral move.)
    3. Otherwise, I never met Wolfsohn; his writings are constructed with the terms and the mindscape of his time[11]. I have a similar relation to C.G. Jung: ancestral, two or three generations removed. My main master-thinker was unquestionably James Hillman. Maybe aspects of my work could be termed post-Hillman… but that would be a compliment to how much of an inspiring frame he gave me [12].
    4. My colleague quotes Roy Hart as writing: “Enjoy your self, not your ego!”, and adds: “This is pure CG Jung!”. The notion of self is certainly Jung’s terminology, and I am not sure if the quote is meant to vindicate Roy Hart as thinking “pure CG. Jung”. I read it as youthful exultation. It is a vocabulary and a teaching principle from which I feel very distant, if not in opposition. The deification of the self was Jung’s move after Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God[13]. I also feel far from what were called the “ego bashing” spiritual movements of the 1970’s. These are not terms I use. Foucault’s notion of “care of self”, and his anthropological position towards it is a complex one, and certainly not an enshrinement of the notion of self as Jung meant it.
  • Today. I appreciated my colleague’s thoughts on Alfred Wolfsohn and Roy Hart, and the loyalty expressed to both. As mentioned, our link is Malerargues where we cross paths very occasionally, once or twice a year. And we know little of each other’s work and ideas.
  • When I say that Alfred Wolfsohn is often “presumed” to be softer (and safer) than Roy Hart, I am not saying that I think he actually was so, in historical reality. I do notice how he is mentioned today. Frankly I know little about him; he is for me the legendary precursor of Roy Hart’s voice philosophy, a wise and alert man, mostly convalescent in his old age. (Nota: I tell my colleague that today I am quite a bit older than Wolfsohn was when he died. And that this comes as a surprise to many persons!)[14]

Roy certainly had a filial relationship to Alfred Wolfsohn, which I think included strong Jewish, Talmudic links. I also hear and certainly respect the existence of my colleague’s: “own work that philosophically and artistically goes in other directions” – which brings us back to Malerargues as a civil, hopefully artistic copropriety.

I thank my colleague for his comments and for giving me the opportunity, scope and stimulus for further reflections, especially on themes that are alive and important in my thinking today.

Enrique Pardo, Paris, February 20, 2018

A more explicit and detailed version of this article will be made available on request.



[2] Asked for my definitions of Malerargues and of Singing, I wrote: “Malérargues. How did a bunch of baby boomers come to own an amazing place like Château de Malérargues and its thirty or so hectares! Because of the charisma of Roy Hart, and thanks to the financial intrepidness of his friend Davide Monty Crawford. The rest, in all modesty, is small print.”
“Singing, as defined by Alfred Wolfsohn and Roy Hart, is an extraordinary idealistic and demanding proposal – I am especially interested in its Talmudic backdrop. Protestant enthusiasm often takes over: its cult is also called singing. This, from a baroque, neopagan ‘goy’.”

[3] The one conclusion voted was not to include the word “voice” (as in Roy Hart Voice Teacher Diploma) if such a diploma was to be maintained. Roy Hart’s teaching was considered to be much more than teaching voice.

[4] See BodyCoder

[5] Judie Wilson-Bokoviek will be contributing to the International Transdisciplinary Conference, 16-19 July 2018, around Pantheatre, organized by Amy Rome, at UCLAN, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK. INFORMATION.

[6] Rafael Lopez-Pedraza was quite shocked when I quoted to him a notion that Roy Hart used : « conscious schizophrenia ». He asked me: “Enrique, have you ever danced with a schizophrenic?” Schizophrenia is also the ‘star’ figure in Serge Behar’s Biodrame performance poem for Roy Hart, mentioned in the Docta Memoria article.

[7] Linda Wise, who has studied such phoniatric symptoms, has promised to send me a short text on this matter, to be included soon.

[8] My main divergence is metaphysical: I ‘believe’ we chose our parents (and our teachers), and therefore that there is little point in later blaming them. On this I also part with Roy Hart’s emphasis on biographical parents, and why I consider him to have been very Freudian – even with some disdain towards Jung. In fact he spoke very rarely of Jung, though he used Jung’s notions, especially anima.

[9] Chalet Awe belonged to Louis Frenkel, a peer, friend and follower of Roy Hart; a business man who, with David Montague Crawford, was Roy Hart’s main financial supporter at the time. They fell out not long after, and it happened at Chalet Awe.

[10] I understand Mozart’s opera had special importance for Alfred Wolfsohn. I saw Roy Hart as ritually marking the transmission moment. Besides including all of the classical vocal tessituras – with the possible exception of a full alto woman singer – Mozart’s opera is actually a grand masonic ritual on the union of masculine and feminine. Roy Hart was particularly interested in the relationship between the base priest Sarastro (of Zaratustran and Zoroastran connotations), and the coloratura of the The Queen of the Night (of Lilith connotations): “I do not banish the Queen of the Night, I marry her…”
I am preparing an article on Bruno Pinchard’s book Une philosophie de l’initiation, 2016. Initiation in terms of Masonic rituals. I think it opens views on the reasons and aims of Roy Hart’s ritual theatre.

[11] Regarding Wolfsohn, the one « thesis » that I sometimes encouraged was on the opposition between him and his almost exact contemporary: Marcel Duchamp. But then, I studied Fine Arts, and Duchamp was everywhere. Wolfsohn, practically nowhere.

[12] A historic note: James Hillman visited Malerargues on three occasions – he also presided the Myth and Theatre Festival. He gave lectures and commented laboratories – he even had voice lessons with Liza Mayer. He immediately knew why I was tackling a performance on Hitler when I told him of my plans shortly before his death: “Of course, the voice.” Practically all the important figures of Jungian thought (or by then post-Jungian) came to Malerargues. Very few locals were interested. The Festival moved to La Chartreuse of Villeneuve lez Avignon. Jung’s terminology now pervades New Age circles: self, ego, anima, individuation, union of opposites, etc. Jung was indeed a colossal thinker-psychologist of his time.

[13] As an introduction to Jung I recommend: Cult Fictions: C. G. Jung and the Founding of Analytical Psychology, 1998. I describe it is as a back-door entrance into Jung’s thinking: it is a reply by Sonu Shamdasani to Richard Noll who accused Jung of wanting to create a sect with him as a new Aryan Christ(!) Sonu maintains that Jung was addressing the religious void left by Nietzsche’s demise of divinity. He analyses how Jung’s notion of Self came to replace God. A friend and a scholar (and not a “Jungian”) who lectured many times at our festival, Sonu is radical: “I travel light: I have no self”; he calls upon each person’s right to “self-definition”. Check the polemics in the Amazon comments. He also wrote, following another (huge) polemic: C. G. Jung: A Biography in Books. 2012. And he is the editor of Jung’s The Red Book.

[14] Mind you, when I was (rather) young and first heard of Alfred Wolfsohn’s theories, I thought he had « invented » the voice! Another reason to read Steven Connor’s book: Dumbstruck, A cultural history of ventriloquism.

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:


Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Déconnexion /  Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur la façon dont les données de vos commentaires sont traitées.