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Bliss Apocalypse

Bliss Apocalypse Cover Photo


As published, with minor changes, in The Tulane Drama Review, September, 1970, Volume 14,
Number 4 (T48)

• Author's Note

• Characters

• Scenery and Setting / Beginning


bliss apocalypse

Author's Note


Scenery and Setting / Beginning




Floating Lotus Apocalypse PosterThe vision of this ritual theatre as opera is based not on orthodox opera but on tribal music drama, in which the music enables us to cut through to the other world, domain of all possibility, where music provides constantly shifting stair-patterns of atmospheres and color-textures, wombs for words and actions to be born out of, eruptions and flows of sound-feeling ignited from ritual acts. No opera-singing in the usual sense: chanting, tonal singing, words riding tones as their vehicles, words bursting into the air with a ripped vocal hatching—music curling around them, piercing through, anticipating, rivering along on its own like a gamelan.

The musicians create tonal and atmospheric structures to nurture inspiration for the performances, precisely working out all the rhythms and quick changes. The mountains of heaven ring when word and music, action and intention and reverberation work precisely together—space falls open…

Our thirst for the primordial keep us from using electricity to amplify any of the
instruments or actors. The whole vision is designed to be performed outside in
the raw air of IT, on a hillside after civilizations blow all their plugs and still the
Spirit dances approachable and manifestable within us! Haunted by feelings of
cultural hopelessness, we create out of cardboard and cloth the rendings of eternal music, flute-flashes in the smoldering dark! To approach all with mouths abruptly open, to let sincerities flow in this marketplace of violent madmen kicking over the pure vegetables!

The opera is conceived of as an initiation ceremony opening areas of sound and
image, guiding them with the chanted sound of vocal AUM. So this is Aum Theatre. The final feeling is rings of Aum chanting coming through the different hectic phases of the action, more full and certain as the opera progresses, until at the end everyone goes into the audience and people familiar with the chant open their own throat-heart-spirits to reveal the sound of twentieth-century Initiates, showing us: we are all in a state of amazement!

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CHORUS: from six to ten males and females dressed in bright colors, individual loose clothing, faces painted with simple designs, moons and stars.

SUN-DANCER PROPHET: orange and white simple, nearly naked, figure of raw man burned in sun-fire, purified, feathers dangling, sun-disc on his back.

WANDERER: bare-chested, plain, bright white loose trousers, barefoot, golden, a stallion of gesture.

SHAMAN: dressed in green serape, appears as different characters; he is the sha-man of the opera, balancing it, sitting onstage; a member of the Orchestra; and also plays the RIVER OF LIGHT, naked with silver and blue striped body-
paint and streamers.

VAIROCANA: father totem seen as an eagle, great wings, feather crest, rattle
(also Viracocha of South America, name and inspiration for figure drawn from
Tibetan Buddhist iconography, but departed from as American Indian totem an-cestor from our own naked blood)—orange, fiery.

CONSORT: Yum-mate of Vairocana’s Yab, cool blue and turquoise silver wings and bead necklace, spectral.

KALI: awesome monster female Eater and Goddess of Destruction, transformed later to simple naked woman, clean as primal earth, and mother; at beginning all in black with head-necklace of severed victims and blood-fire burning up from the ground (hem of skirt) at her feet. She waves a long black cloth as her own dark cloud.

MINOTAUR: appears in the underworld with bull-head.

PHOENIX: rises from Kali’s dissolution, Egypt-wing’d, personified by the Shaman, calling and crying “Rebirth.”

ORCHESTRA: sometimes up to fifteen players—Borneo gongs, Indian flutes, drums, Chinese and Tibetan oboes, harmonicas, Persian bells, western viola, cello, bass, French horn, Chinese Shêng, Japanese Sho, plastic toy piano, etc.(instruments tuned together by San Francisco composer and occasional player, Ramon Sender, Chinese Erhu played also occasionally and anonymously by Terry Riley)

Scenery and Setting / Beginning

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