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Creation 2004

Shellachrymellaecum is contemporary puppet opera written by Ichabod Appleseed, an 19th to early 20th century American artist, scientist, and reputed quack who also dabbled in marionettes.

Shellachrymellaecum is a portmanteau word that combines several other words- shellac (beetle excreta used in making gramophone records), lachrymae (tears), lamellae (spokes of a mushroom, amoebic skins, giant squid, money, and in psychoanalytic terms it is the mythological, pre-subjective, undead life substance libido as an organ), cum (to go along with), to name a few. Sounds like Simulacrum, or the sound of the end of a broken record.
The title, itself, a kind of operatic mantra, is a catastrophic amoebic record caught in a metaphysical skip-seeking to reach the very foundations of tragedy buried somewhere deep in the preconscious mind. Virtually unheard of in his time and even less so today, Appleseed was a reclusive artistic genius who sought to push the boundaries of early sound recording to its limits. His vision was to produce an opera that would be identical were it played forward or reverse on his phonograph. His vision was never achieved. He did, however, manage to leave copious notes on a unique staging of the piece, which doubtfully has ever been performed. Thematically, Appleseed dealt with an overwhelming amount of subjects from vegetable chemistry to machines to prevent premature burial, from lachrymology (study of tears) to pioneering efforts in genetic technology, from the most up-to-date feats in bloodless surgery to debunking spiritists, archaic sound recording devices, animal magnetism, taxidermy, puppet theatre, shamanism, UFOs and the Cabbala and more.

As an opera, it is the music and the sounds, the voices, the barely audible frequencies and whispers that become the bloodline, the thread, for the “story.” The soundtrack contains thousands of breaks, seizures, winding downs, stoppages, false starts and interruptions, stutters, hiccups, gasps, and tongues. The compositions swirl backwards and forwards combining choirs of processed animal sounds with charismatic’s glossalalia, backmasking, the earliest phonographic recordings with both the oldest and most advanced computer generated electronic music, both sampled and spawned. The sounds examine a space between harmonic ratios and background noises, from outer space to the womb, between pain and comfort, war and museum, between logic and irrationality, audibility and silence. It is an opera of the inaudible and the unmentionable.

Buchinger’s Boot production of Shellachrymellaecum espouses the naïve yet vigorous spirit of Ichabod Appleseed by situating complex and elaborate machinery with wobbly and embryonic technology.

The world we have created is inhabited by mechanical taxidermy, wooden automata, Tesla coils, ectoplasms (fish guts and bicycle pumps), live insects, more than 37 marionettes, masks, microscopes, holography, video projections, 3-D shadows and other lighting phenomena, singing snails plus an abundant cabinet of other curiosities.

Vision after vision appears and disappears. Magic is murdered. With an incalculable succession of variety and most excellent deception that the human eye has witnessed in a peculiar train of superior excellence, the whole so dexterously arranged so as to deceive even those possessed of the liveliest imagination. To particularize the whole of the performance would almost fill a number of volumes.

Buchinger’s Boot wishes it distinctly understood that the results produced, especially in the play Shellachrymellaecum, are weird and bewildering, but the forces and means employed, although at present not thoroughly understood by the mass of people, are perfectly natural, and may, at some future day, be utilized by scientific workers.

The Puppeteers

Patrick Sims

Mafalda da Camara

Richard Penny

Lighting: Julian Weare


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