The Great Festival : A Theoretical Performance Narrative of Antiquity’s Feasts and the Modern Rock Festival book cover
1st Edition

The Great Festival
A Theoretical Performance Narrative of Antiquity’s Feasts and the Modern Rock Festival

ISBN 9780367204952
Published March 31, 2020 by Routledge
174 Pages 36 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Great Festival presents and analyzes two historical festivals - the ancient Dionysus Festival and the present Roskilde Festival. The purpose is to set up two comparable structures or 'codes' to explain the universal artistic effects, structures and fascination of the festival.

Olav Harsløf argues that there are major structural, organizational and economic similarities which, when exposed, can give us greater insight into today's festivals. This is illuminated through a combined performance design and event analysis of the ancient Dionysus festival and today's Roskilde Festival, explaining the festival's historicity, diversity, complexity and paradigmatic strength.

This will be a discussion of great interest to researchers and students in the fields of performance studies, experience economy, theater, music, classical philology and archeology.

Table of Contents



Festival Myths: "A Classic Tragedy"

Dionysus at Roskilde?

Festival and Carnival

Performance Design

Theoretics and Methodologies

What is a Festival?

Dionysian and Apollonian

The Dilemma of Researching Antiquity

Democracy or Phallocracy?

In the Beginning was the Agora

New Research

The Scene is Set – and Moved

The Dionysian Feast

The Festival Square: Hall & Tribune

The Wooden Greek Theater


The Playwrights

Women in the Theater?

Music and Song

"The Singing Jar"

The Music Culture

Theater Music

The Instruments

Aulos and Auloi




Buck Song?

Theater Sport and X-Factor

The Festival

Standard Program for Athens’ Great Dionysian Feast in the Classical Era

Tragedy’s Paradigmatic Function

The Cult of Dionysus

Gods and Humans

Orgy or Festival?

The Pan Athenaic Festival

The Procession


Performance Studies

"Social Drama"

Antiquity’s Social Drama

Ritual and Entertainment

"Restored Behavior"

The Performative Space

The Code of Dionysus

The Roskilde Festival

The Livestock Fairgrounds

Research Situation and Methodology

Music in Time – Time in Music

The 68 Youth Revolution

The Movements

The Isle of Wight


The Three Woodstocks

At Roskilde

The Roskilde Foundation

The Police

The Canopy Symbol

Organization and Economy

The Music

Instruments and Gear

The Program

Nude Culture

The Great Liberation


Mud Wrestling and the Naked Race

Free Sex


The Accident

The Festival’s Leader

Dionysus at Roskilde


The Code of Roskilde

The Great Festival

The Performative Space



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Olav Harsløf is former professor at the Department of Performance Design, Roskilde University, Denmark, and before that head of The Danish National Academy of Theatre, and the Danish National Conservatory of Rhythmic Music. He has, together with Dorita Hannah, edited the book Performance Design (Museum Tusculanum Press 2008) and written the article "PHantom of the Operas in Sidney and Copenhagen"; and together with Erik Kristiansen edited the book Engaging Spaces - Sites of Performance, Interaction and Reflection  (Museum Tusculanum Press 2015) and written the article "Space as Provocation".