Friday, February 1, 2008

signed, sealed, delivered

the MAP proposal is in! i uploaded it and posted the works with several hours to spare! i'm done, baby!

thanks to corey, wura and ana l. for looking through my rough drafts. especially ana for sitting down and looking at my penultimate draft and helping me streamline the language. thank you, wonderful partner for reading it in the 11th hour and getting really excited about it. i really think the proposal is quite good. and thanks to yvan and eve for tolerating my last-minute request as collaborators on the piece. as a celebratory gesture, i am including parts of the project description here:

“Una Corda” is a five-part solo performance with live musicians and video meditating on the multiple facets of cancer.

The una corda pedal on the piano causes the instrument to strike only one string. The effect is a dampened sound that makes the piano whisper. People I know who have lived with cancer have talked about not quite feeling “one hundred percent”—still the same person, but muted, quieter, fuzzier. “Una corda” is also Italian for “one rope/thread.” Cancer often serves as the unwelcome but unifying thread amongst people of many different races, classes and sexualities—people who have never met but are somehow kin. My mother died of cancer six years ago. Only within the last year have I been able to examine that life-changing experience within my creative life. This project explores my own vulnerabilities as someone who has been touched profoundly by cancer. At the same time, it treats cancer as a social and aesthetic signifier invoking discourse about grief as a spiritual process, health care as a machine, and the different symbolisms of cancer within our collective societal memories.


My training as a singer is limited to sight-singing classes and membership in my conservatory chorus. However, as a conservatory-taught composer, I know the operatic canon and its stylistic traditions. This specialized knowledge but imperfect training underlies the main aesthetic of the project—one based on the tension between mastery, and failure. The imperfection, the awkwardness, and the visible struggle between my limitations and the medium fully engage the idea of cancer. Cancer is disruptive. It is unpredictable. It is “wonky.” Overarching ruptures in craft and skill interspersed with moments of virtuosity determine the profile of the piece.

The general structure is a setting of Latin Mass (i.e. Kyrie, Gloria, etc.). An original libretto is interspersed between and layered onto the Mass. Although the liturgical Mass genre comes with its own set of histories and conventions, I am interested in how the language of this genre changes and interacts with the genre of opera. As a set text, it intervenes in preventing any treatment of cancer from becoming too literal, clichéd or hackneyed. I am also deeply invested in the spirituality of Mass. It has been the vehicle for Catholic piety and corruption for centuries, rich with themes of transformation, epiphany, and redemption. While I set parts of the Latin Text in “traditional” chorales, other parts are set in radically new ways: sometimes throat-sung, sometimes whispered, sometimes piped through a computer voice. While this characteristically Catholic text is the organizing principle of the opera, I complicate and diffuse it by interjecting and layering the Buddhist ceremonies, chants and imagery I so closely associate with death and cancer.


On Process:
I will employ different techniques for the writing and composition processes. Some sections will begin with a libretto and then set to music. Other sections will consist of music and words created simultaneously, including structured improvisation and indeterminacy, as led by creative director, Yvan Greenberg. As the main performer of the piece, I will train with a vocal coach in multiple vocal techniques.

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