Experiments in Opera presents four new works for voice and modular synthesizer commissioned from Jason Cady, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Joan La Barbara and Kamala Sankaram. Each of these new works focuses on a single story that is told through the surprising and absorbing sound world of modular synthesizers. All four works are presented back-to-back in an evening-length production.
ABOUT THE WORKS
Candy Corn by Jason Cady
A singer and her husband struggle to understand the suicide of a loved one. They play games and dress in Halloween costumes while confronting memory, technology, and the nature of identity as the story unfolds in reverse chronology.
Volver by Andrew Raffo Dewar
During the 1930s, in part due to the economic difficulties of the time, Mexican-Americans were made the target of attacks based on the rhetoric of taking jobs from “real Americans” and were “repatriated” to Mexico under questionable legal and moral grounds. Volver (2018) sets to music excerpts from three rich oral histories collected by historian Christine Valenciana in the early 1970s — Emilia Castañeda de Valenciana and Carlos Munatones, who were both repatriated to Mexico in the ‘30s, and John Anson Ford, a mid-level bureaucratic functionary for Los Angeles County and a reticent participant in the “repatriation.”
Virginia and the Time Machine by Joan La Barbara
With World War II drawing closer to England each day and critics decrying her newly published book on pacifism and women’s right, Virginia W. is besieged by voices of discord and ridicule. Trying to silence them, she imagines—and therefore possesses—a device with which she can turn a dial and listen to another time and place: August 1890, in St. Ives, a remote village on the Cornwall coast. Returning to the idyllic summers of her childhood, bathed in the sounds, sights, and the early morning light refracting off the Celtic Sea, she is eight years old, and her idealized, beloved Mother, then the heart of the family, is still alive. At the edge of this longed-for soundscape are jarring doubts, clashing facts about her childhood, and intimations of the tragedies to come, that disrupt Virginia W.’s reverie. The synthesizer serves here as a sonic time machine, bringing the sounds of what was and what was lost and intermingling them with Virginia W.’s present, creating a moment out of time, a neither here nor there, when she is both woman and girl, public author and private being, real and imagined.
The Wife by Kamala Sankaram
A mysterious woman recalls the events surrounding her husband’s sudden violent death. As the tale unfolds, not everything is as it seems…
Alize Rozsnyai – soprano
Craig Calder – baritone
Jason Cady – modular synthesizer
Roland Burks – voice
Andrew Raffo Dewar – live electronics
ABOUT THE COMPOSERS
Jason Cady composes opera, instrumental and electronic music; writes opera libretti; and performs on pedal steel guitar and modular synthesizer. Pitchfork called him a “mod-synth mastermind…funny and engaging.” The Wire described his one-act opera Post-Madonna Prima Donna as, “thoughtful satire, sharp composition.” Anthony Tommasini, in the New York Times, described his video opera, I Screwed Up the Future, as ”charming fantasy…drably comic and spacey.” His podcast opera, Buick City, 1:00, AM premieres November 6, 2018. Cady’s CDs have been released on Lockstep records and Peacock recordings. Lighton International Artists Exchange, The Brooklyn Arts Council, New Music USA, free103point9, and the American Music Center have funded his projects. Cady has an M.A. in composition from Wesleyan University, where he studied with Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton. He was born in in Flint, Michigan and has lived in New York City since 2001.
Andrew Raffo is a composer, soprano saxophonist, electronic musician, ethnomusicologist, and arts organizer whose work has been performed or installed throughout North America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. He appears on nearly two dozen recordings, including study/work with experimental music innovators Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon, Steve Lacy and Alvin Lucier. He has received support for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, NewMusicUSA, ASCAP, the Getty Foundation, Arts International, Meet The Composer, The San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dewar is an Associate Professor in New College and the School of Music at the University of Alabama.
Joan La Barbara, composer, performer, sound artist, actor is renowned for developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques (multiphonics, circular singing, ululation, and glottal clicks, her “signature sounds”) influencing generations of other composers and singers. Her numerous commissions for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, orchestra, interactive technology, and soundscores for dance, video and film, including a score for voice and electronics for Sesame Street broadcast worldwide since 1977. Her multi-layered textural compositions were presented at Brisbane Biennial, Festival Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, MaerzMusik Berlin among other international venues. She is composing a new opera “Dreams of Water Beyond One’s Depth” inspired by the lives and work Virginia Woolf and Joseph Cornell, exploring the artistic process, interior dialogue, and sounds within the mind.
Kamala Sankaram has been praised as “strikingly original” (NY Times) and “new voice from whom we will surely be hearing more” (LA Times). Recent commissions include Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera on Tap, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Her opera, THUMBPRINT premiered in the 2014 PROTOTYPE Festival, and was featured on NPR, Agence France Presse, and media outlets around the world. THUMBPRINT has since received productions at LA Opera and Opera Ithaca. She is currently working Opera on Tap on THE PARKSVILLE MURDERS, the first opera written for virtual reality. Episode 1 is now available on Samsung VR. As a performer, Kamala has been hailed as “an impassioned soprano with blazing high notes” (Wall Street Journal). She has performed and premiered pieces with Anthony Braxton, Philip Glass, and the Wooster Group, among others. She is the leader of Bombay Rickey, an operatic Bollywood surf ensemble.