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January 03, 2006

Death and the Powers


Hyperinstruments, Sonitronics, and Musical Propulsion

"...In the fall of next year the incredible-sounding opera Death and the Powers will go on, with music by Tod Machover (of the MIT Media Lab; The Brain Opera, Resurrection), libretto by Robert Pinsky (Mindwheel, The Figured Wheel, Jersey Rain, The Favorite Poem Project), robotics engineering by Cynthia Breazael (MIT Media Lab), and production design by Alex McDowell (Minority Report, Fight Club, The Crow)...(blogged by Nick on Grand Text Auto)

"...The music of Death and the Powers will represent a bold step forward towards a new kind of opera. Innovative vocal techniques will be designed especially for this work, especially for Simon who will virtuosically control extensions and manipulations of his own voice the way DJ’s spin turntables. Miranda (soprano), Evvy (mezzo soprano), and Nicholas (tenor) will sing in traditional fashion on stage, sometimes amplified, sometimes not. Simon (bass-baritone, with an unusually extended range and exceptional acting ability) will always be on stage, and will communicate directly as well as through The System. His "interludes" allow the audience to glimpse Simon’s changing inner state, and provide dramatic musical propulsion and musical continuity for the whole opera.

The vocal music will range from the lyrical, expressive singing of members of the Powers family, to the robotic bird that vocalizes during key moments of the opera, to the “voice” of Simon Powers – careening between speech and song, memory and immediacy, breath and bravura – that is at once expiring and transcendent.

The instrumentation for the opera calls for a small ensemble (ca.10 players: 5 strings, 3 winds, 1 percussion, 1 keyboard) located in the pit. Players will perform on specially designed, next-generation Hyperinstruments which will represent significant advances over our current ones, in gestural sophistication, beauty of sound, and simplicity of use. Unlike current electronic instruments, these new Hyperinstruments will allow each performer to control his/her precise sound mix and balance, with overall balance of instruments and voices being modulated by the conductor. Another innovative musical feature of the opera will be the first-ever use of sonic animatronics ("sonitronics"), or physical, sculptural elements in the pit and on stage which will be “performed” directly from the instrumental Hyperinstruments – the result will be a symphonic, kinetic jungle of percussive, wind, and vocal-like sonorities." From the Overview.

Posted by jo at January 3, 2006 06:57 PM