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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Frances White, She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew

When life events become traumatic, awe-ful, ineffable, we are often at a loss for words or cannot speak them. That is the idea behind the opera for a single soprano and electronics by Frances White, She Lost Her Voice, That's How We Knew (Ravello 7915). The libretto is by Valeria Vasilevski, who also created and directed the staging. Kristin Norderval performs the solo soprano role with dedication, drama and tonal differentiation. Elizabeth Brown performs the shakuhachi part. The electronic score is based on and built out of the timbral qualities of Ms. Norderval's voice.

I've covered and very much appreciated an earlier work of Frances White--In the Library of Dreams (see index search box for that review).

There is a zen abstract suchness to the libretto and the music. Use of space, color and pinpointed affect-event structures have a mystical, almost traditional Asian cast. There is a poetic quality to it all, which the libretto concretizes in words about being unable to speak.

The music is rich and creatively archaic-modern in its play on tones, their stasis and their transformation in envelopes and blocks of shifting color-texture. The mystical, eerie drone and soundscaping of vocals and electronics and the poignancy of the libretto leave one transfixed, contemplative, and filled with a kind of wonder at the transient nature of life and its experience.

It is the music of a going beyond, a 21st century analogue of Berio's iconic Visage, only fully today, post-experimental, primal in creately effective ways but also filled perhaps with our present-day zeitgeist, where events can leave us speechless, forever changed yet fully conscious of the impact.

There is magic in this work. It is singularly transformative in dramatic ways. It has its say and is gone, and what is left is the you to reflect on its meaning.

A new modern statement of importance. That is what it seems to be to me. It definitely will appeal to and intrigue those open to exploratory soundscapes and contemporary electronics-opera-sonic theater. There is a naturalness to it that stands alongside of our experience of "nature" yet remains apart from it. Highly recommended.

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