World Premiere | Multi-Media Concert
January 11-13 and 18-20 at 9:30pm
At HERE's Dorothy B. Williams Theatre
A free diver descends into the depths of the ocean, never to resurface. As her terrestrial ties dissolve, she embarks upon an Odyssean journey. Transported by the sea’s currents, she encounters a mystifying underworld with billions of bioluminescent creatures, endlessly inventive structures of coral, gyres of human detritus, and abandoned nets still fishing for no one – sights both awe-inspiring and devastating. Black Inscription is a multimedia contemporary song cycle written by a team of veteran creators, drawing on the most powerful aspects of rock, classical, and pop music. Through music, sound and imagery, Black Inscription plunges us into our oceans and fills us with wonder, outrage, and hope.
Composers Matthias Bossi, Jeremy Flower, & Carla Kihlstedt
Lyricist & Director Carla Kihlstedt
Producer Rabbit Rabbit Radio
Environment & Video Designer Mark deChiazza
Sound Designer Quentin Chiappetta
Lighting Designer Mary Ellen Stebbins
Costume Designer Sylvianne Shurman
Voice & Violin Carla Kihlstedt
Voice & Viola Ariel Parkington
Voice & Keyboard Kristin Slipp
Voice, Guitar, Keyboards & Electronics Jeremy Flower
Voice & Drums Matthias Bossi
Guitar Michael Abraham
Bass George Ban-Weiss
Black Inscription is a theatrical expansion of Lost City: Songs from a Changing Sea, which was funded by Visions and Voices at the University of Southern California.
Show run time: 70-75 minutes
Photo by Valentina Suarez
Rabbit Rabbit Radio (Producer) is the song-spinning duo of Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi. Their music is intelligent and visceral, intimate and powerful. Its appeal is not limited by genre or by age. They weave together the expressive detail of contemporary composition with the visceral power of a rock band. Between them, this husband and wife team are founding members of the iconic bands Tin Hat, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, 2 Foot Yard, Causing a Tiger, The Book of Knots, and Fred Frith’s Cosa Brava, and have played with Tom Waits, Mike Patton, Skeleton Key, Madeleine Peyroux, Tracy Chapman, John Vanderslice, St. Vincent, Carla Bozulich, and Pretty Lights and The Tiger Lillies. Together and apart, they have written music for the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the International Contemporary Ensemble, The Bang On a Can All-stars, The ROVA Saxophone Quartet, This American Life, InkBoat, The Joe Goode Performance Group, This American Life, and independent video game producers, Team Meat. In 2014, they won first prize in the 13th Annual Independent Music Awards. Their song "After The Storm" won Best Eclectic Song as well as the Vox Populi award.
Carla Kihlstedt (Composer, Lyricist, & Director) is a composer, violinist and vocalist. A veteran of folk/pop, contemporary classical, improvised and experimental music, she is a founding member of several pioneering and iconic bands, including Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Rabbit Rabbit, The Book of Knots, Minamo and Tin Hat. She has written a song cycle for the International Contemporary Ensemble inspired by the language of dreams, a musical/radio piece for the ROVA Saxophone Quartet about the coming of the Machine Age, a song about the miraculous life journey of herring for the San Francisco Girls Chorus called Herring Run, and a piece about the advent of communications technology for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, a reflection of the surreal photography of Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison for the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, and an impressionistic audio travelogue for Causing a Tiger (commissioned by the Brecht Forum). She has also written a song cycle with Cuban-American poet Rafael Osés for eight performers called Necessary Monsters, based on Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings. In 2014, her score for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s production of Romeo and Juliet was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award, and in 2015, she was given the Rising Star award for violin in Downbeat Magazine’s Critic’s Poll. Carla has performed at many festivals in North America and Europe, including Armenian Gallery Festival, the Vancouver, San Francisco, and Saalfelden Jazz Festivals, and the Moers, Music Unlimited, Ojai, Caramoor and Other Minds Music Festivals. In addition to her own albums and those of her various bands and projects, she has contributed to the recordings of Fred Frith, Tom Waits, Mr. Bungle, Tracy Chapman, Pretty Lights, and Madeleine Peyroux. She is on the faculty of the Contemporary Improvisation Department of the New England Conservatory, and of the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Matthias Bossi (Composer, Voice, & Drums) was a member of the seminal bands Skeleton Key, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and Fred Frith's Cosa Brava. As a founder of the recording collective The Book of Knots, he's had the pleasure of collaborating with Mike Patton, Blixa Bargeld, Tom Waits, Mike Watt, David Thomas, and Jon Langford. Studio credits include records with John Vanderslice, St. Vincent, Pretty Lights and The Tiger Lillies. His production company Ridiculon has written soundtracks for the best-selling video game "The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth" and soon to be released "Super Meat Boy: Forever." As an actor, Bossi has worked with the Shotgun Players, Pickle Family Circus, and action theatre pioneers Erika Shuch and Joe Goode. His voiceover work can be heard on the sensational "Little Baby's Ice Cream" commercials, and also on a guided audio tour of Golden Gate Park produced by SF-Based company, Detour.
Jeremy Flower (Composer, Voice, Guitar, Keyboard, & Electronics) is a multi-instrumentalist and composer of acoustic and electronic music. His work with electronics has landed him on stage as a guest artist with the Atlanta and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, the Santa Fe Opera, LA Philharmonic, Konzertgebau, Curtis Institute, St. Luke’s, American Composers Orchestra as well as with world-renowned electronic producers in experimental, ambient and minimal techno genres. Flower has been commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for their Music NOW series, James Sommerville and the Hamilton Philharmonic for their new music festival What Next?, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute. He has written music for the feature documentary Animas Perdidas. He is part of David Krakauer’s Ancestral Groove project, which explores the heritage of traditional Jewish music through the lens of the modern experience fusing Klezmer with hip-hop, jazz, and house music. He has collaborated extensively with Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov, helping to create electronic parts for the Grammy-nominated song cycle Ayre (2006) and one-act opera Ainadamar which won two Grammys (2007). Both of these works have been recorded for and released by Deutsche Grammophon. Flower and Golijov also collaborated on the film score for Francis Ford Coppola’s 2007 film, Youth Without Youth, a composition for the opening of WNYC Radio’s new performance space, and the score for Coppola’s 2009 film Tetro, and the yet unreleased film Twixt.
A while after Matthias and I moved to Cape Cod in 2011, the sea began to seep into our songs. It was unavoidable. Even a simple walk on the beach connects you with the vastness of our earth’s life cycle. Every grain of sand used to be a shell, a rock, a mountain. Every wave that licks your toes marks a breath.
Our subsequent move to Woods Hole clinched the deal. If Woods Hole were a clown car, its oceanographic institutions would be its clowns. In this tiny town of ours, there are no fewer than 7 distinct organizations dedicated to the study and understanding of the ocean. Living in a community of ocean scientists, fishermen and other sea-obsessed folks of one sort or another, it didn’t take long ‘til I found myself watching simulcasts of research dives half way around the world as my bedtime entertainment. So when George Ban-Weiss – environmental engineering professor and bass player – suggested we write a whole set of songs about the sea, it was like he had articulated an idea that was sitting right in front of us.
Our collective fascination with the sea is inherently as symbolic as it is scientific. Any exploration of the sea perfectly entwines our magnetic attraction to the unknown and our endless appetite for wonder and discovery. Water, quite literally, connects us all. That said, it’s a laughably large task to write a song cycle about the ocean, and it wasn’t until I read about Natalia Molchanova that I found a foothold of how to anchor our vessel in the sea of possibilities.
During a casual, recreational dive off the coast of Spain, Molchanova took a deep breath, dove to 35 meters, and never resurfaced. She was arguably the world’s best free-diver, holding multiple world records. She also wrote and spoke eloquently about the spiritual pull that free diving held for her. It was a place where she could transcend the “surface fuss” and both find and lose her self to a singular clarity and a focus. She spoke about the sense of disappointment at reaching the moment in every dive when she knew she must turn around and go back to the surface.
Her disappearance, as tragic as it was, allowed me to imagine that, perhaps, on her final dive, she was able to transcend the limits of her human form, and simply keep swimming, becoming a part of the ocean. And so the end of her story as a terrestrial surface-dweller became the beginning of her story as a witness to the deep.
In this piece, we explore different aspects of the ocean through Molchanova’s eyes, ears and body, as she becomes less corporeal and more simply a part of the ocean. The title Black Inscription comes from Rachel Carson’s The Edge of the Sea, and refers to the intricate message inscribed by the micro-plants that appears the world over, wherever water meets rock. It is an invitation to learn and decipher all we can from the small clues we receive.
Jeremy Flower, Matthias Bossi and I wrote these songs in the kind of blind tag-team exquisite corpse process that can only work with complete trust and a combination of obsession and abandon. It’s hard to say exactly who did what, but we each held an aspect of the songwriting in our sites: Jeremy created sound worlds worthy of our watery medium, Matthias kept our harmonic language fluid and moving, and I crafted words and melody lines through each song. Jon Evans anchored both our disparate studio sounds with his fabulous engineering intuitions, and our wide-ranging musical sensibilities with his deliciously satisfying bass lines.
Our wonderful design team, led by Mark DeChiazza, has helped us create an immersive world for these songs to live in. We owe a debt of gratitude to our friends at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Tim Shank and Taylor Heyl, who indulged our many naive questions and taught us about their own fascinations and passions. Black Inscription is not a documentary. It is a series of impressions. But it is our greatest hope that it might inspire you to learn more about the very real issues facing our oceans. And perhaps to take a long walk on the beach.
- Carla Kihlstedt
145 6th Avenue, New York, NY Entry on Dominick St.
[Black Inscription] keeps breaking my heart… Every single moment comes from a place of truth… it is a journey both devastating and exhilarating... The most perfect opera of today: so dramatic… and so inventive in the way the vocal parts portray complex emotions!
— Osvaldo Golijov,
With lyrics about coral spawns, dislocated aquatic creatures and the water cycle, the project reads... like a love song to the changing sea...
— Zara Abrams, The Huffington Post