The ocean is different.
There's a reason that we think of the sea as a being. There's a reason that it has moods we come to know, sweet on some days, violent on others, nurturing life in some moments and fueling blind destruction in others.
I'm not here to talk about that reason - that would take a lifetime. And anyway, a job like that is best left to the poets. And man, do they love it.
A certain fascination with that other world, that world of absolute other, draws us in and we start creating things that we almost don't recognize...
Tonight, we're presenting a show at the Gardner Museum that explores this strange new territory. We've been working with a group of four composer-performers, The Oracle Hysterical, to present an evening of entirely new works, a multi-media song cycle that uses every page of the book to evoke the wonder and weirdness and lore and mystery and sensuousness and rage of the ocean. And here's where the metaphysical waves come rolling in:
The composers in turn have been working with a series of texts from the literary magazine Lapham's Quarterly, which organizes its material for each issue around a theme. So in a way, all the creative energy sprang from the pages of a book, curated by someone who in turn was inspired by each of the works of literature that chronicles each author's relationship with the ocean. Got that quite straight?
And yet, the liquid energy of the sea pulses through all of it, every stage of the creation, always something you can feel, like interacting with a wave.
(Slight digression: If you have a couple minutes and want to see something nifty and wave-related and super-cool, I can absolutely recommend this video, that chronicles the scientific work of one of my friends. Just don't give up at 00:45!)
But back to tonight...
We'll hear a work that takes us, foot by foot, from the surface all the way down to the deepest sections of the ocean's trenches. We'll hear a John Donne sermon, through the gauzy lens of the water. We'll hear the Book of Jonah, in swingin' recitativo accompagnato. We'll hear shimmering waves as they come crashing through the space once hosting a string quartet. We'll hear a Shakespearian soliloquy, and a digression into the truly fantastic life of the oyster. We'll hear Ulysses' take on his adventure with the Sirens, in an utterly out-there rap cantata that would only more absurdly, deliciously mad if it were accompanied by slides that were just as nuts - so fortunately, that's happening.
There are more dimensions, more angles, more translations in this show than I can possibly keep track of. Everything is filtered, reflected, refracted. Light and water are everywhere.
Come, if you can. Remember to keep breathing.
- Sarah Darling