Part One: Event Horizon
Prelude: Once Upon Another Time — Sara Bareilles
Bright Star III — Michael Oberhauser*
Vanishing Act — Jamie Leigh Sampson*
Interlude: Mysteria — MIATp/Andrew Rodriguez*
The Clockmaker’s Doll — Mara Gibson*
Dark Star — Garrett Schumann*
||: Pop, Chew, Swallow :|| — Neil Anderson-Himmelspach*
Part Two: Singularity
ein ton. eher kurz. sehr leise. — Antoine Beuger
Postlude: Outside of Space and Time — David Byrne & St. Vincent
* composed for MIATp
Artists’ Statement and Listening Guide (longer edition)
Black Meridian is a theatrical recital of new music for voice, saxophone, and electronics. The show takes as its central theme the distortion of space and time around the presence of black holes; a metaphor is drawn between this astonishing cosmic phenomenon and the inevitable tragedy of relationships marred by miscommunication and disastrous personal choices.
Part One, “Event Horizon,” shares its name with the boundary defining the region of space around a black hole from which nothing (not even light) can escape. Once an object crosses the threshold of the event horizon, it is doomed to be pulled into the black hole. Part One consists of seven compositions arranged to parallel such a gradual, inexorable trajectory.
Singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles’ Once Upon Another Time functions as Black Meridian’s past prelude, a memory of optimism, autonomy, and purpose.
Bright Star III by Michael Oberhauser alphabetically reorders the words of a Shannon Berry poem, effectively compressing its temporal narrative. The composition is interpreted as the giddy initial sparks of a relationship, a varied series of flirtatious tableaux. Jamie Leigh Sampson’s Vanishing Act similarly deconstructs text, interweaving four separate sources into a single increasingly condensed thread. Imagine this composition delivered as an artificial intelligence oracle from the distant future and, much like Cassandra, we are unable to entirely decipher her prophecy of relationship collapse.
Mysteria is an original MIATp piece written in collaboration with Andrew Rodriguez. Representing the human need to find denial and diversion amid increasing anxiety, this interlude fuses funk bass lines, a hip-hop groove, improvisational elements, and contemporary classical music. Two fragments are heard: “Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all” (Seneca, 1st century CE) and “Do there exist many worlds or is there but a single world?” (Albertus Magnus, 13th century CE)
Do there exist many worlds, indeed. The Clockmaker’s Doll by Mara Gibson (poem by Rebecca Morgan Frank) flashes us backward a few centuries to examine Descartes’ grief after the death of his daughter. Gibson’s work is the motivating trauma behind the narrative tension of Black Meridian. Garrett Schumann’s Dark Star, on the other hand, is its responsorial rage aria. One envisions the protagonist invoking supernatural forces to cope with suffering articulated in Clockmaker’s Doll. Through this necronomicon heavy-metal demon-summoning phantasmagoria we are thrust headlong toward the event horizon. ||: Pop, Chew, Swallow :|| pushes the listener over that edge. Neil Anderson-Himmelspach’s composition is a deeply personal confession of the pleasures of opiates, the fury toward corporate exploitation, and the determination to break the cycle of addiction. The piece accelerates to a breakneck, breathless velocity. Annihilation appears inescapable. For some, a black hole is an abstract concept of physics; for too many others, it materializes in the shape of a small round pill.
At the center of every black hole exists a “Singularity” (the title of Part Two), a one-dimensional point in which gravity becomes unlimited and space-time curves infinitely. Here, the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate.
Music by the Wandelweiser Group is characterized by sparse, quiet soundscapes and ein ton. eher kurz. sehr leise. by member composer Antoine Beuger is no exception. Lasting at least twenty minutes, two performers alternate sounding a single tone (in this case the G above middle C) within the confines of their own 30-second time span. One of the performers will eventually choose permanent silence, leaving the other in bare isolation. When the still-questing partner abandons hope and embraces silence as well, the piece has concluded. The dimensions of time and space have been shattered for performers and audience alike. One is reminded of a passage from the Popol Vuh: “All was in suspense, all calm, all in silence; all motionless and still; and the expanse of the sky was empty.”
A sphinxian ballad by eminent indie pop artists David Byrne and St. Vincent serves as a final reflection on our narrative. Perhaps time has reversed to the beginning of our story. Or possibly we find ourselves in a parallel universe wherein Byrne/St. Vincent’s song is the start of a new tale, much as Bareilles’ launched this one. Lessons have been learned, change has occurred, roles have been swapped, connections reformed.
Maybe it will be different this time.
Black Meridian is approximately 80 minutes long and is performed without intermission and without applause breaks between compositions.
Basic tech requirements: piano (preferably at least a baby grand); two piano benches; speakers and a stage monitor for digital playback (with proper cables); vocal microphone (with proper cable)
Content warnings: child death; occult references; drug use