Man Will Not Outlive the Weather

Man Will Not Outlive the Weather is a new chamber opera for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, piano, percussion and electronics composed by Amber Vistein. This video documents its performance on February 18, 2017  by incredibly talented musicians: Britt Brown (mezzo-soprano), Carlos Aguilar (flute), Stephen Marotto (cello), Jennifer Elowsky-Fox (piano), and Michael Hardin (percussion) at Granoff Center for the Arts.

The composer selected seven events deeply connected to the idea of weather–one for each of the seven short movements that comprise this work: glacial motion, a flood, an episode of deep fog, the movement of surface waves, a volcanic eruption, atmospheric circulation, and a hurricane. Each section of the work animates a reflection on the connection between the voice as an invisible force that expresses the full range and power of human interiority (memory, intention, and identity) and weather as an enveloping, exterior force that expresses the range and power of the natural world—the real sources and full extension of which remain largely unseen. The circulation of breath, blood, and heat powers the human voice and the circulation of air currents, ocean tides, and geothermic activity powers weather itself. In this work, the physically isomorphic aspects of the voice and weather are used to transform the very material of interiority into a dynamic, enveloping environment.

As a starting point, field recordings of each event will be analyzed using the computer-assisted orchestration program Orchids, created by IRCAM. This software allows the user to input a sound source, set analysis parameters, and return possible orchestral realizations of that sound source. In addition to the computer-assisted orchestration process, each weather event was considered according to its temporal evolution and gestural content to create a unique accompanying acousmatic sound score. Sound scores diffused across multiple speakers allow the listener to experience the enveloping effect of a living environment and the gestural content of each unseen weather event.

The ultimate goal of the project is to create not only a hybrid acoustic ecology, but a mixture of languages: music and speech representing a human languages, and field recordings representing a natural ‘language’. The incorporation of human-created symbolic systems expands the interpretative possibilities available to the listener by recontextualizing a natural, non-signifying event within a system laden with signification and symbolism. These elements serve as mediating forces in our attempt to interpret and cognize events that exist far beyond the human scale. Here focusing on meteorological events that circulate across vast distances and numberless eons.