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News - Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe: 'singing in the dead of night'

Tim Munro
Saturday, March 01, 2008
When does movement become dance?
When does music become theatre?

The delicate shades between dance/movement and music/theatre are fully embraced by the collaborators of singing in the dead of night, a work that balances on the intersection of these artistic worlds. This collaboration takes the compositions of Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe and brings them to life as, perhaps, no other chamber work has done to this point. Commissioned by the adventurous chamber ensemble eighth blackbird, the work is an intricate fabric of music, action, soundscapes, silence, theatre, and motion — woven into a whole by choreographer Susan Marshall.

This intriguing project is a familiar, yet altogether new process for these collaborators. In the past, each person has had experience working across artistic borders: Susan Marshall is renowned for her work with musicians; all of the composers have had significant experience working with dance; and eighth blackbird is no stranger to pushing artistic boundaries. Yet, there is a quality to this project that seems quite new.

Working from a seed of common ground, the composers wrote in solitude. Once composed, the notes were hurriedly rehearsed by the musicians before Marshall began to bring it all together. During rehearsals, she added her touch, yet she took great care to work within the limitations. “It is a great tribute to Susan as an artist,” Julia Wolfe commented on the choreographer. “She didn’t want to interfere with the music.”

For Marshall, though, it was the limitations that gave her much of the inspiration for her input. “The challenge is they are playing their instruments, their bodies and minds are active and involved, there is no wiggle-room there, I had to work within the scope of options,” she insisted.

But as with much artistic creation, the limiting of possibilities actually opened up the opportunities: Marshall and the musicians worked together to interlace movement and theatre into the music. “The blend will be very surprising; it is very natural within the music. It might be startling when they leave their instruments; hopefully, though, you will think, ‘but of course!’ ”

singing in the dead of night will premiere on 26 March in Virginia at the University of Richmond. Its subsequent tour includes the New York premiere at Zankel Hall on 17 April.


singing in the dead of night 21'
fl, cl, perc, pf, vn, va, vc

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