Ph.D. candidate in Music & Multimedia Composition Amber Vistein presents the world premiere performances of her dissertation composition Dark Exhalation on April 2 & 3, 2020. Dark Exhalation is an evening-length opera for four voices, ensemble, and electronics. Dark Exhalation was supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit my project page: https://www.newmusicusa.org/projects/dark-exhalation. This project has also been made possible, in part, by the Brown Arts Initiative.
About Dark Exhalation
Dark Exhalation is a new multi-media opera for four vocalists and amplified live ensemble (flute, clarinet, viola, cello, double bass, electric guitar, percussion) that incorporates cinematic sound design, immersive sound spatialization techniques, and video projection to create a hybrid audio-visual experience.
At its heart, this evening-length work explores the generative possibilities of fragility. The events of the opera unfold in an urban environment sometime in the not too distant future. We find each character dealing with some form of isolation: grief, loneliness, or addiction. Each is fragile in their own way. When a massive solar storm is detected, and found to be rapidly speeding towards the Earth, they each map their personal situations and vulnerabilities onto the events of the cosmos; interpreting cosmic happenings as representative of their individual struggles: a solar flare is a dead lover’s rage, a tide of dying birds is a man’s broken heart, and the roiling plasma of the solar surface is the restless blood of someone suffering substance withdrawal.
When the solar storm arrives, it causes a blackout that extends for hundreds of miles. Food, gas, and medicine shortages quickly follow. But in the wake of the storm’s destruction, radically altered circumstances allow unexpected connections to blossom. Ultimately, Dark Exhalation is a narrative of care, a care inspired by the mutual fragility that we all share: extending from the sub-personal through to the personal, societal, and cosmic.
Amber Vistein, a 2017-19 Composition Fellow with American Opera Project’s Composers and the Voice program, serves as the project’s composer and librettist. Praised for her conceptual “acuity” (Big, Red, and Shiny) and “blooming phrases” (New Music Box), Amber’s work has been performed by members of Ensemble Dal Niente, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Her chamber opera Man Will Not Outlive the Weather premiered in 2017.
Amanda Justice, a video and installation artist whose provocative work has been widely exhibited at venues including: the Peabody Essex Museum, Upright Citizens Brigade, New England Conservatory, and Illuminus Boston; will be designing the visual and multi-media elements of the production. She will be joined by collaborator Ben Aron, a conceptual artist and technologist renowned for public projects including the site-specific light sculpture Urban Planning presented by the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the National Student Debt Clock presented by the Billboard Project. Aron will contribute custom lighting and interactive elements to create a highly integrated, responsive performance environment.
In collaboration with the Brown University Arts Initiative, public performances of the work are scheduled for April 2020 at Granoff Center for the Performing Arts in Providence, RI. Additional performances will take place in Boston, MA in the months following.
Prior to the work’s public presentation several musical and tech-focused workshops will take place to foster a collaborative atmosphere as well as to ensure the integration of all elements and quality of the public performances. Support is needed to cover musician’s fees and to offset the recording and production costs associated with the multi-media elements of this production.