The Force of Things: an Opera for Objects is an immersive work of music theater that wrestles with the animate vitality of matter and the mounting hum of ecological anxiety around us. The project is driven by a desire to tune our attention toward a rate of change (impossibly slow) and a scope of alteration (unthinkably vast) at odds with the pace of our daily lives. It is filled with puzzles of scale: surfaces that seem inert until more closely examined, spaces that open into unexpected expanses, objects that appear isolated until revealed to be tethered in a volatile, interdependent web. These moves attempt to train our perception beyond its apparent boundaries – below the threshold of audibility and through the illusions of stasis and separation.
Audience members are invited into a field of sculpted matter circled by a ring of subwoofer speakers projecting subaudible frequencies. Though the sounds they emit are too low for humans to hear, the vibrations these subwoofers push into the air cause disturbances to ripple through the material infrastructure of the piece. Players slide the flesh of their palms and the surface of objects against these speaker cones while they shake, drawing them into the realm of audibility through touch. Two singers snake side-by-side throughout the space, shouting a warning that sounds like a whisper in a language no one can understand. The piece has a palpable sense of urgency about it and yet it’s eerily still, as if the timescales are off, as if some future frantic state reaches us only in slow motion. The Force of Things makes audible this volatile stillness, tangling the audience in a web of vibrant matter.
Creative Team: Ashley Fure (composer), Adam Fure (architect), Ross Karre (producer/percussionist), Levy Lorenzo (engineer/percussionist), Nicholas Houfek (lights), Alice Teyssier and Lucy Dhegrae (voices), Ryan Muncy (saxophone), Rebekah Heller (bassoon), Dustin Donahue (percussion), with special thanks to Cesar Alvarez (dramaturge) and Patrick Eakin-Young.
The Force of Things is made possible by generous commitments from the International Contemporary Ensemble: First Page Program, University of Michigan Office of Research, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Dartmouth College Provost’s Office Seed Funding Program, Miller Theater at Columbia University (NYC), and Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt (IMD). This project was supported by New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from New Music USA project grants. With the friendly support of the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung.
The Force of Things premiered at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music in August 2016. Peak Performances at Montclair State University will present the American Premiere on October 6, 7, 8 2017.
Photos below by Ross Karre.