peking opera on a spaceship

(as in-flight entertainment)


SAM WU



About the piece:

This piece is written with two concepts in mind: to experiment with non-traditional ways of regarding and treating a mixed chorus and organ, and to express my reverence for the organ as a triumph of human technology.

I imagine that Peking opera troupes serve as in-flight entertainment on interstellar travels in the far future. Gestures, vocal technique, and the ethos of Peking opera allow me to notate for the chorus with more freedom, and leave more to controlled aleatoricism.

On the other hand, the rhythm-driven organ writing reflects the digital, mechanical, and ultra-precise design that precedes the building a spaceship. The organ is ideal for “playing” the character of the spaceship; it was to late-Medieval priests as spacecraft is to us now.

I am fascinated by the fact that organs represented, at one point in history, the pinnacle of technology. Within a religious context, they represented a sonic connection to the divine. The organ’s sound inspires a sense of awe, a mixture of fear and yearning for a place that is larger-than-life. To me, imagining travel among the stars elicits a similar emotional response. Thus, by paralleling organs with spaceships, I try to capture our obsession with the unknown, and also our desire to make it known.

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