in collaboration with artists
filmmaker CARMEN KORDAS & librettist ROYCE VAVREK
with soprano Jessica Rivera & International Contemporary Ensemble
violinist and improviser, Cornelius Dufallo
texts inspired by astrophysicist Mario Livio
a Bay Chamber Concerts Commission
The Hubble is a contemporary multimedia cantata for the mezzo soprano Jessica Rivera, and the renowned International Contemporary Ensemble. Commissioned by Bay Chamber Concerts, the cantata is inspired by Hubble Telescope images. The work is a collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek, filmmaker Carmen Kordas, and the famed astrophysicist, Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute. The work is leading towards a full length cantata for soprano and baritone, for the Hubble’s 25th anniversary in 2015. This work is supported by the Space Telescope Science Institute.
The work exists in two versions, as a 22 minute work, and an evening length cantata that features music, electronics, filmed sequences with rare seen photographs and footage from the Hubble telescope, interlaced with sung poetic movements.
This poetic re-imagining is inspired and guided by Mario Livio’s uniquely sensitive and intellectual writings.
This multimedia work will illustrates the living relationship between music, film, and science. By incorporating Mario Livio’s strong and poignant themes with music, visual art/film, and advanced technology, the Hubble Cantata promises to be one of the most exciting forays into the interdisciplinary dance of science and art, to date.
“We decided to symbolically anchor the Earth-based part of the lyrics on the agonizing experiences of a young woman struggling with a harsh reality. As Vavrek states in the introduction to the libretto: “Her footsteps tell stories.” The music and imagery for this section were partly inspired by the Japanese mythology-rich forest Aokigahara. Sadly, the historic association of this forest with demons has led to numerous suicides on the site. To connect the life (and death) experience of the young woman to the heavens, we used the ancient Peruvian geoglyphs known as the Nazca Lines. Again in Vavrek’s words: “The woman walks in patterns, pictures emerge in the soil… She creates her own private Nazca lines, tattooing the Earth with her history.” The Nazca lines in Peru are believed to have been created between the fifth and seventh centuries, and they are thought (at least by some researchers) to point to places on the horizon where certain celestial bodies rose or set. In other words, they truly marked a direct astronomical connection between the surface of the Earth and the heavens. In its conclusion, the Cantata completely intermingles the fate of the young woman with the ultimate fate of the stars. The shapes in the sand and the constellations in the sky become one, mirroring the tortuous path of human life in the dramatic Hubble images of outbursts that simultaneously mark stellar deaths and the promise for a new generation of stars, planets, and life.”
Her footsteps tell stories. The woman walks in patterns, pictures emerge in the soil, the dust. Hers is a story of gravel, of constellations, but also an exit strategy, a way back to the beginning. She creates her own private Nazca Lines, tattooing the earth with her history. Exhausted, she collapses in the darkness of night, with only space’s infinity to nurse her.
In the black sky canvas, a single star is being born, a sphere of gas and gravity. She coaxes it to be, with her last breath before dreaming. In her slumber, she and the star declare their intent to outlive each other. The main event.
As she sleeps a great wind sweeps clean the soil, the lines she has drawn erased in a grand gesture. The star, too, dying in the image of a ribbon. With no lines to bring her home, the woman latches onto the ribbon of stellar death as she ascends to the heavens, awaiting the birth of a new star. She dreams of new constellations. She dreams of drawing shapes in the sky.
Her footsteps tell stories. Walking, running, leaping. Her life spent mourning at the funerals of stars.
Years later, having attended his grief and his loneliness, the woman’s husband follows her lines, foot by foot collecting her the ribbon that traced her death’s journey. He has come to forgive her act of filicide, her own disappearance. He believes he was somehow complicit in the tragedy.
He tells her of a child that he sees running in the woods. He believes it to be the ghost of their unmade godchild. A child made of ghosts, a child made of the moon’s matter. He leaves her trimmings, and watches her eat like a feral cat. He hopes that she will allow him to hold her (“may I hold you grandchild”) in time. He will love her like a granddaughter. He will love her if she lets him.
He wonders is his wife will recognize him. Will the lines of age render him obscured? Will she have found a new spouse in another galaxy? Is he younger, does he shine brighter?
She descends from the heaven with their star children. Presenting his great-great-great-great-great-great kin. She digs into his chest, kisses his forehead, and creates their newborn daughter. The star children sing a lullaby to the old man and his wife as they cradle their infant. The mysterious ghost child curls up in the fetal position at their feet. They are a family.