Cotuit Center for the Arts presents the Cape Cod premiere of the highly acclaimed song cycle, Black Inscription, September 12 through 15. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2 PM.
“With lyrics about coral spawns, dislocated aquatic creatures, and the water cycle, Black Inscription reads . . . like a love song to the changing sea,” wrote Zara Abrams in the Huffington Post. After seeing the 2018 NYC premiere, renowned record producer Ron Saint Germaine wrote: “TRULY beautiful... This needs to be seen and heard all over the world in all languages!”
In Black Inscription, a free diver, inspired by the real-life free diver Natalia Molchanova who disappeared off the coast of Spain in 2015, descends into the depths of the ocean, never to resurface. As her terrestrial ties dissolve, she embarks upon an Odyssean journey in which she encounters a mystifying undersea world both awe-inspiring and devastating; bioluminescent creatures, coral reefs, a giant octopus, fast-moving currents that wrap around the earth, and the effects of pollution and overfishing.
Black Inscription, written by Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi, and Jeremy Flower, and directed by Kihlstedt and Mark DeChiazza, is an immersive multimedia song cycle with deep musical roots in rock, contemporary classical and pop music. The story is augmented by spoken text (written by London-based writer Hannah Silva and voiced by Tatyana Gessen, a Falmouth actress), evocative sound design (created by NYC-based sound artist Quentin Chiappetta), and lush video imagery (created by DeChiazza) that pull the audience into the darkness and luminescence of the sea. Incorporating some of Molchanova’s own poetry about diving, the songs depict Molchanova’s emotional transformation as she descends below the surface.
Written with guidance from marine biologists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and brought to life by a seven-piece band fronted by three singers, the event is a symbolic, scientific, and emotional plunge into the ocean, where wonder, discovery, and reckoning entwine.
Broadway World wrote, “This is not a show so much as a concert set in motion by the mysteries of the sea and a hard look at the reality of human contact on the inhabitants and ecosystems of the deep. The songs are a cycle surrounding the life of a free-diver and the bliss of surrendering to such an entity . . . giving in to [the] primal need to be one with the waves.”
“I credit two people for the inspiration of Black Inscription: Natalia Molchanova and Rachel Carson,” said Kihlstedt in a 2018 interview at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she is a member of the music composition faculty. “Rachel Carson made her mark, much like Natalia, by not only being a profound observer of the natural world and humans’ impact on it, but by having the ability to put those multifaceted observations into words so moving and accessible to all. It was both of these women’s ability to communicate that solidified their influence on their communities and on our culture at large.”
The term “black inscription” is Carson’s description of the universal line of microplants that live wherever the sea touches the rocky shoreline. The term felt like an invitation to Kihlstedt: “An invitation,” she said, “to do some work, to decipher, to investigate the clues we get from the ocean. Great scientific discoveries have been made by studying the smallest evidences of the processes of the natural world.
“I’m much more aware now, after having created this piece,” Kihlstedt said, “of the symbiotic relationship that the expressive arts and the sciences have. Not only do they come from the same sense of awe and curiosity, but they fuel each other in very real ways. They help us weave together fascination, understanding, and emotional resonance.”
The Black Inscription band augments Cape Cod-based group Rabbit Rabbit Radio (Kihlstedt on vocals and violin, Bossi on drums and vocals, Flower on guitar, keyboard, electronics, and vocals, and Jon Evans on guitar) with three other stellar musicians (Melissa Weikart on vocals and keyboard, Ariel Parkington on vocals and viola, George Ban-Weiss on bass). Lyrics are by Kihlstedt (and Molchanova). Environmental and video design is by DeChiazza. Text by Hannah Silva. Sound Design by Quentin Chiappetta. Lighting Design my Mary Ellen Stebbins.
Ticket are $30, $25 for balcony seating. There is a $5 discount for members and a $2 discount for seniors and veterans.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit www.artsonthecape.org or call 508-428-0669. Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit.
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Cotuit Center for the Arts, 4404 Route 28, Cotuit
September 12 to 15; Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 2 PM
$30, $25 for balcony seating. $5 discount for members, $2 discount for seniors and veterans.