Speechless

2019-08-29T00:32:15Z (GMT) by Cat Hope

An experimental noise opera - in three acts, for four soloists, the Australian Bass Orchestra and choir

'Speechless' is a 70 minute opera that is a homage to persons rendered speechless through political means.
In contemporary Australian culture, a number of cultural groups find themselves in positions of impotency, where they are left without a voice - legally, politically or culturally. Additionally, the populous is suffering compassion fatigue and often feels powerless to address larger philosophical issues. Speechless draws score and thematic material from the 2014 Human Rights Commission report entitled ‘The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.’ The work is an abstract examination of how wordless music - vocal and instrumental - can empower text that is hidden or suppressed.
Using graphic notation and experimental vocal approaches, the work explores vocal techniques that owe more to electronic music than classical voice, engaging a 30 piece choir and the Australian Bass Orchestra formed from low strings, bass guitars, bass brass, bass drums and electronics.

Synopsis
Proposed for in an open warehouse space, the work follows the structure of conventional opera with an overture, arias, recitatives and choral sections. Yet the score is created using graphic notation, deriving material from aspects of the report such as drawings, graphics, tables and design schema. The vocal material is presented as notated, ‘voiceless signing’ - a type of singing without understandable words pioneered by the likes of Ennio Morricone in the 1970s, informed by the experimental work of singers such as Cathy Berberian, Joan La Barbara and sound poet Amanda Stewart. The orchestra provides a visceral element to the sonic world, with performers illuminated simply but dramatically to keep the focus on the human aspects so central to the work.