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Shallow Breath and Stealth program notes (2)

In the 75-page long MOTION STUDIES, Osman combines numerous forms: essays, stories, and graphs the various ways in which data collection has evolved and affects our lives.


I was absolutely floored by the virtuosity of Jena's text and narrative, and also immediately knew that I could not use the text as it was.  MOTION STUDIES is a perfect entity as a poem, but the length would bloat with music to yield a 5 day-long oratorio.


Donald culled selections of the text, and I whittled these moments down, in an effort to capture the poem’s earnest tone of surprise and menace, an unfolding plot, and also … something like a message in a bottle sent back through time, much like Madeleine Stowe’s character’s phone message in Terry Gilliam’s remarkable movie 12 Monkeys.  In Osman’s MOTION STUDIES, there is a recurring character of a bird who appears occasionally at the end of the pages in a fashion that Osman dubbed “flip book” – capturing moments at the at the edges of the pages - a delightfully whimsical element of the poem that I mimic with my recurring message in a bottle.


In order to encapsulate the essence of the playful form and the increasing menace of the data collectors, I took four sections of the text, and - with the blessing of Jena Osman - rearranged the words in the various iterations to imbue the text with different meanings, each reassembling, more menacing than the previous.  


There was a moment working on the TURING opera workshop, when Donald asked me about an indication in the score, “keyboard clicking”.  He asked: “What sound is that: does the choir make it and if so - what are you imagining?”  I had a boringly concrete answer in mind, but the phrasing of his question made me wonder… what would Donald have put there had I not been alive to offer my boring response?  It also got me to thinking about the various sounds and rhythmic plasticity at the disposal of The Crossing.


It is my greatest hope that SHALLOW BREATH AND STEALTH is worthy of Osman’s MOTION STUDIES, Donald Nally, and The Crossing.

- JFC/ STAMFORD, CT 9/2021



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