'mid the steep sky's commotion
- Visual Arts
Wind – a force of destruction and preservation, origins inscrutable and destination unknown – is the epitome of mystery. Its presence echoes through our poems and dreams, yet its patterns and path remain impenetrable, invisible save for its effect on the world around it.
‘mid the steep sky’s commotion by composer Joshua Stamper is a 40 minute work written for the acclaimed Grammy- nominated choir The Crossing, in collaboration with visual artist Caroline Santa. The Crossing will premiere the work on June 11, 2017 as the first concert of their 2017 Month of Moderns, in the Crane Arts Icebox in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties neighborhood. The work explores the enigmatic and impenetrable quality of wind, its singular and intimate relationship to the detritus of a city, and what this relationship suggests about language, time, and transience.
‘mid the steep sky’s commotion features a found-text libretto culled from the streets of Philadelphia, each movement representative of a different journey through the city. Texts have been harvested from objects that have been moved, gathered, and discarded by the wind – weathered gas receipts, discarded church bulletins, candy wrappers, concert flyers, matchbooks – and are separated, combined, and recombined. Order and disorder are generated on both horizontal and vertical axes.
(excerpt from “Weight” mesostic – created from texts harvested in Manayunk, Philadelphia, March 6, 2017)
As The Crossing gives voice to Stamper’s intricate and dynamic poetic and musical structures, Caroline Santa interprets the libretto through stories-wide undulating projections that create the suggestion of atmosphere, cloud, storm, and hush, and suspended gossamer textile pieces, shifting like delicate flags or sails. The Icebox, imposing in both scale and structure, is transformed, while rich and dynamic contrapuntal tapestries emerge between the human voice, found-sound/electronic accompaniment, textile, space, and light.
Both Stamper’s and Santa’s work are preoccupied with transience and transition. Santa’s work is perpetually and literally in flux: like tides reshaping the shore, materials from her finished works are removed, reappropriated, and recontextualized into new and unfinished work. Stamper’s work exists in an interstitial space between the classical, jazz, avant-garde, and songwriting traditions, where melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic vocabularies overlap to create new musical languages. For both, there is profound regard for, as John Cage puts it, “nature in the manner of her operation.” In this piece, Santa and Stamper are working in collaboration with, and even as apprentice to, the wind in its furious shifting and shuffling. It is a deep push into a shared vision.
'mid the steep sky's commotion will be also released as a film, providing audiences a new, cinematic, immersive experience of the piece. The film will be directed by award-winning filmmaker Ben Stamper.
The current funding goal of $13,000 is intended to cover artist materials, installation assistants, accompanists, equipment rental, audio engineers, camera persons, audio mixing and mastering, and film editing.
Funds already raised for ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion include $20,000 from The Crossing for all conductor and singers fees for rehearsal, performance, and recording/filming, and an in-kind donation of rehearsal, performance, and recording space of $2500 from the Crane Arts Icebox. Additional funding for the project is being sought through The Robert D. Bielecki Foundation, The NEA (ArtWorks Grant), New Music USA, The Sparkplug Foundation, and The PIFVA Finishing Fund.