She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew


She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew

Composed by Frances White
Written and Directed by Valeria Vasilevski
Performed by Kristin Norderval
Costume design by Zuzka

Commissioned by Pen and Bush with funds provided by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and additional funds from The Guggenheim Foundation for Frances White and Norsk kulturr├ąd (Statens kunstnerstipend) for Kristin Norderval.

She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew is a Reduta Deux production. The opera is easy to tour, and has been performed in Amsterdam at the Muziekgebouw, in New York at the Rubin Musem, in Barcelona, Vienna, and Fredrikstad, Norway. More information and technical specifications can be found here.

44′ duration
solo voice and electronic sound
electronic score and vocal line inspired by traditional Shakuhachi songs of mourning
staging based on mudras (hand positions) found in Japanese Buddhist statues
costume reflects Asian influence, iconography of Christian saints, play of light

Program Note by Frances White

She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew is a true collaboration. Personal conversations between Kristin Norderval (the performer), Valeria Vasilevski (the librettist), and myself (Frances White, the composer) created the basis for the libretto, the sonic landscape, and the staging. The main issue addressed in these conversations was the loss of one’s voice. Small fragments from many different stories made their way into the libretto, and though the details were different, they all followed a similar trajectory of silencing – each new voice though telling a new story was also telling the same story, each one taking up where the last left off. The result is a work that is very personal, but, we hope, also open to the larger and more universal issues that are implied by the idea of this loss. While there is no explicit, linear narrative, the piece does form an interior drama, from which a definite persona emerges. This persona has multiple voices: an inner voice, and the voice of memory; the public voice vs. private voice; a spoken voice, a singing voice, and a silenced voice, among others. There is also the sense of multiple listeners, hearing these various voices. The music is composed very specifically for Kristin. Much of the electronic material is derived from recordings of her singing and speaking, and I used various computer tools to analyze her voice so that the vocal writing follows her sonic “fingerprint”. The music takes a very direct emotional approach to the text. In music, words, and movement, we strive to make a piece that is passionately, deeply personal, but still leaves room for the audience to find their own meanings within it.

Frances White