A woman of no importance (Cybernetics Oratorium)

An elderly woman who decides to burn all of her possessions (i.e., her memories) and to start all over. A girl who is kidnapped and murdered. A cyborg or robot who is subject to sexual and domestic slavery, becomes aware of herself and then rebels through pain as her weapon for freedom. These are the three main characters of this oratorium, which concludes with a requiem in memory of composer Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016).

 
 
 
A woman of no importance
 
 
 
 
 
 

A Woman of no Importance (Cybernetics Oratorium)

Artists:

Susan Campos-Fonseca (Composer, prepared piano & voice)
Elena Zúñiga-Escobar (Composer, violoncello & voice)
Tomás “autómata” de Camino Beck: (Electronic)
Norberto García: (Percussion)

Composer:

Susan Campos-Fonseca &
Elena Zúñiga-Escobar

Format: Album
Release: Jun 06, 2018
Catalogue: IGM-019
GTIN/EAN/UPC: 4050215424104
Producer: IGM

Tracks

01. Jardín de cenizas

Rachel (in the temporary mist of prayer)

02. “I am the sifter of soundless…”
03. “shovels by each window weep…”
04. “crawl echo in the dirt…”

     Cyberpunk fados

05. “Um dia eu vou ser uma boneca…”
06. “O cravo de uma máquina…”
07. “Ouve olhando…”
08. “Que paz chorar com um ser…”
09. “Nós não somos filhos do suicídio dos deuses…"

10. Requiem for Pauline Oliveros. Feat. Norberto García

 
 
 
  Susan Campos - Fonseca & Elena Zúñiga Photo by Jeff Brenes

Susan Campos - Fonseca &
Elena Zúñiga
Photo by Jeff Brenes

 
 
 

Album Notes

Why a cybernetics oratorium?

An elderly woman who decides to burn all of her possessions (i.e., her memories) and to start all over. A girl who is kidnapped and murdered. A cyborg or robot who is subject to sexual and domestic slavery, becomes aware of herself and then rebels through pain as her weapon for freedom. These are the three main characters of this oratorium, which concludes with a requiem in memory of composer Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016).

The oratorium is a dramatic music genre, often of religious content, which does not have staging, costume or decorations, and which is composed for solo voices and choir. Cybernetics, on the other hand, is the science that studies how the mechanisms and connections of living beings function, so as to apply them to electronic and mechanical systems.

How are those women’s stories interlaced in an oratorium? What is their relation with cybernetics? The poems that were chosen to weave the stories together lead us closer into an answer: Celina Fonseca and Lorena Izquierdo (2017) tell us about a “Garden of Ashes”, a cemetery-garden that at the same time is a place for biodegradation, a place where seeds are planted in funerary urns to rekindle other beings, other stories, even the stories of those who survive in the face of imminent death.

 
 
 
  Photo Courtesy by Susan Campos Fonseca

Photo Courtesy
by Susan Campos Fonseca

 
 
 

Society has seen elderly women as monstrous or useless creatures. They hide in their houses, tied to their memories, but their daily lives are proof that they are alive. The most insignificant actions show their vulnerability and remind them that they are alive. They are aware of how life recycles itself constantly, and this is materialized precisely in the garden of ashes.

In the song “Rachel (in the temporary mist of prayer)”, on the other hand, Cindy Savett (2007) tells us about childhood and how violence destroys a life that is only just beginning. Nature is also present in this second piece, with the forest surrounding the house where Rachel is imprisoned, and where her body is finally abandoned and rots. Savett’s poem reminds us of how life’s mechanisms continue their course. The cybernetic mechanism recycles itself; the garden of ashes, the forest where everything rots, are a symbol of this connection.

 
 
 
  Celina Fonseca Photo by Susan Campos - Fonseca

Celina Fonseca
Photo by Susan Campos - Fonseca

 
 
 

The myth of a garden where everything begins and everything ends is, as Aby Warburg said, “a surviving image” weaving the collective memories of Western culture. The elderly woman and the girl show the connections and the mechanisms of the cybernetic organism approached in the oratorium; they are the source for the programming of the machine, which becomes aware of itself because of all the pain, the existential solitude embedded in it.

The fado, the traditional Portuguese song, becomes a metaphor for this phenomenon in “Cyberpunk fados.” Human beings arguably create Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our own image and likeness, and science fiction speculates on the possibilities of AI when the programmers’ limitations arise. Fado and saudade, in Susan Campos-Fonseca’s poem (2015), offer a cybernetic “theorem” on the basis of an algorithmic music from which the series of the fado are composed. The metaphor of the theorem articulates the idea that saudade, existential solitude, can be transformed into a programming code, from which the machine can learn that the human species makes sense only when it becomes aware of its own fragility. The machine knows that it is stronger and more efficient than the human, and understands that human rationality will be the key for human beings’ extinction.

 
 
 
  Lorena Izquierdo Photo by Teatre El Musica

Lorena Izquierdo
Photo by Teatre El Musica

 
 
 

We then arrive to a profound listening, as proposed by Pauline Oliveros in her "Sonic Meditations" (1971). The latter reveal a kinetics of time, desire, distance, bodies, and relations among beings. Elise Plain’s poem (2012) summarizes this kinetics in “Requiem”. It is an ouroboros:
 
Me acuesto con el amor en el lecho de la muerte
me acuesto con el mar y la muerte
en el lecho del amor

me acuesto con el deseo me acuesto con la muerte
en el lecho del mar
en el lecho del amor.

(Translation)

I lay down with love on the deathbed
I lay down with the sea and with death
on the lovebed,

I lay down with desire I lay down with death
on the seabed
on the lovebed.

 
Kinetics and cybernetics are embodied like Thanatos and Eros, and this is shown in Jorge Posada’s work In Motion, which appears on the cover of this album.

A Woman of no Importance (Cybernetics oratorium) has been designed to think about the networks of life and death as portrayed in the characters, but it has also been built as a dystopic music for a choreography that is still in progress. The production combines analogic and electronic Noise, spectralism, and improvisation and composition techniques inspired in minimalism, algorithmic music, free jazz, and death metal. The title of the oratorium, A Woman of no Importance, comes from Oscar Wilde’s play from 1893.

The narrative structuring the oratorium includes a study of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818), Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and Doris Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974). The aim of this is to carry out an artistic investigation through composition and sound design, in a work that reflects from the paradigms of a science fiction created by women.

The characters’ stories are articulated in this cyberfeminist oratorium that questions, as philosopher Donna J. Haraway proposes, the relations between species as well as between the machine as a cyberorganism and human beings. The oratorium, thus, critically assesses our Western representations of humanism and nature, which in turn are printed in how we program AI machines, what kind of technology and culture we produce and consume, and how our obsession for disentangling the secrets of life are just a manifestation of an unaccomplished desire for immortality.

Susan Campos - Fonseca, PhD
Musicologist and composer

* Translation by Marcela Hernández

 
 
 

video

 
 
 
 
 
 
The idea was to create a coherent relation between ambient noise, electronic noises and acoustical instruments. The mix tries to make an organic connection between all forms of noise creation intentional or not. The mix does not try to be center balanced, you´ll here things sometimes more to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes center. All noises are left there, from acoustic recording noises (cars, doors, floor), to digital noises, clicks, jitter, even bad cables. With this it tries to recreate life with noise…
— Tomás de Camino Beck, PhD
 
 
  Susan Campos - Fonseca & Tomás de Camino Beck Photo courtesy by Susan Campos - Fonseca

Susan Campos - Fonseca &
Tomás de Camino Beck
Photo courtesy by Susan Campos - Fonseca

 
 

Credits

 
 
  Susan Campos - Fonseca & Elena Zúñiga Photo Courtesy by Susan Campos - Fonseca

Susan Campos - Fonseca &
Elena Zúñiga
Photo Courtesy by Susan Campos - Fonseca

 
 
 

Produced by Irreverence Group Music (IGM)
Music by Susan Campos-Fonseca &
Elena Zúñiga-Escobar

Susan Campos-Fonseca - Composer, prepared piano & voice
Elena Zúñiga-Escobar - Composer, violoncello & voice
Tomás “autómata” de Camino Beck - Electronic
Norberto García - Percussion

Texts by Celina Fonseca, Lorena Izquierdo,
Cindy Savett, Susan Campos-Fonseca & Elise Plain

Recorded by Bernal Chaves
at LES Sound Experimentation Lab, Costa Rica
Mixed and Mastered by Tomás de Camino Beck

Program Notes by Susan Campos - Fonseca
Artwork: In Motion by Jorge Posada
Cover design by Lina Gracia
Photography by Bernal Chaves
Executive producers: Tomás de Camino &
Susan Campos - Fonseca

Susan Campos-Fonseca (BMI)
Manufactured and marketed by
Irreverence Group Music (Brooklyn, NY)
Made in US. Total time: 39 min | IGM - 019
Ⓟ and Ⓒ  2018 IGM