Whispering Pines 10 is a one-act chamber opera by artist Shana Moulton in collaboration with composer Nick Hallett, and featuring vocalist Daisy Press. It features a live performance by Moulton as her alter ego Cynthia, a hypochondriac-agoraphobic prone to colorful hallucinations and absurd fantasies. While Cynthia seeks health and total happiness within her virtual environment—an interactive video set that utilizes real-time multimedia techniques its creators call “live animation”—she usually settles for fad cures and new-age kitsch, creating situations in turn comic, contemplative, and surreal.
Whispering Pines is the celebrated video serial created by Moulton in 2002 that has previously spawned nine episodes, along with related performances, videos, and gallery installations. Whispering Pines 10—the latest installment—is an innovative performance hybrid that incorporates elements of traditional opera into contemporary video and performance art. Its premise—a woman alone in her private environment, aided by technology—enables a flexible sensibility wherein popular and experimental forms can mingle. The original music and libretto composed by Hallett takes advantage of the narrative’s dream logic to weave what is essentially a pop music vocabulary into an experimental idiom, enabling a virtuosic exploration of the human voice. As the protagonist does not effectively speak, the sounds of her inner psychology are sung—glossolalia and the songs in her memory, ostensibly derived from tacky pulp culture, but somehow heightened. The work is a conversation-generating update of the monodrama or “mad scene,” realized within a mediated, medicated, feminized, and quintessentially American vernacular.
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“Whispering Pines 10 playfully demonstrates Cynthia’s loss of power to chic ideologies of self-empowerment, as Moulton’s character, mute, is subsumed by a digital video backdrop and kitschy pop librettos….The pained narcissism of incessant healing and grooming is masked as a heroic journey to wellness, for which seclusion is a necessary step.”
—Kareem Estefan, BOMB
“[Moulton's] relation with this character is somewhere between irony and pure love. You can never quite tell how much of it is mockery and how much of it is sincere appreciation for this aesthetic and style; and that's what makes the works so interesting, because Cynthia is a ridiculous person who is completely out of control of her environment…and we sort of sympathize with her and we laugh at her and we laugh along with her.”
—Michael Connor, Radiovisual
“The audience—complete with art stars and downtown celebs—loved the show and I can understand why. There’s a lot to enjoy from the piece and it is clever and amusing…the music was absolutely delightful.”
—Andy Horowitz, Culturebot
Shana Moulton was born in Oakhurst, CA and is a Brooklyn-based video, installation, and performance artist. Shana attended school at University of California at Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University. She has participated in residencies at Skowhegan, De Ateliers, LMCC, and Harvestworks; she was also a New Commissions artist at Art in General in 2009. Moulton has exhibited and performed at venues such as The Wexner Center, Migros Museum, MoMA P.S.1, The Kitchen, Performa 09, Electronic Arts Intermix, the Andy Warhol Museum, and Socrates Sculpture Park. Her work has been reviewed in the Village Voice, Artforum, the Brooklyn Rail, the New York Times, Artnet Magazine, and Flash Art.
Nick Hallett is a NYC-based composer, vocalist, and cultural producer. His music has been performed at Joe’s Pub, ISSUE Project Room, The Kitchen, Le Poisson Rouge, and The Stone. Nick held the first RE:NEW RE:PLAY artist residency at the New Museum in May 2009, creating a four-part series of concerts connecting the voice to visual performance art, and he composed original music for the November 2009 Performa biennial in a concert at Town Hall. After organizing a performance for the Joshua Light Show at The Kitchen in 2007, Hallett became its music curator, collaborating with its founder, multimedia artist Joshua White to contextualize his pioneering approach to live cinema for contemporary audiences. With Zach Layton, he co-directs the celebrated Darmstadt new music series at ISSUE Project Room, which convenes a month-long Institute in the late spring and a festival of “Essential Repertoire” in the autumn. As a vocalist, he has performed the works of Anthony Braxton, Susie Ibarra, Meredith Monk, and Matthew Welch, among others. From 2000 to 2003, he led the band Plantains, a new wave-cabaret act incorporating electronic music and video, collaborating with Ray Sweeten and Seth Kirby, a recent retrospective of which was just released on I, Absentee.
Daisy Press was born into a performing family as the daughter of two musicians. Recently she was praised by the New York Times for her “winning subtlety and understatement” in her rendition of George Crumb’s new folk-based song cycle “Unto the Hills” at Miller Theater with the acclaimed group So Percussion, and then again for her “calm naturalness” for her performance of early and late Webern song cycles. Previously, she has sung in the works of Steve Reich, including “Music for 18 Musicians” and “Drumming,” which she has also performed as a guest artist at Juilliard. She was singer-in-residence at the Bang on a Can Marathon for two years. Press has performed Morton Feldman’s “Three Voices” (the studio recording of which is soon to be released on Cantaloupe records) and has served on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music, where she received her masters degree. Having been raised on a rock-and-roll tour (literally under the stage), she can occasionally be spotted performing at Irving Plaza with the preeminent Neil Diamond cover band, Super Diamond.
Saturday, January 8, 2011 | 4:00 PM