Ocean of Awareness

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Thu, 04 Mar 2010

Opera 2.0

Open development seems to be percolating into the arts. A friend of mine, MG Lord, is on a team commissioned by the LA Opera to write an opera about LA's 110 Freeway. They (MG, her co-librettist Shannon Halwes, and composer Laura Karpman) are putting 110 on the Web one aria/overture/intermezzo at a time, as they workshop it. In effect, they're blogging the opera.

Their most recent release is the powerful aria "The Velocity of Escape". A special advantage of the medium of opera is that in it, ideas do not have to be explained one by one. When several characters are singing at the same time, the music tricks your brain into doing an aesthetic Fourier analysis. Several ideas can be presented directly and at once. The ideas may contrast or harmonize, but they reinforce either way. In "Velocity of Escape", characters Susan Tanaka and Lew Zellman share the excitment of their unfolding mutual attraction; the opening of the new highway ("six glass-smooth miles to downtown"); and Lew's soon-to-be-fulfilled dream -- to be part of the team that builds a rocket powerful enough to escape the Earth's gravitational field.

As the 110 team workshops each piece, you'll be able to listen to it. You can also see MG's storyboard drawings, and read what the team has to say about the choices and thoughts that go into the making of 110. Readers are encouraged to add their own comments.

I'm told that in coming installments of 110, things will not be glass-smooth for Lew and Susan. Few readers of this blog, I expect, gave the last names of the couple a second thought. But in 1939 it was illegal in California for a Causasian to marry a Japanese. In 1942, Susan will wind up in a internment camp. From this, for all Lew's skills at escaping gravity, he will be powerless to extricate her.

In the aria, as elsewhere, MG is punctilious about getting the science right. She's been a reporter on the science beat for many years. But even being a science reporter does not necessarily make for a glass-smooth transition to an interactive Web-driven literary creative process. Several months ago I hinted to MG that Rudy Rucker was blogging his new novel chapter by chapter. Back came the response: "The very idea makes me shudder." Which sounded to me kind of negative. So I was rather suprised when she announced she was part of a team taking the lead in what you could call Opera 2.0.

posted at: 12:32 | direct link to this entry

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