“…as for GOATS, cold water is a trial for them; for if the beast does not seem to be moved and affected when the water is poured upon her, this is an evident sign that her soul is not right according to Nature. And supposing it should be granted, that is a certain and unquestionable sign that the God Apollo will give an answer when the sacrifice thus drenched stirs” 

(hoof wear courtesy the fabulous Iris Schieferstein)

Pythia + goat interrogates the basic acoustical and dramatic premise of classical opera, re-fashioning and repositioning the Diva as a digital multi-vocal entity at the expressive heart of the opera experience.

The work is concerned with the mediation of the female voice and the exploration of voice beyond the larynx. It stages the situation of the performer as medium, mediator, instigator and author of her own transmutations. Placing the audience at the centre of a dynamic in-the-round performance space as witnesses to the performers journey into multiplicity, disembodiment and ultimately dis-appearance.

Dialogues are created between acoustic and digital voices. Gender specific registers are wilfully subverted and fractured as the work explores the idea of speaking in tongues, ventriloquism, prophecy, disappearance through dissipation, disembodiment... displacement and migration, and appearance in multiplicity. Extended vocal techniques and ethnic modes of vocalisation make available unusual acoustic resonances that generate rich processing textures and spiral into new acoustic and physical trajectories that traverse culturally specific boundaries crossing from the human into the virtual, from the real into the mythical and from the figurative into the abstract.

The voice, transformed, re-embodied, and spatialized, becomes a fluid, fractured plurality with multiple sonic and visual identities that appear to the audience as digitally transient characters, choric commentators, and digital fauna and flora.

The piece playfully reforms, subverts and re-invigorates familiar opera conventions such as the dramatic and sonic relationships and interplay between chorus, soloists and orchestra. The sound design for Pythia + goat makes this immediately evident.

Pythia+goat playfully intertwines and processes a range of references and points of thematic inspiration. Starting points of the development of the video content includes Plutarch’s accounts of the rites and rituals associated with the Pythia (Oracle) at Delphi (Greece) and the early video works of Bruce Nauman, particularly the absurd Clown Torture installation.

Pythia+goat explores the three-way relationship between the Pythia (Oracle/live performer) the Goat (indicator of the presence of Apollo/video bound presence also performed by Wilson-Bokowiec as goat) and the Other mediated voices of the supposed god Apollo (live gesturally manipulated and diffused vocal entities. Sung and spoken text will be drawn from a number of sources both ancient and modern and is likely to include ancient Greek as well as purely phonic abstract meta-languages.

The sound score combines both recorded and live elements. The recorded aspect is confined to the ‘orchestral’ part, which is electro-acoustic in nature; raw sonic material being derived from a variety of field recordings that are then processed, manipulated and spatialized for quadraphonic diffusion. The live elements of the work are all derived from the voice of the performer. Live vocalisations are subject to a range of live processing that are selected, controlled and manipulated gesturally by the performer via the Bodycoder interface. Both the acoustic and manipulated voices are subjected to both automated and live diffusion. Live diffusion is also gesturally controlled by the performer across eight loudspeaker channels to introduce and locate both choric and other soloist digital sound entities within the performance space.

The composition of sound diffusion for Pythia+goat is subject to dramaturgical logic: it’s meta-narrative relationship to live action and its theatrical effects with regard to the location of sonic entities and the treatment of these as characters with locative entrances, exits and spatial presence within the geography of the evolving performance space. This constitutes a radical departure from current practice and thinking within the realm of electro-acoustic music, and signifies a new approach to a digital opera form.