Thompson Hall 4th Floor, Elevator Shaft Stairs

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Steffani Jemison

Recitatif (Maybe we need new words), 2017
Two-channel audio installation, 41 minutes

“Récitatif” is a collection of performances, recordings, scripts, and scores that imagine the contemporary implications of solresol, a universal musical language invented by a 19th century composer Francois Sudre to serve as a universal second language for Europe. In Solresol, each word is formed as a combination or melody from the seven pitches of the diatonic scale (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti), the seven colors of the rainbow, or any system with seven units. The performances, sound installations, and scores point to the aesthetic and ethical potential of a utopian language. Jemison specifically points to the anxieties and opportunities associated with frictionless communication in a political climate where flows of people, ideas, and technology across borders interact with modern nationalism. The work asks: what if we need new “words” in order to conjure new aesthetic, ethical, and political ideals? Jemison uses Solresol as a tool to explore the tension between composing, speaking, and expressing.