Friday 20 November 2020

How do we transcend the divisions by which we define ourselves? Alastair White's new cantata in Scots, Hebrew and Yiddish explores the physical realities of language in our increasingly virtual world.

Alastair White: The Drowning Shore - Clara Kanter
Alastair White: The Drowning Shore - Clara Kanter
Exploring the physical realities of language in our increasingly virtual world, The Drowning Shore is a 14-minute mono-drama by composer Alastair White. Commissioned by the cross-genre company Compass Presents as part of its Oracles in Sepia series of on-line films, The Drowning Shore debut on Compass Presents' Facebook and YouTube pages on 19 November 2020.

Performed by mezzo-soprano Clara Kanter, directed by Hannah Lovell, and featuring garments curated by  Gemma A. Williams, the work packs a strong punch in its 14 minutes. One starting point for the text (Alastair White wrote both music and words) is the play God of Vengeance by the Polish-Jewish novelist and dramatist Sholem Asch (1880-1957) which examines the dichotomy between written and spoken language, something that White sees as being turned on its head by our modern internet, "Are we horrified, or bored - that we now exist purely as avatars, in pools of watery light, like ghosts, or flowers pressed between glass panes?"

The Drowning Shore features text in Hebrew and in Yiddish as well as in vernacular Scots, and the work was devised in conjunction with Asch's great-grandson, David Mazower (editorial director at the Yiddish Book Centre), and Clara Kanter is Asch's great-great-granddaughter.

This is a work with much to unpack, from White's music to the multi-layered, multi-lingual text, or you could simply sit back and enjoy the new and archival pieces from two of fashion’s masters, Issey Miyake and Alexander McQueen, and one piece used, a Scottish Black Watch pleated tartan dress from the late 1950s, was owned and worn by the composer’s own grandmother.

The Drowning Shore is available on YouTube.

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