Photo: Emily Peragine


Soundlines by George Lewis

International Contemporary Ensemble, New York, USA


Soundlines is a melodrama by the composer George Lewis, who was inspired by Steven Schick’s seven-hundred mile walk from the US border with Mexico to San Francisco Bay in 2006. The diary written during the many months of this trip has been used by Lewis as the text for a speaker, accompanied by a percussionist, a chamber ensemble with eight instruments, and electronics. The dramatically dense descriptions given by Schick (a professional percussionist) including moods, doubts, thoughts, commentaries as well as insights into his musical preferences and practices leaves the reader with a sense of empathy with the author. The desire to work with this text arose in George Lewis a long time ago and so the idea slowly grew that the author of the text should appear within the work itself. In deciding this, Lewis orientated himself in the style of the German filmmaker and author Peter Weiss. The 35-minute staged piece was written in close collaboration between the composer and the musicians, including Steven Schick as the percussionist and speaker, with eight musicians from the International Contemporary Ensemble as well as electronics. A surround-space will be created, which will enable the text to be experienced more intensively. The premiere will take place as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s one-day ‘Noon-to-Midnight’ Contemporary Music Festival.

The work’s title Soundlines is a combination of ‘songlines’ from the indigenous Australian notion of the ‘dreaming track’, where repeating a song while navigating a landscape allows access to dreams and myths related to that landscape; and the anthropologist Tim Ingold’s book Lines: A Brief History, which explores the possibility of a world in which everyone and everything embodies interwoven lines. These sources make common cause with Steven Schick’s narrative of a journey of personal discovery that everyone can understand and share.

June 1, 2019
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA

November 10, 2019
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York, USA

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