The work uses as its base two 17th-century songs, which have been given a contemporary twist by the composers William Lawes and John Smith. It was first performed in 1999 at Battersea Arts Centre in London, and last year at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio. This year, it will grace the vast, domed space of McEwan Hall as part of the Edinburgh Festival. The audience will gaze down on the white-clad, unaccompanied singers from the venue's balconies.
Each of the singers' steps is carefully choreographed, adding a deeper meaning to the music, says Clark: "We can all try to do something perfectly, but there is more going on beneath the surface beauty - a bit like a swan... One of the key lines sung by the seven females is 'More geese than swans now live/ More fools than wise.'"
He continues: "It is unusual to have a through-written score - which is normally reserved for ballet and opera - performed live by classical musicians and fused with visual theatre."
Clark has previously written experimental chamber operas for Opera North (The Weather Man) and for the ICA (Liebeslied/My Suicides), both performed last year. He set up The Clod Ensemble in 1995 with Suzy Willson as a performance group with music and movement at its heart; their most recent show, The Red Ladies, was performed earlier this summer in London as part of Architecture Week. It consisted of 29 identically dressed women wearing red stilettos and red headscarves (seven of whom made up a brass band), who converged on Trafalgar Square to sing lines from the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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