Joe Diebes: oyster
Joe Diebes – Music, Libretto, and Video
Phil Soltanoff – Stage Direction
Damian Calvo – Cinematography
Poe Saegusa – Lighting design
Piano: Melinda Faylor
Developed as a sponsored project with Harvestworks.
What might the singing style in folk music from “Arctic Asia” or “Insular Pacific” say about these regions’ respective cultural levels of…sexual repression? Such was one type of question monumental blues and folk music archivist Alan Lomax sought to answer with Cantometrics. Introduced in the mid-1960s, and harnessing some of the earliest computer technologies, Cantometrics was Lomax’s little-known, yet astronomically ambitious system of numerically coding and analyzing sung music from around the world. In oyster, a new experimental opera from composer and multidisciplinary artist Joe Diebes, the score reverses this process of turning songs into numbers by turning Lomax’s numbers back into songs. This data vocalization begs a larger, pervasive contemporary question—how much can we really know of people and culture through computer profiling?