Artists & Projects Directory
"Samita's work is both an embrace and an argument with the past. Its effect is to create an up-to-the-minute aesthetic that reflects that transnational, planetary, technologically sophisticated culture of the 21st century. She is a citizen of the world." -Sekou Sundiata
A staged music work for solo voice and electronics, Cipher is a journey through a disorienting and visionary sonic landscape. Utilizing her practice of "body-sound" -- a way of singing that unites voice, physical gesture, language and space into potent articulations from raw utterance to speech to song -- vocalist and composer Samita Sinha asks the question: is it possible to create a "native" tongue, a contemporary pidgin that gathers and refracts multiple languages, worldviews and temporalities?
Sinha explores this question using the "nonsense" sounds of tarana-a genre of song in Hindustani classical vocal music invented in the 13th century that mixes Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit syllables said to encode mystical meanings. Cipher is performed with a "band of boxes" -- rough-hewn electronic tabla (drum) and tanpura (drone) from India that trap a centuries old tradition of acoustic finery is trapped into a convenient, portable form. Using these boxes as instruments in their own right allows Sinha to create soundscapes that collapse past, present and future, and add layers of meaning to the palimpsest-like sounds of tarana. Added to this landscape are handmade mics attached to mini-amps as well as loop pedals, creating a terrain where Sinha explores the phenomenon and politics of vibrational force through voice and machines.
In three parts, Cipher passes back and forth among formless expression, traditional Indian song, southern blues, creating a contemporary soundscape that weaves together tones, moods and languages.
An evolution of recent work, Cipher will exist within a fully realized theatrical world built in collaboration with sound engineer Dave Sharma, sculptor Dani Leventhal, a choreographer/director, and a lighting designer.