POWERS OF TWO: The Sibyl (1997)

(Powers of Two, Act 2)

electroacoustic music theatre for two singers, dancer, video tape and eight digital soundtracks


The Journalist / Sappho (mezzo-soprano)

The Sibyl (alto)

Female dancer

Performance Video (abridged version) available

Libretto by the composer

  Sound Example (excerpts) available
Video taped dancers: Marc Berezowski,Thecla Schiphorst

Video tape editing and processing: Barry Truax, Thecla Schiphorst

Audio taped singer: Sue McGowan

Audio taped speakers: Sue McGowan, Chris Rolfe, Norbert Ruebsaat, Betsy Smith

Powers of Two : The Sibyl is a piece of music theatre that explores the symbolism and dynamic tension between various pairs of opposites: the visual and auditory, the real and virtual, male and female, gay and straight. Although the characters are not intended to be realistic, they enact various human emotions in their search for unity.

The Sibyl, who represents traditional knowledge, must find a successor, and she does so in the person of The Journalist, who enters looking for a story, accompanied by the female dancer with a video camera and lights that blank out the video screen. The Journalist, a lesbian, extols the new Golden Age represented by television, and simultaneously falls in love with the female models portrayed there. The Sibyl criticizes the falseness of these images and encourages her to forsake the materialism represented by the world of advertising. The Journalist does so through a symbolic death in which the Sibyl's cape is used to cover her, with a musical reference to Berg's Lulu. She is 'reborn' as Sappho to become the new Sibyl by assuming the cape and returning to the opening song. She is symbolically joined with her partner, the female dancer.

The work includes three video tapes, two with male and female dancers, and one created with processed television ads that feature female models. The sung text consists of poetic excerpts from Aphra Behn, Louise Labé, Katherine Philips, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (16th-18th c. poets). The tape is composed solely from sung and spoken voices, Pacific Rim percussion, and environmental ambiences, all digitally processed (using granulation and resonators) with the composer's PODX system and diffused through Harmonic Functions' DM8 signal processor.

Its sequel, in which the genders are reversed, is Powers of Two: The Artist.

Shaun Phillips and Sue McGowan in Powers of Two: The Sibyl. SFU performance, Sept.1998

(click on photo for full scale version)

CD excerpt available: Hymn to the Moon on the Cambridge Street Records CD Twin Souls.