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Olin Faculty Member to Premiere Intriguing New Musical Work at Wellesley College Concert

Olin College faculty member Diana Dabby will premiere a new musical composition at Wellesley as part of an eclectic program of contemporary and mixed media works inspired by the idea of the alien. Dabby and two other artists will explore modes of otherness that might exist past our solar system, here on Earth, or even within our own bodies. Sponsored by the Wellesley College Concert Series, “The Alien” concert will take place Saturday, November 10, at 7:30 pm in Houghton Chapel on the Wellesley College campus.

Dabby’s Parallel Lives — Distant Mirrors explores parallel universes in Iraq and the United States.  Scored for piano, mezzo-soprano, bass/alto flutes and soundtrack, the piece comprises five movements.

The final movement includes a soundtrack composed of Associated Press recordings from the 2003 bombardment of Iraq, the last minutes of Iraqi TV, and recorded American and Iraqi voices, among others. 

Each of the Arabic voice recordings heard in the soundtrack of the final movement is the focus of one of the inner movements, but in translation, so that movements 2, 3 and 4 convey to a predominantly English-speaking audience the content of the Arabic recordings included in the soundtrack of Movement 5, “Catharsis.”

Scored for solo piano and soundtrack, Catharsis offers the audience a new listening experience, a “Variation Concert” where seat location determines which variation path one hears through the soundtrack. Everyone will hear the live piano, but the left side of the audience will hear one path through the soundtrack, while the right side hears a different path.  Midway through the piece, the paths switch. The movement features sound-focusing technology developed by Kevin Brown of Brown Innovations.

“I have been interested in presenting a concert built around music variations since I began my musical variation project in 1994,” said Dabby. “I’m very pleased to be collaborating with Kevin Brown to finally bring this idea to fruition, and thrilled that it will happen in an outstanding setting, and with such exceptional musicians and fellow artists.”

Also on the program are works by N. Adriana Knouf from Wellesley Cinema and Media Studies Program and Jenny Olivia Johnson from Music at Wellesley. Knouf will present recent sound artwork on radio and satellite transmissions beyond the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere, along with works inspired by her recent research on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Johnson will present musical works that address how trauma can cause one to feel alienated from one’s own body, how the romanticized notion of “the alien” in popular films and TV shows can mitigate human feelings of otherness and alienation, and a recent immersive performance-installation about the fantasy of being able to make contact with the dead.

These works will be performed in the immersive setting of Wellesley College’s Houghton Chapel by vocalist P. Lucy McVeigh (Wellesley Class of 2011), flutist Yong Su Clark, pianists Eliko Akahori and Jongsun Lee, students of Johnson and Knouf, and by the composers and sound artists themselves.