“To dive we must forget the surface fuss…
Ignore all surface fuss..
Ignore the surface…”
From Jump Blue, text by Hannah Silva

Black Inscription, a new multimedia love song cycle to the ocean composed by the talented team of Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi, and Jeremy Flower that had its NYC premiere at the HERE Arts Center January 11, is an immersive experience of the undersea world that plunges the audience into the beauty and desolation found in the depths of our oceans. Part documentary and part rock opera, it uses videos, music, sound, and imagery to evoke a world both familiar and strange, hauntingly beautiful and endangered. Directed by Kihlstedt and Mark deChiazza and written with guidance from the experts at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, it features a rock score performed by a seven-piece band of artists (some of whom are also divers, ex-scientists, and environmental engineers) that plunges the audience into an artistic exploration of life underwater.

Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Loosely inspired by the record-setting Russian Freediver Natalia Molchanova who was 53 when she disappeared on a recreational dive two years ago, Black Inscription opens the ocean to us from her perspective: a place of profound beauty wherein the quiet and stillness she loses her “surface life” to find her authentic self. The beauty of the coral reefs and the luminescence of the undersea world becomes a place of understanding about the dangers of our trash and noise pollution that threaten its delicate ecosystem. Molchanova’s own poetry flows in and around the lyrics, mesmerizing us with a sense of the isolation and profound peace that she finds there.

I lost my body in the waves.
A vacuum, quiet…
The blue, blue abyss.

Touching the secret,
I’m going in.
From The Blue Abyss by Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi, and Jeremy Flower

Within the score is found the sounds of dolphins and birds, the shrieks, chirps, and moans of the underwater soundscape. The music is evocative and as undulating as the water itself; its effect is hypnotic. Like a meditation, the spiritual pull of the ocean becomes a place to escape our own “surface fuss” and lose oneself in its expansive clarity and focus.

Let the sea in,
Let it sea in,
Let me see in…
From Octopolis by Kristin Slipp and Jeremy Flower

Against the expanse of the underwater cinematography by Evan Kovacs, Kihlstedt, the main performer, was mesmerizing as she crooned and sawed on her violin bathed in blue light, accompanied with vocals by Kristin Slipp and Ariel Parkington, who also respectively played keyboards and violin. Four other musicians rounded out the ensemble: Kihlstedt’s husband Matthias Bossi on the drums, George Ban-Weiss on bass, guitarist Mike Abraham and electronic artist and composer Jeremy Flower. Mark deChiazza created an appropriate aquatic environment to completely lose the audience in the experience; at the matinee performance, I attended a half dozen youngsters sat completely immersed for the entire ninety-minute performance. More than anything else, that attests to the power of the experience and the music to completely captivate an audience of all ages.

Photo Credit: Maria Baranova

Produced by Rabbit Rabbit Radio, Black Inscription fills us with wonder, outrage, and hope. More of a creative exploration than a scientific call to action, its goal is to inspire the viewer’s own love affair with the ocean in order to help protect and sustain its delicate ecosystem for many generations of future land-dwellers.

The music from Black Inscription can be found online here.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.