My Heart is a River

My Heart is a River (2020) – 12:33

i) Opening out
ii) Seeping in
In memory of Nessim and Raphael Abtan.

My Heart is a River is a piece for video, live cello and pre-processed musical accompaniment written for Seth Woods by Freida Abtan. Narratively, the piece traces the borders between dreams and identity that collapse within the process of immigration. A cello player begins to perform, and dreams emerge from his instrument. In these, he toasts a friend and together they plan an adventure. After sailing through rough waters riding the cello like a boat, the two friends reach their destination: a star filled expanse where their bodies mirror movement against an invisible barrier.

The music for My Heart is a River uses spectral processing to transform the sounds of the cello into physical materials such as water and skipping rocks. In performance, Woods plays in tight synchronization with the pre-recorded audio and visual accompaniment. The video features physical performance by both himself and Tamzin O’Garro and situates his body within its depicted narrative.

The piece was a commission from the Seattle Symphony for its 2020 season, where it premiered in the Octave 9 surround audiovisual concert hall. For the Octave 9 performance, both the sound and video surrounded the audience using an eighty-channel acoustic diffusion system as well as ten projection screens placed in an extended horseshow configuration. The production’s immersive media choreography must be tailored according to the differing projection capabilities of each performance venue.

The audio and visual material for the piece was created through physical and musical improvisation workshops conducted between Seth Woods and Freida Abtan. Recordings from those workshops became the source material for Freida Abtan to process and manipulate and the resulting electronic music was then scored back for Seth Woods to play live, embedded within a musical landscape in which his playing already features.