Vespers Or Vision Quest? Soulful Music For A Violin In Flight

Apr 3, 2018

Vespers, the traditional late afternoon prayer service, gets an enigmatic twist in a new video by director James Darrah, premiered here, with music from Missy Mazzoli, performed by the spirited violinist Olivia De Prato. The track is from her new album, Streya.

The narrative, shot in slow-motion, opens with dancer Sam Shapiro's character, heavy with sleep, stirring on a sun-drenched morning. It mysteriously unfolds as a kind of barefoot vision quest in the Mojave Desert, progressing from morning to mid-day, from a flaming sunset to a nighttime bonfire, and finally back to daylight. In a final, inscrutable shot, Shapiro takes a drag from a cigarette and turns to the camera.

Could it all be just a dream?

The music is less ambiguous, though deliciously disorienting in its own right. Mazzoli extracted strings, voices and organ sounds from her 2015 suite Vespers for a New Dark Age, suffused them with a wash of electronics and fronted them with a soaring solo violin. De Prato — violinist for Mazzoli's band Victoire and co-founder of the Mivos Quartet — opens with a raspy thread of tone, emerging from a haze to shift between elastic, slithery scales and punchy flourishes, gradually reaching the upper register of her instrument while a scrim of ethereal voices wafts by.

Darrah, who directed Mazzoli's well-received 2017 opera Breaking the Waves, may have constructed his own cryptic vision of the traditional evening vespers — but in the music, there's no mistaking that De Prato and Mazzoli are out to dismantle it.

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