HT[A]SAR is a series of 15 short pieces written for multi-percussionist and "robot voices." It was written for Jane Boxall, during the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown, specifically to be premiered in short daily videos directly to the web from her home.
I made a libretto out of some scraps of text on a WikiHow page about how to start a revolution. I'm sure somewhere in there is disappointment with the failure of the Bernie Sanders campaign to translate his popularity into electoral success, though for me, there is a bigger picture problem that the piece tries to speak to.
Being an American in the present moment means having to navigate a complicated mix of emotionally fraught realities [ways that the US is devolving and evolving, progressing and regressing at the same time]. And as much as the very realization that a [peaceful] revolution of shared values, and of our economic system is already an indictment and criticism of the ideology of the American right wing; the realization that we are incapable of carrying one out is an indictment and criticism of the ideology and methodology of the American left. I find myself in the strange and contradictory position in this set of pieces, of believing in the things I mock, and mocking the things in which I believe. It is strange to feel that all at the same time, we need more humility and more daring, more practical planning and more reckless, visionary imagining.
Because of this, the language of the libretto is balanced on the knife-edge of self-mockery and sincerity. In the same way that Jane has to wrestle with the coordination of her material with the pre-recorded text-to-speech voice, the act of writing it has felt like an argument with myself. The piece then, is not a conclusion, and it holds no prescriptions other than the injunction to be self-critical,and to find your way into some kind of action.
I have found that as the situation in the US has devolved even further during the course of workshopping and premiering this collection with Jane, I have felt the self-mockery / irony in these pieces receding, and feelings of anger and urgency taking over my mind.
How to [almost] start a revolution
0. preamble from the he/f...art 1. theory of the case 2. Are. Tick. You. Late. 3. #lifegoals! 4. the mocking jay 5. you and your pals 6. intellectuals 7. data is on your side 8. the power of art 9. embrace the potentials of the new media 10. pathos, logos, ethos 11. the nature of power 12. the art of war 13. the people's power 14. know who or what you are doing this for