Five Songs (Kafka’s Sirens)

Année de composition
17 minutes
Ensemble and electronics

“Now, the Sirens have an even more terrible weapon than their song, and that is their silence. It is perhaps conceivable, although it did not happen, that someone could have escaped their song, but certainly not their silence. To the feeling of having defeated them by his own strength and to the violent pride that results from it, nothing earthly could resist.

And in fact, when Odysseus arrived, the powerful Sirens stopped singing, either because they believed that silence alone could still overcome such an adversary, or because the sight of the happiness painted on Odysseus’ face made them forget all their songs.

But Ulysses, if one can express himself thus, did not hear their silence; he believed that they sang and that he alone was preserved from hearing them; he saw at first distractedly the curve of their neck, their deep breath, their eyes full of tears, their half-opened mouth, but he believed that all this was part of the airs which were lost around him. But soon everything slipped before his gaze fixed on the distance; the Sirens literally disappeared before his firmness and it was precisely when he was closest to them that he ignored their existence.” 

The bracket in the title of the play alludes – but it is not a literal reference – to Franz Kafka’s story “The Silence of the Sirens”. In reality, Kafka’s story is not so much about telling an alternative story (that the mermaids did not sing) as it is about suggesting a paradox, insinuating a doubt of perspective. It is rather to this – to a possible paradoxical perspective – that the title alludes. It is a form articulated in five instrumental “songs”. What is left of singing, of vocal conduct and expression, when no one sings? This is the paradox that is explored.

Formally I continue the work on the articulation in moments which are not for all that “movements”: therefore an elliptic form, but unitary which puts in play the memory and the expectations to create the permanence through the discontinuity.

Francesca Verunelli

Création mondiale
April 21th, 2016, Miller Theatre, New York, by the ICE Ensemble

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