Singing Bones

I. Singing Bones

The Singing Bones project involved an extended period of research into somatic exploration of the path a song's vibration takes through the body and into space- and what is touched or provoked along the way. It has culminated in a number of different showings and "sketches".

The group Fool’s Journey arose from a desire to form an ensemble for a project involving song as a source for action and connection. Fool's Journey was a multidisciplinary group of performers, uniting for this particular project, who were interested in exploring new territories of performance. Initially coming together as a group of very different artists united by curiosity, with the help of my direction and leading of training, each member explored an approach to performance that was new to them; whether it was a dancer working with the voice, a singer approaching the act of singing in a completely different way, or an actor discovering new ways of physical expression. Fool's Journey was comprised of Julie Becker, Shaoul Chason, Josephine Cooper, Cullan Powers, and Ofri Rieger.

 

The piece titled Singing Bones was presented in two instances: one as a site-specific immersive performance as part of SCALE at Studio at 550 in Central Square, Cambridge, and secondly in a black box space as part of Theatre on Fire's Cabinet of Curiosities Festival at the Charlestown Working Theatre in May 2017. In each instance, Singing Bones was presented as a work-in-progress performance which focused on direct physical engagement with a number of traditional songs which had personal and/or ancestral significance to the performers. Using the songs’ resonance as a basis for all of the action, what began to emerge were small, ritualistic acts of personal reclamation: of one’s voice, one’s body, one’s emotional self, and one’s spiritual life, from the grips of fear, loneliness, and the internalized forces that aim to silence us. Rather than attempting to achieve "perfection" in vocal performance, the physical and emotional tensions and vulnerability that arose from confronting new territories proved to be fertile ground for the content of the performance. We were able to ask, what is something essential that can be revealed through these songs, that we somehow cannot otherwise say?

II. Thig Am Bata

The title Singing Bones comes from a story that has been told in over 500 different folk song versions, as well as in a Grimm tale. In many versions, a jealous woman drowns her sister and marries her husband. Her murder remains a mystery, until one day, someone finds the dead woman's bones in the water, and fashions a fiddle from them. When it is played, the voice of the sister sings out, revealing the truth; and in some cases, she comes back to life.

One such song that tells this story is Thig Am Bata (The Boat Will Come), a Scottish Gaelic murder ballad and waulking song. The performance incorporating this song was distilled into a solo piece which was presented as part of the butoh and experimental movement festival Plucking off the Darkness of the Flesh, hosted by Mobius at the Distillery Gallery in Boston in July 2017.

Beginning from a very simple and interior place with the song, a process is allowed to begin, which allows the vibrations of the song to travel upwards through the architecture of the whole being.

Where does the voice come from...how is the voice born... when it calls out for liberation? How is this voice ignited, from nothingness and death, back to life? How can the path it takes be made visible to the witness?

© 2020 by Julie Becker.