by Christina Waters on Jul 24, 2012
'Hidden World of Girls' premieres July 28 as part of the Cabrillo Music Festival. Photo by Terry Way Photography.
Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra is a sensory invention of sound, light, story and music involving the combined gifts of two storytellers, one creative director, four composers, one conductor, vocalists, instrumentalists and a digital design team. The project emerged from a PBS series developed by the Kitchen Sisters—oral anthropologists Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson—who gathered the coming-of-age stories of girls from the four corners of the globe.
In a talk with the Weekly, Silva, who lives in La Selva Beach, recalls how it all began. "It all grew out of a Creative Work Fund grant,” Silva remembers. “A couple of years ago Cabrillo had asked us to apply for the funding for a future project that would involve artists from different disciplines." The result is the Kitchen Sisters' collaborative “stories for orchestra” for the Festival's 50th anniversary. It has been, Silva says, “a fun and joyful thing to do.”
The subject of girls and girlhood is rich, to say the least—interesting enough to catch the attention of Tina Fey, who’s hosted two hour-long specials for the radio version of “Hidden World of Girls.” Interview subjects for the series including trailblazing girls and women of all stripes: the first female Olympic boxers, an octogenarian radio host in Uruguay, New Wave icon Patti Smith.
For such complex subject matter, a lushly textured, multimedia approach seems appropriate.
“I don't think much has been done for symphonic orchestra that includes audio and radio,” Silva says. "We're beginning to see more and more experiments involving symphonic orchestra and multimedia, but I think the idea of live orchestra and visuals merging with radio and narrative storytelling seems exciting and unexpected."
With composer Laura Karpman underscoring all the stories, composers Clarice Assad, Alexandra du Bois and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum came to listen to the stories and began writing their own symphonic compositions. San Francisco–based Obscura Digital, which counts among its digital installation clients Google, NASA and the United Arab Emirates, is doing the imagery for the evening.
For the Cabrillo world premiere this weekend, July 28-29, the journey is global. “You'll be hearing from women from the Sahara and their rituals and music, and then to Ireland to hear about the Travellers,” says Silva, referring to the nomadic ethnic Irish who maintain separate language and traditions. She says she thinks of these narrative strands as "coming-of-age ceremonies and portraits."
Each of these stories, she confesses, was discovered thanks to a tip. "As we did with our other NPR series (“Hidden Kitchens,” “Lost and Found Sound,” “Sonic Memorial”), we opened up a phone line on NPR and asked listeners to share their ideas of hidden worlds of girls,” says Silva. “Involving the community in the storytelling process has led to so many incredibly rich narratives—stories we might never have come across otherwise.”