|Title:||Centuries in the Hours|
|Ensemble Size:||Chamber Orchestra|
|Funded By:||ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund and ROCO Resound|
|Premiere Type:||ROCO Commissioned World Premiere|
|Instrumentation:||2[1.pic]22[1.bcl]1/2200, timp +1, str|
Centuries in the Hours is a five-song orchestral cycle composed expressly for blind mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin. Each song is a setting of a diary excerpt by an American woman whose life circumstances rendered her historically invisible. The project meditates on the theme of invisibility: How do we, through performance, make visible the invisible, make things vivid in unexpected ways? To that end, it brings to light written words of women who were "invisible" in their social milieu, while it celebrates heightened non-visual communication and shared leadership in performance.
The idea grew out of my residency as a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. There I began uncovering an entire alternative American history, woven together through the experiences of women from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, of all ages, from all corners of the US and its nascent territories, and from all chapters of our history. I eventually read 72 diaries, representing staggering diversity.
The five women included here are: Emily, a recently divorced and impoverished house cleaner in 1890’s Denver; Betsey, a freed slave who became a missionary and traveled by ship in 1822 from the Northeast to Hawaii, around Cape Horn; Angeles, a brilliant and ambitious Filipina teenager in the 1920’s who moved with her family first to Hawaii and then to Stockton, CA; Sallie, a Civil War-era plantation owner’s daughter near Houston, Texas, who died just a few years after her darkly introspective words were written; and Sarah, a Revolutionary War-era girl whose family fled war-torn Philadelphia to a rural area where she spent many hours hoping for a handsome “military swain” to come by. These women showed me an America that was completely unknown to me, invisible yet fully lived, behind the doors and in the corners, for centuries. − Lisa Bielawa