Paola Prestini is “the imaginative composer” (The New York Times), “Visionary-In-Chief” (Time Out NY), and Co-founder/Artistic Director behind the Brooklyn venue and music incubator National Sawdust. She was recently named an “Innovator” on the list of Top 30 Professionals of the Year by Musical America, the country’s oldest classical music magazine; she is on Brooklyn Magazine’s latest list of “influencers of Brooklyn culture…in perpetuity” alongside such household names as Chuck Schumer and Spike Lee; she is one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” (The Washington Post); and on the “Top 100 Composers in the World” list by NPR. Prestini’s music and works have been commissioned by and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Barbican Centre, The Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Opera, The New York Philharmonic, Roomful of Teeth, the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and the Young People’s Chorus, among others. Since 1999 when she co-founded the multimedia production company VisionIntoArt while at the Juilliard School, (now relaunched as National Sawdust Projects), she has collaborated with poets, filmmakers, conservationists and astrophysicists in large-scale multimedia works (often in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects). Large scale works in development include works for The Kennedy Center, Minnesota Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Banff’s Opera in the 21st Century. She frequently collaborates with Beth Morrison Projects, and with artists and scientists such as Mark Campbell, Julian Crouch, Helga Davis, William de Buys, Nathan Gunn, Rinde Eckert, Murat Eyuboglu, Mario Livio, Eliza McNitt, Jessica Rivera, Brenda Shaughnessy, Tanya Tagaq, Royce Vavrek, Julian Wachner, Robert Wilson, and Jeffrey Zeigler.
To Tell A Story for cello and electronics
When Amanda asked me to create this work for her, it was right around the time of the Kavanaugh hearings. Like most people, I was unable to focus and began thinking about the value of truth, and how Blasey Ford's truth had been manipulated violently into fiction. I began to think about whose voice, steadying and calm, could guide me through the difference between story and fiction, and quite naturally, fell upon an interview with Susan Sontag from 1983 where the interviewer had asked her about the power of storytelling.
While listening to the conversation I found his voice grating-- often interrupting the flow of her thoughts; I then realized that I only wanted to hear her side. So I began to structure the interview as an outline to the work, cutting apart the sound file and sampling excerpts of the interview. I worked with sound artist Sxip Shirey to create a compositional soundscape to reflect this, and through manipulations, repeats, stutters and an eventual breakthrough, Sontag guides us through how To Tell A Story.
The woman's voice instigates points of departure, her breaths resulting from cutting out all the speaking during the talk and just leaving her remaining breaths, while the cello tells the story in the abstract way that society has continued to require of women. The cellists lines includes a simple opening motif that gets interpolated through virtuosic passages, broken chords, and microtonal treatment, often in a soloistic approach or in consort with the electronics.